The History of Atari: 1978-1981
I remember back when video games were real: knights atop giant birds, subterranean monsters that you must inflate with a pump, and, uh, Chopper Command. Anyway, on gamasutra, there's a full-on history of the golden age of Atari, wherein we can see the battle between design, programming and marketing that has become the norm in most tech companies to this day.
Innovative leisure. It was a concept that Atari, under guidance of Nolan Bushnell, had cultivated for its entire existence. The engineer entertainers of Atari either invented or were driven to invent by competition, some of the most mind-blowing gaming creations of the 20th century.
"These people were my friends and co-workers and we were sort of united in this quest for cool stuff." ii
- Nolan Bushnell
When Atari was focused on coin-operated games, marketing was not as much of a factor. The small audience that needed to know about its games (arcade operators and distributors) could be reached fairly easily through publications like Replay magazine and Coin Connection, mail-outs of advertising flyers, and trade shows.
Best quote in there for Slashdot readers, perhaps: 'Atari had contracted with a young programmer named Bill Gates to modify a BASIC compiler that he had for another system to be used on the 800. After that project stalled for over a year Al was called upon to replace him with another developer. So ... Al is the only person I know ever to have fired Bill Gates.'"