The History of Atari @ Gamasutra
Our interest in Atari comes mostly from their modern relationship with D&D, so this article detailing the early history of the real/original Atari is off topic but fascinating. In a lengthy 20 pages, Gamasutra looks at 1971 - 1977:
Instead, it hit them one day to go in the opposite direction and simplify their design to cut costs as much as possible. The pair decided that they did not need thousands of dollars in hardware to make their dream come to life, instead choosing a much simpler solution. They crafted a working game using TTL (Transistor To Transistor Logic)vii to create a computer whose sole purpose was to play Computer Space. While this might have seemed like a step-back technology wise, it was a huge leap forward for creating a commercial game. With a black and white G.E. TV and $100 worth of electronic parts, they created the first viable, commercial video game.
“I worked it out and the economics were overwhelming."viii - Nolan Bushnell
This seemingly simple decision towards simplification fueled the entire video game industry for most of the 1970’s.