Nolan Bushnell Interview: Founder Of Atari & Chuck E. Cheese, Steve Jobs\’ Only Boss – How To Innovate

Nolan Bushnell is the founder of the legendary video game company Atari, and he is known as the Father of the Video Game Industry. He is the creator of the first coin-op video …



Nolan Bushnell is the founder of the legendary video game company Atari, and he is known as the Father of the Video Game Industry. He is the creator of the first coin-op video arcade games and the first in-home video game consoles, as well as the games themselves (from Pong to Breakout to Asteroids and many more). Newsweek named Nolan one of the “50 Men That Changed America”.

Nolan created a new Silicon Valley Culture, which was adopted by Apple, and still exists today across the valley. He famously was also Steve Jobs’ first and only boss, and after leaving Atari, Steve Jobs offered a third of Apple Inc to Nolan.

Nolan also founded Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater, another brand that has endured for decades in American culture. He created 20+ other companies, including ETAK, which was the first company to map the world to within a meter, technology that is found today in Google Maps. In 2019, Nolan released his latest offering, St Noir, which is a board game for Amazon’s Echo, which has won many awards including “Best of Innovation” at CES.

Nolan is the author of the acclaimed book “Finding the Next Steve Jobs” and has been featured in hundreds of publications and many documentaries, including Tom Hanks’ recent hit documentary series “The Eightees” on CNN. Nolan has won numerous awards including the prestigious BAFTA, and is known as one of the most important people in the history of computer technology, and of course, video games.

Join Chris as he and Nolan talk about the history of Atari, video games, Steve Jobs’ working for him, and Nolan’s mind-blowing journey as an inventor and entrepreneur. We discuss topics central to Nolan like: Culture, Innovation, Creativity, Failure, and the Future of Society/ Technology/ Games.

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Nolan Bushnell Interview: Founder Of Atari & Chuck E. Cheese, Steve Jobs\’ Only Boss – How To Innovate

Joining me is Nolan Bushnell, the Founder of the legendary video game company, Atari. He\’s also known as the Father of the Video Game Industry. He\’s the creator of arcade and in-home video game consoles and the games themselves from Pong to Asteroids to many others. Nolan created a new Silicon Valley Culture at Atari, which was adopted by Apple and still exists across the valley. He famously was also Steve Job’s first and only boss. After leaving Atari, Steve offered a third of Apple Inc to Nolan. He also founded Chuck E. Cheese\’s Pizza Time Theater, another brand that\’s endured for decades in American culture. He created twenty other companies, including Etak, which was the first company to map the world within a meter, technology that\’s now still found in Google Maps.

In 2019, Nolan released his latest offering, a game called St. Noire. It\’s a board game for Amazon\’s Echo. It won many awards including Innovation of the year at CES. He\’s the author of the acclaimed book, Finding The Next Steve Jobs. He\’s been featured in hundreds of publications and many documentaries, including Tom Hanks’ The Eighties, an award-winning documentary on CNN. He\’s been called one of the most important people in the history of computer technology and video games, as well as being named one of Newsweek\’s 50 Men That Changed America. Please join me now, as we talk to the legend himself and that is Nolan Bushnell.

Nolan Bushnell, thank you for joining me on the show. How the heck are you doing?

I\’m having a great time. As you can tell, I\’m in the middle of my lab, my man cave. I\’ve got everything here from oscilloscopes to power supplies to soldering irons. I can build anything here. I have computers. This is empowering to me. I like it.

I imagine you have a little bit more time than usual with the world we live in and more time on your hands to create. I know you\’re working on some incredible projects that you\’re very excited about. I\’m excited to hear about those, but let\’s first go back to the beginning of an amazing life and journey for a man that Newsweek named one of the 50 People That Changed America, one of the greatest inventors of our time. A man who was credited with fathering the video game industry, founding Atari and creating Pong. Let\’s go back to the beginning and start with how you got into that position.

