Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Atari Depositions - Part 6

First, for those who read my last post on the etymology of "video game," I was able to get some more issues of Cash Box and find a little more information - including a usage of the term in the March 10, 1973 issue. I updated my previous post to include the new information.  On to today's topic.

Here is another of the Nolan Bushnell depositions I have from the Magnavox case. This one was taken July 3, 1974. This represents about half of the deposition. I will post the rest later.
No annotations this time.

In the Unites States District Court
For the Northern District of Illinois
Eastern Division

The Magnavox Company, a corporation
And Sanders Associates, Inc., a corporation


Bally Manufacturing Corporation, a corporation,
Chicago Dynamic Industries, Inc., a corporation.
Et al.,


Deposition of Nolan K. Bushnell

July 3 1974

Be it remembered that pursuant to Notice of Taking Deposition, and on Wednesday, the 3rd day of July 1974, commencing at the hour of 10:00 o'clock a.m. thereof, at the law offices of Messrs. Flehr, Hohbach, Test, Albritton & Hubert, 160 Sansome Street, San Francisco, California, before me, Ruth E. Benton, a Notary Public in and for the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, personally appeared

Nolan K. Bushnell

called as a witness on behalf of the plaintiffs, who, being by me duly sworn to testify the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth herein, was thereupon examined and testified as hereinafter set forth.

Messrs. Thomas A. Briody and Neuman, Williams, Anderson & Olson, by Theodore W. Anderson, Esq., 77 West Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602, appeared as counsel on behalf of plaintiffs.

Messrs. Flehr, Hobach, Test, Albritton & Herbert, by Thomas O. Herbert, Esq., and Baylor G. Riddell, Esq., appeared as counsel on behalf of the defendant Atari, Inc.

Messrs. Fitch, Even, Tabin & Luedeka, by Donald L. Wels, Esq., 135 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60603 appeared as counsel on behalf of the defendants Bally Manufacturing Corporation, Midway Manufacturing & Empire Distributing.

Observers present: Edward S. Wright and James Sholer.

MR. ANDERSON: I understand, Mr. Welsh, you had a statement for the record?

MR. WELSH: Yes. The depositions of Bally, Midway, and Empire taken last week in Chicago, there was a claim of confidentiality made with respect to certain documents produced by Bally and testimony with respect to those documents on behalf of Bally. I will now withdraw that claim of confidentiality both with respect to the documents and the testimony.

MR. ANDERSON: I think that is quite satisfactory to us of course and I think it expedites things a good deal.

MR. WELSH: I presume you will get that to the reporter?

MR. ANDERSON: Yes I will get that to Mr. Shapiro, and does that vitiate our signed stipulation?

MR. WELSH: No I would like to keep that in effect because there may be other documents such as those that we have agreed to produce from--

MR. ANDERSON: Then the stipulation remains in effect but there is nothing under it at the moment at all to the best of my knowledge.

MR. WELSH: Right.

MR. ANDERSON: That is fine.

MR. HERBERT: The removal of the confidentiality is certainly in accordance with the wishes of Atari.

MR. ANDERSON: I think maybe just for the record show the presence of these two gentlemen.

MR. HERBERT: WE have two observers here, Edward Wright and James Sholer.



Nolan K. Bushnell

Called as a witness on behalf of the plaintiffs, having been duly sworn by the Notary Public to testify the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth herein, was examined and testified as follows:

Examination by Mr. Anderson.
Q. Mr. Bushnell would you please state your full name?

A. Nolan K. Bushnell.

Q. Where do you reside?

A. I reside at 6101 Almirida, Campbell, California.

Q. Is Campbell in the San Jose vicinity?

A. Yes it is.

Q. By whom are you employed?

A. Atari Incorporated.

Q. That's A-t-a-r-I, I-n-c period?

A. That's Correct.

Q. Where is Atari located?

A. 14600 Winchester Boulevard, Los Gatos, California.

Q. Is Los Gatos in the San Jose vicinity?

A. Yes it is.

Q. What is your position with Atari, Inc.?

A. I am president.

Q. Do you hold any other titles or positions?

A. I am chairman of the board.

Q. Do you hold any other titles or positions?

A. No I do not.

Q. Do you hold any other titles or positions in any other corporations?

A. Yes I do.

Q. What other corporations?

A. I hold the position of president of Syzygy Company, S-y-z-y-g-y.

Q. And that is Syzygy Company?

A. Yes.

Q. Is that a California Corporation, do you know?

A. It's currently a California proprietorship. It's going through incorporation currently.

Q. Has it ever been a corporation?

A. Yes it has incorporated under the name Syzygy Game Company. Well, actually the assets of that corporation were purchased so essentially, you know, the business was not purchased but simply the assets of the corporation were purchased.

Q. The assets of Syzygy Game Company were purchased by the proprietorship of Syzygy Company?

A. Right.

Q. Which is now being formed into a corporation?

A. Right. We assumed the assets without the liabilities.

Q. When you say "we" who do you mean?

A. Ted Olson.

Q. Ted Olson?

A. Yes.

Q. O-l-s-o-n?

A. Yes.

Q. Who else?

A. There are a couple of other people. It's a small little game company which, you know, I really think is not material to this case.

Q. Is it in the video game business?

A. It's in the game operating business, yes.

Q. In the video game operating business?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you hold a controlling interest in Syzygy Company at the present time?

A. Yes.

Q. Where does Syzygy Company operate?

A. I don't have the address with me right now. It's on Walsh Avenue.

Q. Walsh Avenue in Los Gatos?

A. In Santa Clara.

Q. Does the Syzygy Game Company place video games on the street?

A. Yes.

Q. Where has it placed video games on the street?

A. Various places in the Santa Clara Valley.

Q. Anywhere outside the Santa Clara Valley?

A. No.

Q. Do you hold a position in any other companies other than Syzygy Company and Atari, Inc.?

A. There are positions--I hold a position in Atari Pacific but there are Atari subsidiaries. Do they need to be enunciated?

Q. At least we should identify them of I would like to. Atari Pacific?

A. Yes.

Q. Incorporated, is it?

A. Yes.

Q. I-n-c period and where is that located? AT the same address as Atari, Inc.?

A. No. It's in Honolulu and I do not have the address.

Q. What is your position with Atari Pacific, Inc.?

A. I am a member of the board.

Q. What is the nature of the business of Atari Pacific, Inc.?

A. It places and operated video amusement machines.

Q. Where does it place and operate video games or amusement machines?

A. in the Pacific Basin.

Q. Is that primarily in the Hawaiian Islands?

A. Yes, it is including Guam.

Q. For how long has Atari Pacific been in existence approximately?

A. Six months.

Q. Has it ever placed games outside of the Hawaiian-Guam complex?

A. No it hasn't.

Q. Do you hold a position in any other companies?

A. No I do not.

Q. Does Atari Inc. have any other subsidiaries partially or wholly owned?

A. We have a current investment in Japan but at this point Atari does not own that investment.

Q. Does Atari, Inc. have an investment interest in the Japanese operation?

A. Yes.

Q. Well, roughly what percentage interest?

A. Right now it's an accounts receivable interest and a cash interest and a formalization of that corporation is not complete.

Q. Does Atari, Inc. presently have any equity interest in the Japanese company?

A. No.

Q. Is it contemplated that Atari, Inc. will have an equity interest in the Japanese company once the mechanics are completed?

A. It has not been determined as yet.

Q. What is the name of the Japanese entity at the present time?

A. Atari Japan.

Q. What is the nature of the business of Atari Japan?

A. To assemble and operate video amusement machines.

Q. Is it presently assembling video amusement machines?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it presently operating video amusement machines?

