Although designed by Nolan Bushnell, two other guys deserve credit for getting the game to work in the first place: future Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. You might have heard of them. At the time, Jobs was tasked by Bushnell to deliver a working prototype of the game. In addition, he was offered a $100 bonus for every microchip -- which were super-expensive at the time -- that he removed from Bushnell's design. Jobs took the assignment, and promptly realized he had no idea how to do it. He stank at designing circuit boards, and also stank in general (he had to work the night shift at Atari because he was so smelly).
Unable to get a prototype working, Jobs called in Wozniak to help out. After being offered half of the proceeds, Wozniak delivered the prototype in four (sleepless) nights and, amazingly, was able to remove 50 microchips from the design, netting a bonus of $5,000 on top of their base fee of $750.
Wozniak was paid $350. In total.
Stephane De Luca
As it turned out, Jobs never told him about the bonus, and so pocketed the whole thing for himself. Clearly, it wasn't only Jobs' career that was started out -- it was also his assholish nature. In an interview several decades later, Wozniak admitted that he didn't really care about the money, and was merely happy to have helped create the game. That's all well and good, but considering the amount of work he put in, we can't help but imagine an alternate reality in which he discovered the treachery and stomped some turtlenecks. It'd make for a present with a lot fewer iPhones, that's for sure.
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