I want to give a shout out to my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, who assigned me the science experiment on electricity and that fundamentally changed my life. I went home that night, set up a card table, got every piece of wire, flashlight, started inventing and never looked back. I became a ham radio operator. I have a picture of me when I was on ham radio. It’s the eleven-year-old Nolan. If you\’re a nerd in the ‘50s, you were in ham radio because computers were million-dollar things that were in the corner of a university or a company. That was kind of fun. The next big thing that changed was the whole idea. I worked at an amusement park that was close to my place. I became good at games and knew that if I were to put a video screen in that arcade that it could earn money.

You had played a little bit with a video screen on one of those $1 million computers you were talking about.

The other happenstance that went along is that a guy named Dr. Evans at the University of Utah. If you wanted a video screen connected to a computer in the ‘50s, there were three places in the world, Stanford, the University of Utah and MIT. The University of Utah was my university. It was lucky. Those three converged. I knew the business side because of the museum part and the technical side because of what Dr. Evans had done. All I had to do is figure out how to make it cheap enough. The video game business was born.

You met Al Alcorn and you put Atari together, but you had another company before that.

My partner was Ted Dabney and we developed a game called Spacewar. This was the game that we licensed to Noddy. I\’ve molded that cabinet out of modeling clay and it was scaled up. That was the start. It wasn\’t successful, but it gave us enough royalty that we then started to try.

It made a couple of million dollars and that was called Spacewar.

It\’s called Computer Space. Spacewar was the game that was played in the universities. Al was our first employee and he was assigned the task of doing Pong.

What made you decide that Pong was a game you wanted to do when you first started Atari? Did you like Pong?

I didn\’t think it was going to be successful. I thought it was a simple game that Al Alcorn could do in a week to get trained on our technology. We started tweaking it and it got funner. We tweaked it some more and it even got funner, but it was so simple. One of the things that happen when you\’re an engineer, you over-complicate things because you think the more technically interesting it is, the more commercially viable when the opposite is often the truth. That was the thing that gave us some.

At some point, you realize that Al doing the job he did on Pong and you working with him to make it as cool as possible. You realize you had something and that could be the game that you were talking about that you knew you could put it in an arcade or a bar that people would want to play it. Is that exactly what happened?

That\’s exactly what happened. Even worse or more than that, we got a service call. The game had stopped working three days after we put it on location. When we went there, it had stopped working because the cash box had filled up with quarters and it couldn\’t take any more money.

[bctt tweet=\”Don\’t be afraid to make honest mistakes. As long as there\’s no harm,it just means you\’re trying.\” username=\”calentertainmnt\”]

When it got filled with too many quarters, it would just stop working?

You couldn\’t get another quarter into it.

Was that in a bar?

That was in a bar. It was the handicapped tavern in Sunnyvale, California. Those are the kinds of problems you want to solve. Bigger coin box, done.

I think the story goes you and Ted had $250 each. You never went to get anybody else to invest in the company until you had sold $10 million worth of those Pong games. Is that right?

That\’s correct.

All over the country, people have that Pong video game console in their bars and their arcades.

We were heavily copied. There were about 150,000 Pong games of which we only sold about $40,000. We had a garage shop. We didn\’t have a factory and money. It was all a big scramble. We were running as fast as we could, but we were building them in a garage shop. Anybody with a garage shop could knock us off. Our patents hadn\’t been validated yet. We didn\’t have enough money to do a patent fight.

You had another incredible step to Atari, which was another great invention was somehow you figured out we could take this inside the consumer’s home.

Before that, we did a whole bunch of different video games, including a driving game and a rocket ship game. We discovered that we had one skill that nobody else had. We could innovate. We said innovation is our core capability. We ended up through innovation, gaining from 0% and 87% market share of the coin-operated game business.

When did Steve Jobs come aboard? Steve Jobs famously never had another boss in his career except for you. You guys hired him at Atari. I don\’t know what point he came in. Tell me that part.

It was 1974. He was nineteen years old. He was obnoxious to everybody but he and I got along famously. It was the thing where the engineers got, so they didn\’t want to work with him. My theory has always been, “You\’ve got to have room in your company for outliers. People who were maybe a little stinky and rude,” which Steve had in abundance. I put him on the night shift of which he was the only member. We didn\’t have an engineer in night shift, but there was a method to my madness. I knew that Wozniak would come and hang out. Wozniak is a digital genius. I looked at it as hiring two Steve\’s for the price of one.