A. Yes.

Q. In what geographical area is it operating these machines?

A. Tokyo.

Q. From whence does it obtain the parts and raw materials to assemble the video machines that they assemble.

A. Atari in the U.S.

Q. Does Atari assemble all of the component parts or does Atari, Inc. provide all the component parts for Atari Japan?

A. No.

Q. What parts does Atari, Inc. provide to Atari Japan?

A. Computers.

Q. In addition to a computer what are the basic building blocks of an Atari video amusement machine?

A. A cabinet, CRT monitor, coin mechanism.

Q. Has Atari Japan assembled any video amusement machines for export?

A. I don't know.

Q. Do you know whether it is contemplated that Atari Japan will assemble any video amusement machines for export?

A. They may if they so desire.

Q. Does Atari Inc. control whether or not Atari Japan exports to the United States?

A. No.

Q. Is it contemplated in the formative stage of Atari Japan that Atari Inc. will control the export of video amusement machines from Atari Japan to the United States?

A. It has not been determined as yet.

Q. Does Atari, Inc. have any other wholly or partially owned subsidiaries?

A. No.

Q. Does it control any other companies?

A. Excuse me, I would like to retract that last statement. We control Kee Games, Inc.

Q. That is K-e-e?

A. Yes.

Q. What is Kee Games, Inc.?

A. A manufacturer of video amusement machines.

(short recess)

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Mr. Bushnell, I think just before the break you started that Kee Games, Inc. was a manufacturer of video amusement games. Where is Kee Games, Inc. located?

A. They are located in Santa Clara.

Q. Do you hold any position with Kee Games, Inc.?

A. No.

Q. What is the relationship between Kee Games, Inc. and Atari, Inc.?

A Atari has an equity interest.

Q. Is it a controlling interest?

A. Yes it is.

Q. Does Kee Games, Inc. manufacture a different produce line than Atari, Inc.--

A. Yes.

Q. --or the same? A different?

A. Yes

(Off the record discussion.)

Q. Who are the principal officers of Kee Games, Inc.?

A. Joseph Keenan.

Q. K-e-e-n-a-n?

A. Yes.

Q. Is he president?

A. Yes.

Q. Who else?

A. Bill White.

Q. W-h-i-t-e?

A. Yes.

Q. What is his position?

A. I think he is secretary. Steven Bristow.

Q. B-r-i-s-t--

A. T-o-w and Gil Williams.

Q. What is Bristow's position?

A. He is treasurer.

Q. And Williams?

A. Director.

Q. Are any of these gentlemen officers or directors of Atari, Inc.?

A. No.

Q. Are any of them employed by Atari, Inc.?

A. No.

Q. What product line does Kee Games, Inc. manufacture in the video amusement game field or amusement device field?

A. The Kee product line under the name Kee Games.

Q. Do they specify product names within the line?

A. Elimination, Formula K, Spike.

Q. Any others?

A. That is it.

Q. Are any of these three games played in the same general manner as Pong?

A. Not in the same general manner.

Q. Is there a movable playing element that moves back and forth across the screen?

A. Yes.

Q. In which ones is that true?

A. There is motion involved with all the games.

Q. Are there players, two or more players in all these games?

A. No.

Q. In any of them?

A. Yes.

Q. In which game?

A. Elimination.

Q. How many players does Elimination have?

A. One to four.

Q. Is there a movable playing piece of some sort in Elimination?

A. There is motion involved. I don't understand the question.

Q. A display which is moving in the course of playing the game?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you call the thing which moves?

MR. HERBERT: I have to object. You are going substantially on the background but it seems to me we are getting a little more deeply into the construction, not only with our games but even Kee games, and my understanding of this deposition is that it is to be limited only to the question of venue so far as Atari is concerned.

MR. ANDERSON: I think one question in venue is what products are made and where they are made and where they are sold.

MR. HERBERT: As far as our motion for dismissal for lack of venue, the product line hasn't even been mentioned. The motion is based upon no business at all and no place of business at all in the northern district of Illinois.

MR. ANDERSON: I understand, you know, your affidavit I think and your contentions.

Q. What do you call the moving display in Elimination

A .The moving display, there is a--we call it variously the paddle.

Q. Now the paddle is manipulated by one of the players, is that right in Elimination?

A. Yes.

Q. And this is manipulated in order to hit some other display?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you call the display which the paddle is intended to hit? I'm just trying to get some nomenclature. We seem to be having trouble.

A. Ball.

Q. And Elimination has a ball?

A. It has a square.

Q. Would you call that square a ball?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it the object of the game that a player manipulates the paddle so that it will engage the ball and cause it to go toward the other player's end of the playing display?

A. Yes.

Q. And if the paddle impacts the ball, does it change the direction of the ball?

A. Yes.

Q. And does that score a point?

A. No, it doesn't.

Q. What is the manifestation then of the ball going off the field?

A. It beeps.

Q. Is there any scoring involved in Elimination?

A. There is a tally which is eliminated.

Q. Are there upper and lower walls across the top and bottom of the display in Elimination?

A. No.

Q. Are there any fixed barriers that cause the ball to change its direction in Elimination?

A. Yes.

Q. Where are they located?

A. In the corners.

Q. If the ball impacts on one of the barriers, does it change its direction?

A. Yes.

Q. Does the description that you have just given generally describe the way in which Pong is also played?

A. No.

Q. How does it differ?

A. I don't really understand the question. The essential differences of the game?

Q. Yes.

A. One is a contest between two people only.

Q. That is Pong?

A. Yes, and there are no provisions for four players.

Q. Any others?

A. Let's say the paddles are arranged on four sides.

Q. In Elimination?

A. Yes.

Q. Any others?

A. No.

Q. Where does Kee Games Incorporated sell its products?

A. Throughout the United States and some into Europe.

Q. When was Kee Games, Inc. started?

A. October of 1973.

Q. Does Kee Game, Inc. place machines on the street?

A. No.

Q. Does it only sell products?

A. Yes.

Q. Does it have any other products other than the three games that you mentioned: Elimination, Formula K, and Spike?

A. There are small modifications but nothing we consider to be new products.

Q. Does Kee Games, Inc. have a distributor organization of some sort?

A. Yes.

Q. What is the name of that organization?

A. I don't know.

Q. Does it have any employees outside of the San Jose area?

A. No.

Q. Does Kee Games, Inc. have a distributor in the Chicago area that you know of?

A. Yes.

Q. Who is that?

A. Worldwide.

Q. Do you know the full name of the company?

A. No, I don't. I think it's Worldwide Distributors.

Q. Do you know where the y are located?

A. No, I don't.

Q. When did Kee Games, Inc. first deal with Worldwide Distributors approximately?

A. I don't know.

Q. Was it before the first of the year?

A. Yes.

Q. Has Kee Games, Inc. sold the game Elimination to Worldwide Distributors?

A. Yes.

Q. Has Kee Games, Inc. sold the game Formula K to Worldwide Distributors?

A. Yes.

Q. Has Kee Games, Inc. sold the game Spike to Worldwide Distributors?

A. Yes.

Q. How long has Elimination been in the Kee Games product line approximately?

A. December I believe was their shipment.

Q. Of Elimination?

A. Of any game.

Q. Was Elimination the first game that Kee Games, Inc. made and sold?

A. Yes.

Q. When was the first Formula K game sold approximately to Worldwide Distributors?

A. It probably would be April. I am not sure.

Q. Of 1974?

A. Yes.

Q. Does Formula K involve paddles?

A. No.

Q. Or a ball?

A. No.

Q. Does it involve motion of some sort of a playing device or display?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you by any chance have literature with you on all three of these games?

A. No.

MR. ANDERSON: May we have some literature on these three games, Mr. Herbert?

MR. HERBERT: We have no--at least I have no control over Kee Games. They are not party to this lawsuit. Do you have literature at Atari?


MR. HERBERT: Atari does not.

MR. ANDERSON: It's a controlled corporation.

MR. HERBERT: It's also a separate corporation. The witness has already indicated he doesn't know what the distributorship arrangements are.

MR. ANDERSON: Well, he knows who the distributor is, when the product was shipped. You are going to stand on the corporate isolation that you are alleging?

MR. HERBERT: Oh, yes.

MR. ANDERSON: And will not provide us with printed distributed, publicly available literature on that basis?

MR. HERBERT: IF they have them at Atari I certainly will. If not I'm not going to Kee to get them, no.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Describe the manner in which Formula K is played?

