Don’t Watch TV Tonight: An Atari Home Pong Unit by Steve Jobs Mentor Allan Alcorn sells for $270,910 - Arts & Culture

In the provenance letter, Alcorn recounts the challenges in making Pong accessible to the public.

Gen Xers will appreciate a recent sale of a landmark childhood game. A prototype of an Atari “Home Pong” unit, one of two built in 1975, sold for $270,910 at a recent sale for RR Auction.

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Measuring 20 inches by 9.5 inches x 8.25 inches, the unit has a finished Pong chip in a prototype circuit board in the base. It features a hand-carved wooden mockup of the Pong system set upon the large black box.

The system mock-up has two potentiometer paddle control knobs, a red “start game” push button, a central metal grill for a built-in speaker.

Engineer and computer scientist Allan Alcorn, who created Pong and was a mentor to Steve Jobs, owns the home console.

“In 1975 Atari had managed to become dominant in the coin operated entertainment business and moved on to build video games for the home market,” recounts Alcorn in a provenance letter. “We had to get Pong running on a single chip of silicon so a product could be built at a price a consumer could afford.”

The box, which has the electronics concealed inside, is powered by an AC adapter and has an on/off toggle switch on one side.

This mockup could be taken to show to potential customers: the chip fabrication had been set up and finalized, but the plastic cases were still in limbo. But, still, it offered an accurate idea on the look, feel, and function of the finished product.

“I had never designed a custom chip before but I had an engineer, Harold Lee, with me who did have the experience and we managed to get the chip to work,” Alcorn shares. “I mistakenly thought that designing the chip would be the hardest part of the project but to my surprise the plastic case wound up taking longer and costing more money than the chip.”

They eventually sorted out the plastic problem, but in order to demonstrate the product to potential customers like Seas, they had to demo it with a handmade wooded mockup.

“The wooden mockup was attached to a box that had the electronics in the base and did look and function pretty much like the finished Pong game,” the 74-year-old says.

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