They were working on some of those other video games that you\’re talking about.

Breakout was the game that opened up the Japanese market for us. We\’ll do well in Japan because people didn\’t invite other kids over to their house. It was a two-player game. Breakout conversely was a one-player game, so you can play it and have fun. That\’s what became the home game of Japan.

You were able to take your games essentially from the coin-op machines and put them on screens in people\’s homes.

If it was a successful coin-op game, the cartridge just knocked it out of the park.

That\’s where Atari took off. Eventually, you wanted some more money to be able to do very well in-home console and that\’s when you met your investors and Warner.

\"VSP Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent

We were trying to raise money. We were going to take the company public. We wanted a corporate investor and Warner came along and said, “We want to buy the whole thing.” They offered us more money than I thought that I\’d ever make. If you’ve made an offer that you can\’t refuse, don\’t refuse it.

Steve also offered you a third of Apple. They wanted you to come aboard as an investor for $50,000 and you said no. Was it because you were putting all of your money at that time into Chuck E. Cheese and robotics or what was that?

It was more that I didn\’t think Steve was a good executive at that time. You can\’t be a good executive if you\’re brash and nasty to people and things like that. I\’ve often thought that had I invested Apple might not have been successful because the guy who did make that investment came on as the first president, Maury Markowitz. He was like adult supervision. Steve was like 23, 24 years old and needed some serious tutelage in the behavior department as well as executive training. Maury Markowitz is one of the unsung heroes of Apple\’s success.

He also trained in a way Steve Jobs to become a CEO. You\’re saying no, may have been a very key point in the company\’s success and Steve\’s success. That\’s a great way to look at it.

I have to do that. Otherwise, I cry.

Let\’s go back to the Silicon Valley Ethos and the change that you guys made. You did these things where I was saying there was a lot more freedom, but it was about you saying, yes a lot. Empowering your people to take ownership and know that they could try things and you weren\’t going to stop them. Steve came into your office one day and maybe it was the first time you met him, then he says something like, “You\’re doing this wrong and I can fix it,” or something.

He brought in a circuit board. He says, “Your people don\’t know how to solder.” I looked at it and he was right. There were all kinds of cold solder joints, which it\’s like a delayed failure because it\’s not firm and it deteriorates over time. I said, “Can you fix that and set up some training and get people to know?” The one thing you got to know about Steve is he was meticulous. His soldering joints were perfect. That attention to nuance is one of the things that made Apple what it is. He cared about the nuance of things. That was a good thing. Innovation is about trust and it’s hard. You\’re doing something that hasn\’t been done before. There\’s a lot of risk. People won\’t risk if they don\’t feel like they\’re valued and trusted. I tried to always let people know, as long as you do honest mistakes, no harm, no foul. That means you\’re trying.

You did that as an executive throughout twenty plus companies. You took a risk. You never were afraid to try something. Because of that, you had a lot of failures, but you had a lot of success as well.

When you do things that are a little bit weird, sometimes they\’re properly timed and sometimes they’re not. It’s just the way the world works. When they\’re properly timed, weird project turns out to massively lucrative. Stop to think about going to BC and saying, “We\’re going to build a pizza party that is ten times bigger than any pizza parlor you\’ve ever seen. We\’re going to put a great big arcade in there and kiddie rides in a place where kids can crawl around.” There are going to be hocking robotic characters. If you hadn\’t seen Chuck E. Cheese, that sounds insane.

When you started that, you didn\’t need anybody else\’s money. You took Atari’s money to start that inside Atari.

It was one of those things that we did and Chuck E. Cheese is one of those crazy things that we knew had to had to work and it did. This is me Chuck E. Cheese too. I want you to notice up in the corner, that\’s my first son, Brent, up there. That gives you an idea of the time slot.

You knew that was going to be a wild success because you had the experience in the arcades. You had the coin-op machine experience and success. You\’re like, “I\’m going to create a place to put my own.” Did you only carry Atari games in the Chuck E. Cheeses at first?