MR. HERBERT: I am going to object to this line of questioning again, that it has nothing really to do with respect to the venue questions before the court and I will instruct the witness not to answer. All it is doing is extending the length of this deposition.

MR. ANDERSON: Again I will say the witness has testified it's a wholly owned--


MR. ANDERSON: It is a controlled subsidiary and I think we are entitled to interrogate the witness to the extent he has this knowledge about a controlled subsidiary. I think I have made a long trip to get a reasonable amount of very basic information.

MR. HERBERT: If and when you pass the venue hurdle, I think that is probably true but until you pass that hurdle I don't think that you are entitled to go into the workings of fhe games of Kee or even of Atari.

MR. ANDERSON: I'm not asking about the workings of the game. I'm asking what an operator sees and does and experiences in playing the game, just the outward manifestation of a game which is made by a controlled subsidiary of Atari, Inc., a named defendant in this lawsuit.

MR. HERBERT: It has nothing to do with the venue question. The venue question at this point as far as I can see down the line has nothing to do with what is manufactured by Kee. It really has nothing to do with what is manufactured by Atari. We haven't even gotten into that. If and when we do we will get into whether or not Atari's machines or Kee's machines infringe any of the patents involved in the litigation.

MR. ANDERSON: And you are instructing the witness not to answer?

MR. HERBERT: I instruct the witness not to answer.

MR. ANDERSON: Well, we will certainly take appropriate steps, I hope not but perhaps to make another trip out here for that purpose at hopefully Atari's and Kee Games' expense because I think this is so clearly a thin corporate relationship that we are entitles to pierce or at least try to pierce that. We will certainly take the position you are violating the intent and the language of the Federal rules of civil procedure.

MR. HERBERT: You can try to pierce the corporate relationship to see whether Kee has a place of business in the northern district of Illinois, that is fine. You can attempt to do that. That is not what you are attempting to do with this line of questioning.

MR. ANDERSON: We have established that Kee Games are in the northern district of Illinois, they are sold there, delivered there I presume. We will get into that further, that they have a distributor there and I think we are entitled to explore just how these games are used, what is done with them when they get there to the extent this witness knows and if we can't get it from the witness we will make another trip out here to get the information we are entitled to.

MR. HERBERT: You are entitled to pierce the corporate veil if you can. You have not even attempted to do that at this point. Until that veil is pierced the activities of Kee Games, not being a party to that suit have nothing to do with it.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Mr. Bushnell, does Formula K involve moving a paddle?

MR. HERBERT: I instruct the witness not to answer.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Will you answer the question?

A. No, I will not.

Q. Does the game Spike involve moving a paddle?

MR. HERBERT: I instruct the witness not to answer on the same grounds.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Does the game Spike involve a ball?

MR. HERBERT: I instruct the witness not to answer on the same grounds.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. What is the percentage control which Atari, Inc. has in Kee Games Incorporated?

Off the record.

(Unreported discussion)

THE WITNESS: Atari has in excess of 90 percent..

MR. ANDERSON: Q. That is 90 percent of the stock of Kee Games, Inc., is that correct?

A. That's correct.

Q. Who holds the remaining 10 percent?

A. Joseph Keenan.

Q. Was he ever employed by Atari, Inc.?

A. No, he was not.

Q. Was he ever employed by any other entity which Atari, Inc. owns or controls?

A. No.

Q. Are there any other companies which Atari, Inc. controls?

A. Previously stated.

Q. Other than the ones we covered already?

A. No.

Q. When was Atari, Inc. formed?

A. Its incorporation date was June of 1972.

Q. Did it continue the business activities of some other entity?

A. Yes, it did.

Q. What was that entity?

A. Syzygy Company.

Q. Was it then Syzygy Game Company?

A. No.

Q. It was then Syzygy Company?

A. Yes.

Q. A proprietorship?

A. A partnership.

Q. Who were the partners in Syzygy Company?

A. Myself and Mr. Ted Dabney.

Q. Did one of you control the company?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you?

A. Yes.

Q. At the time of the formation of Atari, Inc. did Syzygy have a product line?

A. Yes.

Q. What was that product line?

A. Pong. Excuse me. At the time that is not true. Pong wasn't really introduced until later on. I guess I should say publication here.

Off the record

(Unreported discussion)

MR. HERBERT: Back on the record.

THE WITNESS: What did you mean by do you have a product line?

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Did syzygy have any product that it was making and selling as of June 1972?

A. No.

Q. Did Syzygy Company at any time in its history sell a product?

A. What do you mean by product? We were operating amusement machines which we had purchased.

Q. As of June 1972 was Syzygy operating amusement machines which it had purchased?

A. Yes.

Q. Was Syzygy Company in June of 1972 operating any video amusement machines?

A. Yes.

Q. Was that portion of the business of operating video amusement machines transferred in some way to Atari, Inc. in June of 1972?

A. Yes, it was.

Q. Was the entire active business of Syzygy, Inc. transferred to ATarin, Inc. at that time?

A. Yes, Syzygy Co.

Q. Excuse me, Syzygy Co. I am sorry. Did Syzygy Co. at that time continue to have an operating business.

A. No, it didn't I turned into a DBA.

Q. And DBA is for--

A. Doing business as.

Q. I'm not sure I understand that. Who was doing business as what?

A. Atari was doing business as Syzygy.

Q. Syzygy became more or less just a name that Atari used, is that correct?

A. That's correct.

Q. In June of 1972, whose video amusement machines was Syzygy operating?

A. A game called Computer Space built by Nutting Associates.

Q. Did Atari, Inc. continue to operate video amusement machines after June of 1972?

A. Yes.

Q. Is Atari, Inc. operating video machines today?

A. Yes.

Q. At some point in time did Atari, Inc. operate any other games other than Computer Space?

A. Yes.

Q. What other games has Atari, Inc. operated?

A. Pong, Space Race, Gotcha, Grantrak, Rebound, Quadrapong.

Q. Any others?

A. World Cup, Super Pong, Pong Doubles, Color Gotcha.

Q. Is that the list as far as you know at the present time?

A. Yes.

Q. Of those which if any is Atari, Inc. not at the present time operating?

A. Color Gotcha--not, that is not true, I will take that back. All of them.

Q. By operating, do you mean street operation?

A. That's correct.

Q. Is there any separate entity of Atari, Inc. or a division which handles the street operation?

A. No.

MR. HERBERT: Before we go on I think the answer might be misleading. The question was which of these is Atari not operating and you answer was all of them.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. None of them? That is correct?

A. None of them.

Q. That is the way I understood your answer. Has Atari, Inc. operated any video games outside of the State of California?

A. Yes.

Q. Where outside of the State of California?

A. Salt Lake City, Hawaii, Tokyo, Guam. That is it.

Q. Within the State of California does Atari, Inc. operate games throughout the state or only in a limited geographical area?

A. A limited geographical area.

Q. Just generally what is the limited area?

A. Santa Clara Valley.

Q. At any time in the history of Atari, Inc. has it operated video games in areas other than those you have listed: Salt Lake City, Hawaii, Tokyo, Guam, and the Santa Clara Valley?

A. Clarify what you mean by "operate"?

Q. Street operation of any kind.

A. Define that.

Q. Well, it's a term that I found somewhere in your material, I think. Does street operation have a meaning to you?

A. Well, yes, it means placing on location and collecting the revenues therefor. That is what I mean by street operation.

Q. I then would ask you the question using that definition of street operation.

A. Could you repeat the question?

Q. Yes. Has Atari, Inc. at any time in its history operated in a street operation outside of the areas that you have listed, namely, Salt Lake City, Hawaii, Tokyo, Guam and the Santa Clara Valley?

A. No, we haven't. Excuse me. I will take that back. We have operated machines in Los Angeles which we sold.

Q. You have since sold?

A. Yes.

Q. Has Atari, Inc. at any time operated machines outside of the geographical areas you have just listed on a more limited basis than the operation which you described, total control, maintenance and so forth? In other words, have you placed any anywhere else in the United States where Atari, Inc. maintained ownership of it for some more or greater or lesser amount of time and perhaps received any coins that were place in it?

