- Model: Pong (Sears – 25796) / (Atari C-100)
- Manufacturer: Atari
- CPU: None (discrete, Pong chip)
- Video: Color
- Sound: Mono
- I/O ports: Two built in paddles
- Players: Two only
- Released: 1975 (through Sears)
Released 1975: In 1974, Atari engineer Harold Lee proposed a home version of Pong that would connect to a television: Home Pong. The system began development under the codename Darlene, named after an attractive female employee at Atari. Alcorn worked with Lee to develop the designs and prototype, and based them on the same digital technology used in their arcade games. The two worked in shifts to save time and money; Lee worked on the design’s logic during the day, while Alcorn debugged the designs in the evenings. After the designs were approved, fellow Atari engineer Bob Brown assisted Alcorn and Lee in building a prototype. The prototype consisted of a device attached to a wooden pedestal containing over a hundred wires, which would eventually be replaced with a single chip designed by Alcorn and Lee; the chip had yet to be tested and built before the prototype was constructed. The chip was finished in the latter half of 1974, and was, at the time, the highest-performing chip used in a consumer product.
Bushnell and Gene Lipkin, Atari’s vice-president of sales, approached toy and electronic retailers to sell Home Pong, but were rejected. Retailers felt the product was too expensive and would not interest consumers. Atari contacted the Sears Sporting Goods department after noticing a Magnavox Odyssey advertisement in the sporting goods section of its catalog. Atari staff discussed the game with a representative, Tom Quinn, who expressed enthusiasm and offered the company an exclusive deal. Believing they could find more favorable terms elsewhere, Atari’s executives declined and continued to pursue toy retailers. In January 1975, Atari staff set up a Home Pong booth at a toy trade fair in New York City, but was unsuccessful in soliciting orders due to the fact that they did not know that they needed a private showing.
While at the show, they met Quinn again, and, a few days later, set up a meeting with him to obtain a sales order. In order to gain approval from the Sporting Goods department, Quinn suggested Atari demonstrate the game to executives in Chicago. Alcorn and Lipkin traveled to the Sears Tower and, despite a technical complication in connection with an antenna on top of the building which broadcast on the same channel as the game, obtained approval. Bushnell told Quinn he could produce 75,000 units in time for the Christmas season; however, Quinn requested double the amount. Though Bushnell knew Atari lacked the capacity to manufacture 150,000 units, he agreed. Atari acquired a new factory through funding obtained by venture capitalist Don Valentine. Supervised by Jimm Tubb, the factory fulfilled the Sears order. The first units manufactured were branded with Sears’ “Tele-Games” name. Atari later released a version under its own brand in 1976.
My Atari/Sears Pong: I got the first edition with the original box which is pretty cool. This version was only released through Sears, and branded with Sears’ “Tele-Games” label for Christmas 1975. Following the success, Atari released its own version of PONG in 1976.