The math was really simple. We were selling games at that time for about $2,000 a piece. During their lifetime, in coin dropped, they make $30,000 to $50,000. You didn\’t take rocket science to say, “I\’m on the wrong side of this equation.”

There’s also a great story about when you were creating Chuck E. Cheese, is it Chuck or Chuckie? I don\’t know, but Chuck is a rat. Not a good pairing with food.

This is a weird story. I knew my engineers could make things talk and move. We didn\’t have a single sculptor. What does the coyote look like?

It\’s supposed to be coyote pizza.

It was coyote pizza. That was the name that the project had. I went to the amusement park show and they had a booth where they were selling walk-around costumes. I bought a coyote costume and had it shipped to California. A week later, I talked to the guys and said, “How\’s the coyote coming?” He said, “What coyote?” I said, “The coyote that I sent you from the museum park show.” “That\’s not a coyote. That\’s a rat.” I said, “How do you know?” He says, “It\’s got a big pink tail for sure. What happens when there\’s a caricature, you add to it what you think it is as opposed to what it\’s meant to be.”

[bctt tweet=\”We\’re a very resilient people.\” username=\”calentertainmnt\”]

I said, “I\’m not going to slow the project down. We\’ll call it regrets pizza.” The marketing department had said, “You can\’t name a restaurant chain after the rat. You can\’t do it.” I said, “Can be a rat but we\’ll kind of deemphasize it’s ratness? Name it something else like Mickey Mouse. It\’s just a character. It’s not a big deal.” They said, “We can probably do that.” I said, “Name it, but it\’s got to be a happy name.” They came back and said, “We\’ve got a three-smile name, like Chuck E. Cheese. You can\’t say it without smiling three times.”

It\’s cool that it was a rat or maybe a mouse because you wanted to work for Disney.

When I first graduated from college, I wanted to be an Imagineer. I sent my resume probably three times, nobody home. I\’m glad they didn\’t because that would\’ve sucked up the video game business but be careful what you wish for and you might get it.

At some point, you also sold Chuck E. Cheese. What was that moment in time? How many locations were there in the country when you sold it?

We’ve about 150 companies stores, about 180 franchises.

It’s over 300 locations.

When the system was built out, it was about 500 to 600 locations.

In June of 2020 or the beginning of July 2020, we had the news that they filed for bankruptcy protection. That\’s something that a lot of businesses do. It\’s happening a lot now during this COVID crisis, but I\’m sure that they know what they\’re doing. It\’ll still be around for many years to come.

What\’s going on is that the private equity firm that owned them layered on way too much debt. When you do that, your cashflow goes sideways and they\’re going to get crammed down. The bondholders are going to own the company or the banks and not the private equity guys.

I hope that my kids and I can go to Chuck E. Cheese one day just like I went with my friends and family back in the day. I remember when I was in that age range of 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, that was one of the best places you could go.

We did a survey. If you were eight years old, Chuck E. Cheese was your favorite place in the world by 100%. We didn\’t interview any kid who didn\’t say Chuck E. Cheese was their favorite place.

It\’s still used. I hear it almost weekly. Knowing you and representing you makes me hear it more probably, and more aware of it. I hear Chuck E. Cheese referenced just on TV or in movies like weekly. Too bad you don\’t get some money every time it\’s mentioned because that alone would be a revenue stream. Many things you\’ve designed, created and invented, one of the other impressive things, is something that you did to help us, even now, we all use it, the mapping technology. You were on a boat that you owned, a 70-foot yacht and you\’re in the middle of a race. Tell us a story.

It\’s called the Transpac. It\’s every other year over the 4th of July weekend. We were out doing some navigation. This would be easy to do if we didn\’t have all this squishy stuff under us. Cars need to have help. Paper maps are hard to use. I said computers are getting cheap enough. A brilliant guy from SRI, Stanford Research Institute, was my helmsman. We were over the chart table. This is like 4:00 in the morning because you have to run shifts when you\’re racing because you\’re pulling spinnakers 24/7 and you got to have good people on deck to do that. I said, “When we get off this thing, I\’ll fund you and let\’s do an automobile navigation company.” We founded a company called Etak. It was a wild success and we mapped the world. When you are looking on Google Maps or anything like that, that\’s my basic technology. All the stuff that we did was owned by Tele Atlas.