A. No.

Q. With respect to the operation of Syzygy prior to June of 1972, did it operate in all of the areas that you have listed in street operations?'

A. No.

Q. What area did it operate in?

A. Just the Santa Clara Valley.

Q. Did Syzygy, Inc. operate any games other than the one that you have mentioned made by Nutting Associated named Computer Space--I said Syzygy, Inc., I mean Syzygy Co.--prior to June of 1972?

A. We operated various other amusement machines purchased by various Chicago and Florida manufacturer that were nonvideo.

Q. Syzygy Co. purchased other amusement machines, nonvideo games, from other sources. Did this include Allied Leisure?

A. Yes.

Q. And what Chicago company? Midway?

A. There were all purchased in San Francisco.

Q. Whose Chicago machines did you purchase in San Francisco?

A. Oh, Midway, Gottlieb, Chicago Coin, Williams. We were in the operating business.

Q. Is the game Computer Space or is the video amusement machine Computer Space a paddle game?

A. No.

Q. Does it have a playing piece?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it a ball?

A. No.

Q. Can you just generally describe the game, Computer Space?

A. It's a rocket ship-flying saucer flight. The computer controlled flying saucer battles with a player controlled rocket ship.

MR. ANDERSON: I will have the reporter mark as Bushnell deposition Exhibit 1 a Notice of Taking Deposition.

(Notice of Taking Deposition marked Bushnell deposition Exhibit No. 1 for identification)

MR. ANDERSON: Q. And I hand you Exhibit 1, Mr. Bushnell and ask if you have seen that before or a copy of it?

A. Yes, I have.

MR. HERBERT: What is it? Can you identify it?

MR. ANDERSON: The Notice. Bushnell deposition Exhibit 1 is directed to defendant Atari, Inc. and has listed certain categories in which the defendant has been requested to produce documents.

Q. Have you caused a search to be made for documents responding to those categories?

A. Yes, I have.

Q. Have you produced any documents here today in response to that Notice?

MR. HERBERT: I might interject here with respect to Paragraph No. 1, the only documents located are documents which have already been produced in Chicago, the contracts. I have other copies but I am not going to add anything to it. The are the same at Britz deposition Exhibit 3, Britz deposition Exhibit No. 2 and Ross deposition Exhibition No. 2.

MR. ANDERSON: May I see them?

MR. HERBERT: I didn't even bring them in here. I have the--yes, I will get them.

(short recess)

MR. HERBERT: I was mistaken, I do not have the letter on Syzygy letterhead which is Britz deposition Exhibit No. 2 and in addition to that the contracts between Bally and Mr. Bushnell are not fully executed as were the agreements actually presented in Chicago.

MR. ANDERSON: Does Mr. Bushnell or Atari have fully executed documents?

MR. HERBERT: No, that we can locate.

MR. ANDERSON: Then what you have handed me are the best documents in the records of Atari, Inc. at the present time?

MR. HERBERT: That is all we can locate.

MR. ANDERSON: I will have the reporter mark as Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2 a stapled collection of documents which Mr. Herbert has handed me. the top page is marked "Royalty Agreement", it is two pages of Xeroxed material. It bears a date of 26 day of June 1972, followed by an Affidavit form bearing the date of 1st of June 1971, a second Affidavit form bearing the date of June 1972 and a second two page Royalty Agreement or document so labeled between Bally Manufacturing Corporation and Syzygy Co., the first one I notice between Bally Manufacturing Corporation and Nolan Bushnell.

(Group of documents being Royalty Agreements and Affidavits marked Bushnell deposition Exhibit No. 2 for identification.)

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Mr. Bushnell, I hand you Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2 and ask.--
Would you like to see it?

MR. WELSH: Yes, please.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Mr. Bushnell, I hand you Bushnell deposition 2 which you heard me briefly describe on the record and ask you whether you are familiar with those documents?

A. Yes, I am.

Q. Did they come from any files whch you maintain?

A. Yes, they did.

Q. What file did they come from?

A. It came from what I call essentially the Bally file.

Q. Is that a file that is maintained at the offices of Atari, Inc.?

A. Yes, it is.

Q. Did you find in your search any other copies of the documents which are stapled together as Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2?

A. Yes, we have a copy of this document.

Q. You have another copy of the document?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you have originals or non-Xeroxed copies of the documents that you know of?

A. No, I don't believe I do.

Q. Do you have any copies of any of the documents which form a part of Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2 which bear actual signatures?

A. Not to my knowledge. This is the most complete form.

Q. Do you know who prepared the first document, the first two pages of Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2?

A No.

Q. Was it prepared in California or Chicago?

A. Chicago.

Q. How did it come into your possession?

A. It was given to me by Mr. Britz.

Q. Was that while you and he were together?

A. Yes.

Q. Where were you at that time?

A. I don't remember.

Q. Were you in Chicago at the time?

A. I am not sure whether I received it in the mail or whether it was handed to me in Chicago.

Q. Did you ever have any correspondence with anyone at Bally or Midway with respect to this subject matter?

A. I don't remember.

Q. Have you made a search for such correspondence?

A. Yes, I have.

Q. Have you been able to find any?

A. Only those things which are presented here.

Q. Are there any other documents, Mr. Herbert, that you are producing in response to our request?

MR. HERBERT: No. We had no other documents we consider to be in response to the request in the Notice but in view of the long discussion of our invoices in Chicago, we did bring invoices. I don't think they respond to any paragraph here but we do have invoices to Empire Distributing.

Q. All right. Perhaps we will just take those and mark them at this time or look at them and come back to them later.

MR. HERBERT: Insofar as marking and making of record, there are a fair number of them and they are invoices giving pricing information as well as the volume of business between Atari and Empire which may or may not be relevant here. I am perfectly glad to let you take a look at them. If you think any pertinent ones of them need to be marked as exhibits perhaps we can delete some portions that are not necessary for your purposes.

MR. ANDERSON: All right.

MR. HERBERT: But I prefer not to have them marked as exhibits at this time and let you take a look at them at your leisure, perhaps in a short recess.

MR. ANDERSON: All right. Why don't you lay them aside? We will look at them in a short recess and pursue the Royalty Agreement which is the first two pages of Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2.

Q. Mr. Bushnell, do you recall whether you signed the original of the Royalty Agreement which forms the first two pages of Exhibit 2?

A. Yes, I believe I did.

Q. I will show you the Ross deposition Exhibit 3 and ask you if you recognize that?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. And is that another copy of the Royalty Agreement which is the first two pages of Bushnell Exhibit 2?

A. It appears to be so.

Q. And does it bear your signature?

A. Yes, it does.

Q. Did you sign it on or about the 26th of June 1972?

A. I don't know. I believe that I did.

Q. The third page of Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2 is a form , unsigned, entitled "Affidavit" and it states in part "I, Nolan Bushnell, of ( ) hereby state and affirm that as of the 1st of June 1971 I no longer had any obligatory duties to Nulting [sic] and Associates" and it goes on. Do you recall having seen that affidavit before?

A. Yes, I have.

Q. Do you know who prepared it?

A. Bally Corporation.

Q. Did you provide them wit the information for its preparation?

A. No, I didn't.

Q. Do you know, did they ever give you any reason why they prepared it?

A. They felt that there might be some kind of conflict because I was previously in the employ of Nutting, and there was a document signed with Nutting with regard to certain things, certain tasks, that I would perform there, and they were concerned since they were in competitive areas that there may be some cause for legal action.

Q. Do you know if you signed the form Affidavit which comprises the third page of Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2?

A. Yes.

MR. HERBERT: I would like to point out to the witness the third page of Exhibit 2 looks very similar to the fourth page of Britz deposition Exhibit No. 3 and request that the witness look at it more closely rather than upside down as he is doing now.

MR. ANDERSON: That is an excellent suggestion. I might say I'm not trying to create an erroneous record, I only want to get the facts.


MR. ANDERSON: Q. You will note the third page bears a date of June 1971 I believer, and the fourth page---

MR. WELSH: 1st of June.


