The following information comes from the Museum
of Home Video Gaming.
Atari's initial success had been founded by it's Pong coinop. Designed
by Alan Alcorn, the coinop that spawned the video game industry was in
effect, quite simple in it's design. Basicly it was a custom board full
of logic chips, hooked up to an actuall TV set and coin mechanism.
In 1973, after the success of the original Pong coinop, an Atari engineer
by the name of Harold Lee came up with the idea of a home pong unit. Since
the pong coinop that Alan Alcorn designed was nothing more than the game
board connected to an actuall televsion set, he thought it would be possible
to scale it down a bit and modify it for use at home.
it with fellow engineer Bob Brown, the two proposed the idea by 1974 and
original Pong engineer Al Alcorn was added to the team with the idea of
putting the original board design in to single chip form. The project
is competed by 1975.
With no retail/consumer division to speak of, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell
realized they needed to get help in marketing this home version of pong.
So, he and some of the others took the prototype - a mass of wires encased
in a black box with a white logo and two big knobs - and started shopping
the console around. is not met well by the sellers whom Atari needed because
They soon found it was 1972 all over again, as the pong console is not
met well by any of the companys they visited. It should be noted however,
that many of them had a right to be cautious. By that point, sales of
the first home gaming console - the Magnavox Odyssey - were slowing down,
and the industry was weary of another such product. Enter Sears and Roebuck.
of the last stops at an attempt for distribution of the pong console was
Sears Roebuck & Co., after one of Atari's board members came up with
the idea of approaching them. The initial meeting with the Sears board
did not go well, however on the way out, a sporting goods buyer by the
name of Tom Quinn approahced them. Apparently he had seen a demonstration
of the pong console several months earlyer while visiting Atari, and was
keen to get this product. Tom, who happened to be the sporting goods manager,
decided to make take a gamble on it and after several meetings with Nolan
Bushnell and the design team (including one almost disasterous demonstration
that a quick thinking Alan Alcorn fixed), the deal finally went through.
It was decided Sears would sell it under it's own Tele-Games lable,
and production was initially started at 50,000 units, which was raised
to 150,000 for the 1975 Christmass season. This was the beginning of a
long relationship between Atari and Sears, which would continue even after
Nolan Bushnell sold Atari to Warner.
Pong consoles with the actuall Atari label did not actually enter the
market until 1976. This is the very first pong console to bear Atari's
name, and basicly the same as the original Sears model. The unit was a
two player, single game model. Of special note is the digital on-screen
scoring, which was unheard of in pong units of the time.