It’s another company you sold that helped change the world. You\’re saying in the Google Maps technology behind it is your mapping technology is in there.

Absolutely. We had all the fundamental parts. They\’re run by now. Don\’t forget my robots. They were my happy place and my downfall. The tech just wasn\’t ready but I love these guys and it was a fun project.

What was the purpose? Were they supposed to bring you coffee and your mail?

They run around and entertain you. This is my other lab back when I was a little less crazy.

\"VSP How To Innovate: Innovation is Atari’s core capability.


You must be excited about robot technology. Has the technology caught up with the ideas?

It definitely has. The problem is after I lost $28 million in robot and then I tried it again four years later and only lost $2 million. I was going to try it again and my wife said she\’d leave me if I tried it again. No more robots. I’ve been there done that.

What is exciting to you about technologies that are emerging? I know that you have still done a lot of work in games and you did the VR gaming company a few years ago. In 2019, you won the award for Best Innovation at CES for St. Noire, a game that you created, which is a board game you use Amazon Echo to play a board game.

One of the things that the world needed was better board games. I love board games. With Echo, you have an AI that can answer questions. Like with St. Noire, you\’re the detective and you\’re interviewing suspects and they\’re answering you.

It\’s an interactive murder mystery game, but you can play it with your family or your friends in your own home.

We won the Innovation of the Year at the Consumer Electronics Show. We won seven awards on this particular game. Every once in a while, when you get old, you say, “I lost my mojo,” but not entirely.

You will never lose your mojo because you\’re always working hard on new projects. Do you think that board game idea with the help of artificial intelligence or the Amazon Echo is leading you into a new area of games and interaction?

What we\’re doing right now with Zoom, we\’re going to be putting St. Noire on Zoom so people can play it there. We\’ve got another twelve games in the pipeline that we\’re going to be doing. We\’re going to be integrating them all into a Zoom-like platform because I believe that people love to do games. We know from the video game business that there\’s an awful lot of people who like to play in the same environment. Video games are twitch games. They are good if you\’re a teenage boy. If you want to play with grandma and grandpa as a family, you got to have a different kind of game. That\’s where board games come in. There\’s a whole untapped market there of games that can be done that.

This is a weird one. I want to tell you about Weird Woods. Weird Woods is my new project. It\’s fun and games in the woods. We\’re going to buy a forest somewhere and turn it into more fun than you\’ve ever had. For example, we can do ropes scores, adventure or treasure hunts. You\’ve been to an Escape Room. Scape trail has to climb a tree or look under a rock for clues to get the combination to the gate to let you out or you die.

People go to the woods and stay in your glamping tents or cabins.

We\’re going to have a combination of luxury glamps. These are tents that have full linen, in-suite, toilet and shower. We\’re going to have camping spaces for people who don\’t have as much money. The whole idea is these adventures. You have to pay for them, but they\’re not expensive. There are zip lines, rope courses and gauntlets. It\’s going to be a magical experience.

You\’re working on that now and on stuff all the time. What keeps a guy like you going? I would imagine that during this time of everybody being locked down, you\’re still optimistic about the future, and the industry that you\’re in. What keeps you optimistic and what keeps you working hard on creating?

It\’s the opposite. I have a very short attention span. My life is about keeping me from being bored.

It makes you look for the cool thing. That\’s going to capture attention. You work hard on it to make it go and you fail or you succeed, but you give it all you got. Many failures lead to a lot of success.

Once I get it running like a Swiss watch, I lose interest in it. That\’s when I have to sell.

You have such success in games. It seems like because you understand exactly what people want, what makes a game work, and what people are looking for in order to be excited. I\’ve heard you talk about, when something\’s difficult, that you\’re happy. I know you also have a law attributed to you, Bushnell’s Law. Tell us a little bit about those two things.