MR. ANDERSON: --is dated June of '72.

THE WITNESS: This is the one I signed.

MR. HERBERT: The witness is referring to the one marked Britz deposition Exhibit No. 3.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. And that is the fourth page of the set of documents I have had the reporter mark as Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Did Bally also prepare the Affidavit which you actually signed, do you know?

A. I don't remember. I believe they did.

Q. Do you now recall the reason that new affidavits were prepared?

A. I think there were several typographical errors in the first one and they were incomplete in some areas.

Q. Was the first merely a draft of the second as they appear in deposition Exhibit 2?

A. I'm not sure. I don't remember the events that clearly.

MR. ANDERSON: Mr. Herbert, are there any other documents that are being produced in response to this Notice?

MR. HERBERT: No. There is nothing else.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Mr. Bushnell, how old are you?

A. I am 31.

Q. Would you briefly state your educational background after high school?

A. I went to Utah State University and later on continued at the University of Utah where I received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with an emphasis on computer design.

Q. In what year did you receive your degree?

A. 1968.

Q. Did you continue your education beyond that degree in 1968 or did you enter business?

A. I entered business.

Q. For whom did you go to work at that time?

A. Ampex Corporation.

Q. Located where?

A. In Sunnyvale, California.

Q. Just in general what were your duties?

A. I was in computer design, digital recording involved in an information, storage, and retrieval system.

Q. How long did you stay with Ampex?

A. Two years.

Q. So you left them about 1970?

A. That's correct.

Q. For whom did you become employed in 1970?

A. Nutting Associates.

Q. Where was Nutting located?

A. Mountain View, California.

Q. What was the nature of Nutting's business in 1970?

A. They were an amusement game manufacturer.

Q. At that time did they have a video amusement game that they were making and selling?

A. No.

Q. Just generally what was the nature of their amusement games at that time?

A. It was a question and answer game using film storage techniques.

Q. What were your duties when you joined Nutting?

A. As chief engineer.

Q. Approximately how many employees did Nutting have at the time?

A. 20.

Q. For how long did you stay at Nutting?

A. One year.

Q. So that you left in about 1971?

A. Yes.

Q. At the time that you left Nutting, did Nutting have a video amusement device that they were making and selling?

A. Yes.

Q. When in 1971 did you leave?

A. It was actually in June--it was February I believe of '72 actually.

Q. Did Nutting have more than one video game on the market that they were making and selling at that time in February of 1972?

A. No, they did not.

Q. What was the game?

A. Computer Space.

Q. On approximately what date was Computer Space first made and sold by Nutting as far as you can recall?

A. I believe that the firs unit was sold in late December or early January of 1972.

Q. Were you involved in the design of the game Computer Space or the machine Computer Space?

A. Yes, I was?

Q. What was your involvement?

A. The machine was designed by me independently and offered to Nutting Associates on a royalty basis.

Q. Was it designed by you independently while you were an employee of Nutting?

A. No.

Q. Was it designed prior to your employment at Nutting?

A. Yes, it was.

Q. Is there some other agreement between you and Nutting with respect to a royalty basis for amusement games at this time?

A. Yes, there is.

MR. ANDERSON: I will have the reporter mark as Bushnell deposition Exhibit 3 a copy of United States patent 3,793,483.

(Copy of United States patent 3,793,483 marked Bushnell deposition Exhibit No. 3 for identification)

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Mr. Bushnell, I hand you Bushnell deposition Exhibit 3 and ask if you are the Nolan K. Bushnell named I that patent?

A. I am.

Q. Is that a patent which you own?

A. It's currently assigned to Atari, Inc.

Q. Based on the disclosure of that patent, does that relate to the subject matter of the work that you did while you were at Nutting?

A. No. Well, it represents the subject matter which I did prior to working for Nutting.

Q. You testified that you had independently developed the game Computer Space before you joined Nutting I believe?

A. That's correct.

Q. And is that the subject matter to the best of your knowledge of your Patent 3,793,483?

A. I don't quite understand.

MR. HERBERT: I am going to object to this. We are getting again quite far afield from the venue question and I don't see the connection to the venue question. Perhaps there is one in your mind but unless there is I am going to instruct the witness--I do instruct the witness not to answer.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Patent 3,793,483 relates to video amusement machines, does it not?

A. Yes it does.

Q. Does Atari, Inc. have any licensees under Patent 3,793,483?

A. Yes.

Q. Is Nutting Associates a licensee?

A. Only the that they have a right to manufacture or had a right I should say under the terms of a contract to build that particular machine which has now expired.

Q. When you say that particular machine, you mean the machine Computer Space which you developed?

A. Yes.

Q. Is Nutting no longer making the game or machine Computer Space to the best of you knowledge?

A. I don't know. I don't believe they are.

Q. Are there any other licensees under you Patent 3,793,483, Bushnell deposition Exhibit 3?

MR. HERBERT: I object to the question and instruct the witness not to answer on the ground that it has nothing to do with the venue question.

MR. ANDERSON: Well, I disagree that it has nothing to do with the venue question. I think that we perhaps can get back to it at a later point. We may find it more acceptable, I don't know.

MR. RIDDELL: Would it be improper to ask you to connect that up right now, as to where that is going?

MR. ANDERSON: All right, I will certainly at least do that in part for you, Mr. Riddell.

MR. RIDDELL: With regard to the venue question.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Mr. Bushnell, what if anything did you do in response to or subsequent to the royalty agreement of June 26, 1972, Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2?

A. I produced a video amusement machine and a four player flipper type pinball machine.

Q. Did they have names?

A. The video amusement game had no name at that time nor did the pinball.

Q. Were they subsequently named, do you know?

A. The machine--when you say subsequent to, it should be clarified. I had in my possession at the time of the execution of this contract the architecture of several games including a flipper type pinball machine, including several video amusement games. The Royalty Agreement here referred not to any particular video amusement machine nor to any particular pinball machine.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. You stated that you did develop or had developed two amusement machines under--

A. Several.

Q. Well, you mentioned two, a video amusement machine I think and a four player flipper game, at least that is what my notes say and I think where we were I asked whether those had names, you said they didn't at the time that you delivered them to Bally. I asked if they were named subsequently and what is the answer to the question if you know?

A. There was a machine named, that was subsequently named Pong represented to Bally.

Q. And was that the video amusement machine that you referred to as one of the machines delivered to Bally under the provisions of P.X. 2?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you develop any other video amusement machines which you delivered to Bally or Midway?

A. Yes I did.

Q. How many?

A. There were two.

Q. Two additional ones beyond Pong?

A. No, one.

Q. One additional one. Was it delivered to Bally or to Midway?

A. To Midway.

Q. Was it done pursuant to the Royalty Agreement, the first two pages of Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2?

A. Yes, it was.

Q. Why did you deliver that game to Midway when you were under agreement with Bally?

A. I was instructed to do so.

Q. By whom?

A. By Bally.

Q. Who at Bally instructed you, do you know?

A. Mr. Britz.

Q. On what occasion did he instruct you to do that?

A. Upon the occasion when I presented the second game to them.

Q. Did you present that to them in person?

A. Yes I did.

Q. In the Chicago area?

A. Yes I did.

Q. Where did you do that?

A. At their corporate offices.

Q. At Bally's corporate offices?

A. At Midway's corporate offices.

Q. Is that in Schiller Park, Illinois, do you know?

A. Yes it is.

Q. What was the name of that game if it had a name at that time?

A. It was called VP-2 or Asteroid as it was later.

Q. Did VP-2 or Asteroid precede Pong in your development or was it subsequent.

A. When you say--would you elaborate on development?

Q. Well, perhaps we should establish which one you delivered to Midway or Bally first.

A. Pong.

Q. Approximately when did you deliver Pong to Bally or Midway, if you know?

A. It was in middle summer of '72.

Q. When did you deliver Asteroid of VP-2 to Bally or Midway?

A. It was sometime later than that. I think it was in early 1973.

Q. Did you deliver Pong to Bally or to Midway?

A. To Bally.

Q. But you delivered Asteroid to Midway?

A. Yes.

Q. I will show you a document that has previously been marked as Britz deposition Exhibit 2 and ask if you recognize that?

