10 Things You Might Not Know About BREAKOUT - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About BREAKOUT

Geek Dave breaks out...

1. Having scored huge success with Pong, Atari were looking at ways to stay one step ahead of their rivals by creating alternate innovative video games, using their existing Pong hardware.

One of Atari Inc's founders, Nolan Bushnell came up with the concept of turning Pong into a single player game, where the player would use a paddle to maintain a ball that depletes a wall of bricks.

2. Allan Alcorn, who had designed Pong in 1972 and was now chief engineer at Atrai, was assigned as the project manager for this new single player game, and began developing what would become Breakout in 1975. The previous year he had taken on a new employee who he tasked with designing a prototype arcade version.

That employee was Steve Jobs.

3. Jobs was offered $750 if he could complete a playable prototype of Breakout, with an award of $100 for every TTL (transistor-transistor logic) chip fewer than 100. Jobs promised to complete a prototype within four days. Bushnell offered the bonus because he disliked how new Atari games required 150 to 170 chips. Obviously the fewer the chips, the cheaper the cabinet production would be.

4. Jobs friend, who you may well also know, Steve Wozniak had created a Pong clone which only used about 30 chips. As Jobs had little specialized knowledge of circuit board design but knew Wozniak was capable of producing designs with a small number of chips, he convinced Wozniak to work with him, promising to split the fee evenly between them if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips.

5. Wozniak was working for Hewlett-Packard at the time, so along with Jobs worked nights at Atari to meat the deadline. Wozniak reduced the number of chips by 50, by using RAM for the brick representation, which equated to a bonus of $5,000!

However, Jobs kept the bonus terms secret from Wozniak. Wozniak later stated he only received payment of $350 and believed for years that Atari had promised $700 for a design using fewer than 50 chips, and $1000 for fewer than 40. The final working breadboard he and Jobs delivered to Atari used 44 chips.

Wozniak did not learn about the actual $5,000 bonus (equivalent to $28,220 in 2018) until ten years later!

6. Although the pair, mainly Jobs, got paid, the design was too complex for Atari to fully comprehended at the time. By designing the board with as few chips as possible, Wozniak made the it difficult to manufacture as it was too compact and complicated to be feasible with Atari's established manufacturing methods.

Atari ended up re-designing their own version for production, which contained about 100 TTL chips. Wozniak later said that the gameplay was exactly the same as his original creation, and he could not find any differences.

Just 50 extra chips!

7. When Breakout arrived in the arcades in May 1976, the cabinet used a standard black and white monitor. However, in one of the first examples of such practice, later populised by the likes of Space Invaders, the monitor was given strips of colored cellophane over it so that the bricks appear to be in color.

8. Breakout directly influenced Steve Wozniak's design for the Apple II computer. He said,
"A lot of features of the Apple II went in because I had designed Breakout for Atari. I had designed it in hardware. I wanted to write it in software now."
This included his design of color graphics circuitry, the addition of game paddle support and sound, and graphics commands in Integer BASIC, with which he wrote Brick Out, a software clone of his own hardware game. Wozniak said in 1984,
"Basically, all the game features were put in just so I could show off the game I was familiar with—Breakout—at the Homebrew Computer Club. It was the most satisfying day of my life [when] I demonstrated Breakout—totally written in BASIC. It seemed like a huge step to me. After designing hardware arcade games, I knew that being able to program them in BASIC was going to change the world."
9. The original iPod had an Easter egg where holding down the center button for a few seconds in the "About" menu caused Breakout to appear

10. Talking of Easter eggs, head over to Google Images and type "Atari Breakout" in the search bar for one of Google's best hidden surprises...

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