There are two laws that I get quoted a lot about. The first one is any idiot who’s had a shower had a good idea. It\’s the person that gets out of the shower and does something about it that makes a difference. I say that if somebody says, “He stole my idea.” No, you didn\’t own it. Because you got the idea, it doesn\’t mean that you own it because you didn\’t do any work on it. You were lazy. People who work on ideas can somehow own them a little bit, but just having them, it\’s not yours.

[bctt tweet=\”When things change, you have to change with them; change is constant.\” username=\”calentertainmnt\”]

There might be multiple people working on an idea, then you have to be the best at it.

The nuance of execution is the driver. The other one that I get quoted on a lot is that games have to be simple to learn and very hard to master or impossible to master. That\’s a characteristic that is through life. When you talk about me having my finger on the pulse, I cheat. I have eight kids and a wife. They all keep me relevant. My wife is much hipper than I am. When I do something old-fashioned or set in my way, she whacks me in the side of the head and my kids do the same thing. The dinner table with the Bushnell household is verbal hand to hand combat.

It\’s six boys and two girls.

It’s five boys and three girls. I don\’t know how it happened, but they all think they\’re leaders. How can you have all leaders in a family and no followers.

They had a great leader to begin with. The leaders of the family are the parents. All of your kids are incredibly successful. Some of them are inventors. Most of them are entrepreneurs. You have instilled these guys and gals with the confidence to pursue their dreams and to create. You must have started them young in the same monikers that you had at Atari and in all of your companies like, “Try it, go for it. Don\’t worry about failure. You might get hurt. You might not succeed, but keep trying.” I\’m sure you taught that to them.

Access to tools and stuff is important. Kids need to learn how to synthesize very early. I\’ve talked to you about this before, but hot glue guns are magic for little kids. You can stick anything to anything, but they\’re going to burn themselves. They just will and they learn not to. A lot of mothers say, “I\’ve never let my four-year-old play with a hot glue gun.” I said, “You\’re hurting him or her.” I would let my kids use any of my tools except the ones that would cut their fingers off. That\’s the right thing. Have a rich environment, not rich for money, but rich in the discarded paper, Styrofoam and wood. My dad was in the construction business. We always had a woodpile and a garage full of tools. I had this canopy of stuff to play with. I was always building toys. I never bought toys.

We\’re in this crazy time. There\’s a stoppage, a pause, or a reflection that we\’re able to do inwards of our own companies and ourselves and resetting for what’s coming next. A lot of technologies have been put in front of us that we weren\’t getting to for another several years, but now it\’s like all sped up because of this. Where do you see in 3, 5, 6, 7 years society? Do you think that we\’re going to be basically where we were, but some new technologies will emerge or do you think there are some things that are permanently going to change or emerge from this pandemic situation?

There are 2 or 3 things that are going to be good. People are going to be a lot more careful about the supply chain. For example, the fact that the United States doesn\’t make antibiotics anymore. That\’s a stupid thing. We\’re going to be onboarding a lot of businesses. I believe that business is going to be more efficient. They\’ve discovered that what we\’re doing with Zoom and various things. It\’s okay to not get on an airplane at the drop of a hat. There\’s going to be a bias towards online working, education and gameplay. That\’s going to be forever biased in that direction. In general, we\’re very resilient people and nations. That we\’ll learn some things.

I do know that whenever you have a discontinuity or a singularity. The people who figure out how to deal with that singularity first thrive and the people who were caught unaware and can\’t innovate with that singularity are changing the structure of their business such as destroying it. You have to be clever when things change and you have to change with it. You cannot hope for it to go away because it may go away, but it\’ll go away leaving an imprint of change. Change is the constant.

Do you think that times like this accelerate companies like Apple or Google or Zappos or Atari where there\’s like a forced innovation because there are major changes happening, or do you think that those companies always change the world? Why are those companies different than the other ones that don\’t change the world? What\’s the difference between the culture and the mindset?