A. What was the question again?

Q. Whether you recognize the letter?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. Does it bear your signature.

A. Yes it does.

Q. Did you write it on or about the date that it bears?

A. I must have, yes.

Q. Does that refresh your recollection at all with respect to when you delivered the first Pong game to Bally?

A. Yes it was--I think it was prior to the date called for here but I think it was in the early fall.

Q. So that was subsequent to July 10 1972, the date of Britz deposition Exhibit 2?

A. Yes it was.

Q. But prior to November 15 you believe?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you attend the MOA show in Chicago in 1972?

A. Yes I did.

Q. Did you or any company that you controlled have a display at that show?

A. No we did not.

Q. Did you show a machine of any kind during that show while in conjunction with that show?

A. No I did not.

Q. Upon your being in Chicago for the show, is that the occasion on which you delivered the Pong game to Bally, do you know?

A. I believe that the delivery of the Pong game to Bally--not, I would say no, that was not the occasion.

Q. So in the fall of '72 then you made at least two trips to Chicago?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. How many trips did you make to Chicago during 1972 to the best of your recollection?

A. During the whole year of 1972 I would say four.

Q. When was the first trip to Chicago in 1972?

A. It was in early spring.

Q. What was the occasion for that trip?

A. As an employee of Nutting Associates.

Q. And who did you visit if anyone in the Chicago area at that time?

A. Empire Distributing.

Q. Was Empire Distributing a distributor for Nutting at that time?

A. Yes they were.

Q. What was the purpose of your calling on Empire at that time?

A. To teach a field service school.

Q. Prior to that visit to Empire in 1972 in the spring, had you made any prior trips to Chicago on behalf of Nutting?

A. Yes I did/ It was to the MOA Show.

Q. In 1971?

A. Yes.

Q. did Nutting have a booth at the 1971 MOA Show?

A. Yes.

Q. Had you made any other trips to Chicago on behalf of Nutting prior to your trip in the spring of 1972?

A. No.

Q. Did Nutting have the machine computer Space on display at the 1971 MOA Show as a part of their booth?

A. Yes they did.

Q. Who else from Nutting was at the MOA Show in 1971?

A. Bill Nutting, David Ralston, Rod Guyman [sic].

Q. After your trip to Empire in the spring of '72 what was the next occasion of your traveling to Illinois?

A. It was to obtain a consulting arrangement with Bally Manufacturing.

Q. To the beat of your recollection on what date did you make that trip?

A. I think it was somewhere around March or April of that year.

Q. At that time were you no longer in the employ of Nutting?

A. Yes I was no longer.

Q. Did Syzygy Company then exist?

A. Yes it did.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you think there was an earlier corporation called syzygy Games?

A. No, that was later.

Q. That came later?

A. The chronology, just to set the record straight, is Syzygy was rolled into Atari, Syzygy later became the operating arm of Atari, Ted Dabney who was my partner purchased the assets of Syzygy and operated it independently and at a later time I reacquired the assets of syzygy personally so that is the whole--during the time that Dabney ran it independently it was called Syzygy Game Company.

Q. I see. That would have been after June of '72?

A. That's Correct.

Q. As of March of 1972 you and Mr. Dabney were partners in Syzygy Company?

A. That's Correct.

Q. And as I understand it there were no other partners at that time?

A. That's correct.

Q. Did Syzygy have any other employees?

A. No they did not.

Q. Did it have a manufacturing facility?

A. No it did not.

Q. Did it have a laboratory or development facility?

A. Yes it did.

Q. Upon your visit to Chicago in March or April of '72 who did you call on at Bally?

A. John Britz.

Q. Did you meet with anyone else at Bally at that time?

A. I don't recollect.

Q. Did you meet with any other companies or individuals with respect to Syzygy business at that time?

A. I also met with Empire.

Q. With whom did you meet at Empire?

A. Mr. Kitt.

Q. What was the purpose of your meeting in Chicago with Mr. Kitt in March or April of '72?

A. We were friends.

Q. Was there any business purpose?

A. Only the introduction to Bally.

Q. Did you have a video game with you during your trip in March or April of 1972?

A. Explain yourself more?

Q. Did you have a physical device which operated as a video machine?

A. No I did not.

Q. Had you developed a video game other than the Computer Space as of March or April 1972?

A. Yes I had.

Q. Was that the game that became Pong?

A. Yes it was.

Q. Did you provide Empire or Bally with any written material with respect to the video game that became Pong during that visit?

A. Not to my recollection.

Q. Did you enter into any sort of a business relationship with Bally or Midway or Empire at or during that trip?

A. Which trip is that?

Q. March or April 1972.

A. Yes.

Q. What was that business relationship?

A. It was covered--it's in the essence of this contract which is labeled plaintiff's Exhibit 2. I mean that was the outcome document of those discussions.

Q. Then that would be actually Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2, the one with the yellow label?

A. Yes.

Q. How do you relate that with the July 10 1972 letter on the Syzygy letterhead which is Britz deposition Exhibit 2?

A. Now this was in response to receiving the contract.

Q. Then you received Bushnell deposition Exhibit 2, the proposed Royalty Agreement prior to your letter of July 10 1972?

A. To the best of my knowledge, yes.

MR. WELSH: I think your records are a little bit confused in that Bushnell Exhibit 2 contains more documents that just that particular agreement.

MR. ANDERSON: Your point is probably well taken. I was referring to the first two pages.

THE WITNESS: Yes, so was I.

MR. ANDERSON: Q. Then perhaps we can clarify that by just merely referring to Ross deposition Exhibit 3 which is the same Royalty Agreement but the one you said bears your signature?

A. Yes.

Q. If I understand it then at the termination of your meeting with Mr. Britz in March or April of '72 did you believe you had an understanding with Bally?

A. Yes I did.

Q. And it was just a matter of reducing it to writing later, is that correct?

A. Right.

Q. And as far as you understand it, Ross deposition Exhibit 3 was that reduction to writing?

A. That's correct.

Q. And the letter of July 10 that you wrote, Britz deposition Exhibit2, was merely a followup on Ross deposition Exhibit 3?

A. Yes.

Q. For what purpose?

A. Oh I needed several parts that we had agreed on that I had not received. It was a situation that I had been purposely vague in describing the product that I was going to produce for them, and upon receiving the documents and the money I was able to tell them a little bit more about the game which I was going to produce for them.

Q. What was the occasion of your next visit to Chicago after the March or April visit in 1972?

A. To show them a video game.

Q. When was that? Was that the one that you have referred to?

A. Yes that was the, you know, late summer, midsummer.

Q. At that time you had a game that was ultimately called Pong with you?

A. Yes I did.

Q. At the time of that trip I gather Atari, Incorporated had been formed?

A. Yes that is true.

Q. During that trip were you functioning on behalf of Atari, Incorporated?

A. Yes I was.

Q. Was the agreement between Nolan Bushnell and Bally Manufacturing Corporation, Ross deposition Exhibit 3, transferred over to Atari, Inc.?

A. In effect it was. I don't remember if there is any supporting documentation to that effect. No, there was.

Q. There was supporting documentation?

A. Yes.

MR. ANDERSON: Mr. Herbert--

MR. HERBERT: I don't know what it is. I have not seen it that I can recall.

THE WITNESS: I can remember signing something for the auditors.

MR. ANDERSON: Would you be good enough, Mr. Herbert, to find this supporting documentation?

<<To be continued>>

Friday, April 3, 2015

The etymology of "video game"

One subject I have toyed with addressing on this blog is the subject of what was the first video game or who created the first video game. So far, however, I have avoided tackling the subject, primarily because it generates so much rancor. There are not many “religious” issues in the history of video games, but this is one of them. And as with many such issues, those on one side often denigrate those on the other with epithets and accusations of incompetence, or worse. While I am not going to get into the issue here, there is an ancillary issue that shouldn’t generate as much heat – when was the term “video game” first used.

First, let’s look at some standard sources for etymology. The
Online Etymology Dictionary does not have an entry for “video game” but the entry for “video” notes, “video game is from 1973.”’s entry for “video game” cites the Random House Dictionary (unabridged) as tracing the origin of the term to “1970-1975” – not very helpful. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition also traces “video game” to 1973, as does Third Barnhart Dictionary of New English. But let’s cut to the chase. What about the Oxford English Dictionary and its extensive etymology citations? The second edition of the OED also traces the term to 1973 and lists as its first citation an article from the November 10, 1973 issue of Business Week. The section cited in the OED reads, “
The astonishing ability of the video game to lure quarters from the public and the electronic techniques used in its design are forcing major changes on the coin-op industry.” The term is used seventeen other times in the article, including in its title (“A red-hot market for video games”).


 Not to demean the OED, but surely we can do better than that. The OED probably does a fine job with tracing the first known usage of words from a century or more ago but I’m not sure how thorough they are in scouring sources for newer words. More importantly, we can look at sources that the OED editors almost surely did not, like game flyers and trade magazines. Before we do, however, some might wonder why I just don’t look up the term in Google NGram or an online newspaper archive. Wouldn’t that be the best way to settle the question? Actually, no it wouldn’t for a number of reasons. One of the biggest is that a raw search for “video game” or “videogame” doesn’t really help much since those words were used together long before 1973 in contexts that had nothing to do with electronic video games. To cite just one example: an article from the August 8, 1953 Long Beach Independent is titled “Tigers s. A’s – Video Game for Today”. A second problem is that even when an article does use the term “video game” to refer to an electronic game, the date given for the publication is often incorrect. Again, to cite but one example, a search for “video game” turns up an ad from the “28 Nov 1896” Laredo Times for an “Atari 2600 video game.” The indexed date is obviously wrong – it was actually the 28 Nov 1986 edition. While this was a mere number transposition and I could tell it was wrong by looking at the synopsis, other erroneous dates are not so easy to recognize and require opening up the images. The same kinds of errors are found in all of the online databases I checked, including NGram. While NGram does a better job, it still has these kinds of errors – only in Ngram the actual publication date is often much more difficult to identify (all the pre-1974 dates I checked in Ngram were erroneous – though I didn’t check them all). In addition, these two types of errors occur so frequently that it makes filtering them out so time consuming as to render the online sources of little use.
            So how about a different tack? Another way to tackle the problem is to look for specific systems and see if the term “video game” was used to describe them. Since we know the term was used by at least November 1973, let’s look at two major video games that came out before 1973. – the Magnavox Odyssey and Computer Space.

I have not found any source referring to the original Odyssey as a “video game” or “videogame” prior to 1973. Nor, AFAIK, has anyone claimed that the term was first used to describe the Odyssey. Even Ralph Baer, who was quite insistent that the Odyssey was the first “videogame,” never, to my knowledge, claimed that the term was first used in reference to the Odyssey. Note that Baer used the one word term “videogame” rather than the more common “video game.”
Baer’s original 1966 description of the game referred to it as “TV Gaming Display,” while later documents (which were reproduced in Baer’s Videogames: In the Beginning) from the 1967-1972 period call it a “TV Game.” None of the various patents that Sanders filed between prior to 1974 used the term “video game.” Instead, they usually called it a “Television Gaming Apparatus.” Ads for the system referred to it as and “electronic game,” as did most early articles.

Here’s an article from June 5, 1972 (though it’s hard to read).


And here’s an ad from December 4, 1972.


Computer Space

This one is a bit more interesting since we do have one source claiming that it was the first game to be called a “video game.”
In December 2007, Benj Edwards interviewed Nolan Bushnell. The interview included this exchange:

Edwards: Do you know how the term "video game" came about?

Bushnell: I think it was started at the first trade show that Computer Space was at. And I think it was coined by a reporter, and that was in the fall of 1971, when we showed it in Chicago. The reporter, writing for one of the trade magazines, coined the term "video game."

Edwards: So it was around 1971, you think?

Bushnell: Yeah. To be exact, it was November 1971.

Edwards: Do you have any idea what reporter it was that might have coined the term?

Bushnell: No, but I know the magazine. I think it was the magazine called Vending Times

So according to Bushnell, the term “video game” was first used in a trade magazine in November 1971 to describe Computer Space. He thinks the magazine was Vending Times.
Is his claim true? It appears not.

While I do not have any 1971 issues of Vending Times (though I do have the 1974-1985 issues), the magazine is still in existence, and they have a complete set of back issues. I contacted one of the editors and had them check and they did not find any article using the term “video game” in the November 1971 issue or any issue from 1971 or 1972. Another person (former GameRoom magazine editor Tim Ferrante) volunteered to go to Vending Times’ New York Offices to check the pre-1974 issues for anything of interest involving video games and they did not turn up any use of the term in 1971 or 1972 either. The earliest Vending Times article referring to the game that I have a copy of is the May 1972 issue. As you can see, it does not use the term “video game”


Could Nolan have been thinking of the other major coin-op trade magazine of the time, Cash Box. Again it appears not. Again, I don’t have all of the 1971 or 1972 issues, but Michael Current’s excellent Atari timeline website does include scans of an ad for Computer Space from Cash Box’s November 27, 1971 issue as well as an article announcing the game’s release from the November 4, 1971 issue. Neither of them uses the term “video game.” Note that while Billboard used to cover the coin-op industry extensively, it had stopped doing so by 1970.

What about flyers?
Here is a quick summary of all the flyers for video games produced prior to 1974, with approximate release dates, along with the term (if any) they used to describe the game (you can see most of the flyers at the Arcade Flyers Archive or Flyer Fever websites) A question mark indicates that either I didn’t find a flyer or the flyer was in Japanese. Note that flyers generally appeared in trade magazines about a month before the game was released – though it is possible that some of these flyers were alternate versions produced after the game was released. This is unlikely, and I suspect that the flyers here were all produced around the time of the game’s release.

·  Computer Space  (Nutting Associates, 11/71) – “game”
·  Star Trek (For-Play, 9/72?) – “game”
·  Pong (Atari, 11/72) – “video skill game”
·  Computer Space Ball (Nutting, ca 1/73-6/73) – none
·  Paddle Battle (Allied Leisure, 3/73) - none
·  Rally (For-Play, 3/73) – “fast action space age game”
·  Volly (Ramtek, 3/73) - ?
·  Winner (Midway, 4/73) – “television skill game”
·  TV Ping Pong (Chicago Coin, 4/73) – “electronic ping pong game”, refers to Chicago Coin as “the newest leader in electronic games”
·  TV Ping Pong (Amutronics 4/73) – “game”
·  Paddle Ball (Williams, 5/73) – “game”
·  Space Race (Atari, 7/73) – refers to Atari as “the originators of video game technology” and “the reliable leader in video games”
·  TV TableTennis (PMC Electronics, ca 7/73) - none
·  Tennis Tourney (Allied Leisure, 7/73) - none
·  Elepong (Taito, 7/73) – “video skill game”, “electronically simulated ping pong game”
·  TV Tennis (Chicago Coin, 8/73) – “electronic game”
·  Ric-O-Chet (Allied Leisure, 9/73) - none
·  Pong Doubles (Atari, 9/73) – “video game”
·  Winner IV (Midway, ca 9/73) – “tv game”
·  Pong Tron (Sega, 9/73) - ?
·  Elimination (Kee/Atari, 10/73) – “video game”
·  Gotcha (Atari, 10/73) – “video skill game”, also refers to Atari as “the originators of video game technology” and “the reliable leader in video skill games”
·  TV Table Tennis (United Billiards, ca 10/73??) - ?
·  Olympic TV Football (Chicago Coin, 11/73) - none
·  Olympic TV Hockey (Chicago Coin, 11/73) - none
·  Super Soccer (Allied Leisure, 11/73) – none
· Deluxe Soccer Allied Leisure, 11/73) – none
· Wham Bam (PMC, ca 11/73) – none
·  Hockey TV (Sega, 11/73) - ?
·  Pong Tron II (Sega, 11/73) - ?
·  Pro Hockey (Taito, 11/73) - ?
·  Soccer (Taito, 11/73) – “video reaction game”
·  TV Tennis (US Billiards, ca 11/73?) - none
·  Pro Tennis (Wiliams, ca 11/73) – “t.v. tennis game”
·  Hockey (Ramtek, ca 11/73?) – “video game”
·  Scoring (Volly, ca 11/73?) – “hockey game”
·  Tele-Soccer (BAC Electronics, ca 11/73?)
·  Champion Ping Pong (Arizona Automation, ca 11/73?) - none
·  TV Hockey (Amutronics, ca 12/73) - none
·  Pro Hockey (Williams, ca 12/73) – “game”
·  Asteroid (Midway, ca 12/73) – “TV thriller”
·  Leader (Midway, ca 12/73) – “game” or “TV knock-out”
·  Olympic Tennis (See-Fun, ca 12/73) – “game”, “electronic match-point tennis game”
·  Sports Center (For-Play, ca 12/73) – “t.v. game”
·  Elimination (Volly, ca 12/73?) - ?
·  Sportarama (United Billiards, ca 12/73??) – “video game”
·  Astro Race (Taito, 1973?) – “video game”
·  Davis Cup (Taito, 1973?) - none
·  Soccer (Ramtek, 1973?) – “video game”
·  Hockey (Volly, 1973) / Tennis (Volly, 1973) – “video game”, “video audio game”
·  Missile Radar (Nutting, 1973??) - none
·  Crazy Foot (Bally, 1973?) - none

So here are the flyers that used the term “video game” in 1973:
·  Space Race (Atari, 7/73)
·  Pong Doubles (Atari, 9/73)
·  Elimination (Kee/Atari, 10/73)
·  Gotcha (Atari, 10/73)
·  Hockey (Ramtek, ca 11/73?)
·  Sportarama (United Billiards, ca 12/73??)
·  Astro Race (Taito, 1973?)
·  Soccer (Ramtek, 1973?)
·  Hockey (Volly, 1973) / Tennis (Volly, 1973)

So it appears that Atari may have been the first to use the term “video game” on its flyers, starting with Space Race around June of 1973.
Finally, let’s look at magazines – trade and non-trade.

As far as non-trade magazines go, I have not found very many articles on video games prior to November 1973, aside from those mentioning the Odyssey. I did find an article in the November 1973 issue of ee Systems Engineering Today that also uses the term “video game.”
One of the earliest articles on coin-op video games was a UPI article on Atari that appeared around February 15, 1973. It refers to the games as “computerized ‘pinball’ machines.”

For trade magazines, the three major candidates I reviewed were Vending Times, Cash Box, and Marketplace. Play Meter did not publish its first issue until November 1974 and RePlay started in October 1975.

Vending Times

The first use of the term “video game” I found in Vending Times was an article in the May 1973 issue titled “Williams Introduces New ‘Paddle Ball’ Video Game.” While this might seem like a clear reference use of the term, it might have just been “headline-ese”- a shortening of a term like “video skill game” to save space in a headline. The body of the article calls it a “video ping pong game.” The term was also used unambiguously in the December 1973 issue,

Cash Box
I don’t have all of the early 1973 issues of Cash Box, but I have most.
Here are the ones I have from the fist six months of the year: 1/20, 2/3, 2/10, 2/17, 3/3, 3/10, 3/17, 3/24, 3/31. 4/7, 4/14, 4/21, 5/5, 5/12, 5/19, 5/26, 6/2, 6/9, 6/16, 6/23, 6/30.

I am missing 1/6, 1/13, 1/27, 2/24, and 4/28.

I found nothing in the January and February issues or in the March 3 issue - though the March 3 issue had what some say was the first ad for Pong (referring to it as a "video skill game")

 Then, in the March 10 issue, I hit pay dirt.

That was the only use of "video game" in that issue, but the 3/17 issue had three of them.

The first was an article titled “ACA & For-Play Introduce New Rally Video Game.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, however, this could be another instance of headlinese, however, as the body of the article uses the terms “video skill game” and “television control game”
The second and third instances appear in an article on the Atari/Midway Pong licensing deal, which notes that Atari was “allowing Midway to produce its latest video game” and quoted Midway’s Hank Ross as saying that “We felt that the best way to produce the reliability operators demand in video games was to make use of Atari’s proprietary technology.”

So I think that all of these articles represent deliberate use of the term. While the body of the Rally article does not use the term, remember that the body of game announcements was usually supplied by the manufacturer, while the headline would have been written by someone at the magazine.

Another significant usage occurred in the April 14 issue, which also uses the term “video game” multiple times. Once, in a article titled “ChiCoin Calls All Distributors to Chicago Meeting 3/30; Three New Novelty Pieces Previewed Including Video Game,” once in an article mentioning the “For Play Rally video game”, and most significantly in the issue’s editorial, which includes the line “Then came Periscope, the quarter novelties, something called ‘Speedway,’ soccer tables, now hockey tables, and what do they call them, ‘video games.”

Summing up, here is a list of the number of time the term "video game" (or "video games") is used in Cash Box in the first half of 1973:
1/20, 2/3, 2/10, 2/17, 3/3 - Not used.
3/10 - once, 3/17 - three times, 3/24 - not used, 3/31 - once, 4/7 - four times, 4/14 - three times, 4/21 - once, 5/5 - twice, 5/12 - twice, 5/19 - once, 5/26 - not used, 6/2 - not used, 6/9 - not used, 6/16 - not used, 6/23 - five times, 6/30 - three times. 
And here’s what may be the kicker. The editor of Cash Box’s coin-machine section in 1973 was Ed Adlum, who later went on to found RePlay. The September 1982 of RePlay includes the following tidbit.

"RePlay's Eddie Adlum worked at 'Cash Box' when 'TV games' first came out. The personalities in those days were Bushnell, his sales manager Pat Karns and a handful of other 'TV game' manufacturers like Henry Leyser and the McEwan brothers. It seemed awkward to call their products 'TV games', so borrowing a word from 'Billboard's description of movie jukeboxes, Adlum started to refer to this new breed of amusement machine as 'video games.' The phrase stuck."

When I first read this, I was very skeptical but given the evidence above, it seems quite plausible indeed that Adlum coined the term around March 1973. The March timeframe especially makes since three of the earliest Pong clones were released that month, which could be seen as the beginning of the coin-op video game “industry.”
I cannot say for certain that the March 10 issue was the first time Adlum used the term since I am missing a handful of earlier issues. But it seems quite likely to me that the the March 10 issue was the first time the phrase was used. Remember that the first Pong ad had appeared in the previous issue (March 3).
Finally, while Adlum may have coined the term as far as a public mention is concerned, there was at least one usage that predates March 1973. The below letter, which I posted earlier, was sent from Nolan Bushnell to Bally’s John Britz on July 10, 1972. In it, Nolan uses the term “video game” not once but twice.


So far, this is technically the very first usage of the term I’ve found, but since it was in a private letter, it is debatable whether or not it should count as a first usage or not.

Bushnell also used the term in an article that appeared in the April 7, 1973 issue of Cash Box.

The article quotes Bushnell as saying "Video games are just the first step toward putting coin boxes on the products of our space age technology."

So who coined the term “video game”? Nolan Bushnell? Ed Adlum? Someone else? From the evidence I’ve found, I’ll go with Adlum for now – though

As an aside, the first patent I found using the term “video game” was patent 4.006,47, filed 18 Mar 1976, for a Video Game Rebound Apparatus by Jeffrey Reed Lukkarila of Magnavox.

Another early patent to use the term was patent 4,116,441, filed 29 Oct 1976 for a “Moving goalie circuit for manually controlled electronic video game” by Robert Ralph Runte and Theodore A. Mau. Note that Runte was the founder of Fascination, Ltd., an early Pong clone manufacturer. In July 1974, he filed for one of the earliest patents on a video game cocktail cabinet (though the patent did not use that term).