I believe that being at the top of the hill is somewhat transitory. When I was growing up, IBM was considered unstoppable to the point where that now IBM is a cipher and then Microsoft. They were going to break them up. I see some cracks in Google. If you look at the difference between Apple products and Samsung products, Apple is a fast follower. Though they\’ve got a very loyal and entrenched customer base, being a fast follower isn\’t a winning combination in the technology field. I believe that you have your day in the sun and then the sunsets. In twenty years, there\’ll be a different set of superstars.

Do you have any companies that you like that are in that Amazon stage when Bezos was talking about it and people are like, “Nobody\’s going to want to spend their money online and trust the internet with their cards?” Are there any companies or industries that you like right now that are at the beginning of domination?

All three of them are owned by me.

What about some other ones that you don\’t own, that you are impressed with or you\’re inspired by?

I\’ve been doing a lot of research. I feel like water is an important thing going forward or lack thereof. Energy efficient desalination is very interesting to me. There\’s a couple of companies that are doing some cool stuff. One of them is out of Israel, that’s brilliant. Energy production is an important thing because what we\’re doing on energy is important and aquaculture. Our oceans are deserts once you get 100 miles off the coast because they don\’t have any nutrients. You can fertilize the ocean. All of a sudden grow mazing stuff from algae to krill to what have you. These are areas that are on the ascendant. This is the one that raises everybody\’s eyebrows. The most efficient converter of the plant to protein is termites. I believe termites in the future will be a major food source.

That’s definitely out of left field, Nolan.

You asked for some weird prognostications. I\’m on the board of a prone robotics. We’ve got the smartest guys in automated vehicles. Self-driving cars are more important than world peace. More people are dying on the highway than in any of the worse. Getting rid of traffic accidents is probably the most life-preserving thing that we can do. It does some other things. I want to have cities garden and transportation underground and automated. I want to be able to go downtown and not see a car, only hear the birds chirp, not hear them and have cafes spreading out on the grass. The world can be a better place than it is. I want to be able to get transportation from Santa Monica to downtown in three minutes, 200 miles an hour, you can do that with underground transportation that\’s directly there.

\"VSP How To Innovate: Innovation is about trust. People won\’t risk doing something that hasn’t been done before if they don\’t feel like they\’re valued and trusted.


Do you think that’s what Elon Musk is doing with The Boring Company?

He\’s a smart guy. He is willing to play with the future in a very wonderful way.

It\’s amazing to sit with you and pick your brain about how you look at the world, failure, risk or innovation, creativity because you are one of the greats and one of the greatest people alive who\’ve done that. Thank you.

You’re too kind.

I\’m hitting the nail right on the head. Nolan, thank you so much for inspiring us and for also creating some of these things. I want to personally thank you that have touched me in my life, the Atari 2600 and that whole revolution and industry. I used to go to this arcade near my house Westworld when I was growing up. It was the greatest thing ever. We\’d go there for hours and I\’d play Galaga and Centipede, some of your games and other games for hours, it was so much fun and Chuck E. Cheese. Thank you for enhancing my childhood and many other people\’s childhoods and brains as well. Thank you for that and for coming to the show. It\’s been amazing. I appreciate you.

It\’s been fun.


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About Nolan Bushnell

\"VSP Nolan is a riveting and entertaining speaker with a wealth of knowledge not only about the early days of Silicon Valley, but also about where technologies today are headed.  Today he oversees and/or sits on the boards of several companies that use Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality, and Augmented Reality, as well as other advanced tech.  However, Nolan is just as at home on stage, motivating and inspiring others with his views on entrepreneurship, culture, creativity, innovation and education, and is one of the most in demand speakers in the world on these topics.  Nolan has spoken at numerous important organizations and companies, including Google, SAP, YPO, Dolby, and MPI, and at the biggest events in the world, like WIRED25, South by Southwest, and CES.

Over the past four decades, it’s staggering what Nolan has created as a prolific entrepreneur, founding more than 20 companies, including:  Atari; Chuck E. Cheese’s; Catalyst Technologies – the first tech incubator in Silicon Valley;  Etak – the first car navigation system whose mapping is still the basis for car navigation systems today;  Androbot – a personal robotics company;  ByVideo – the first online ordering system, which allowed customers to order and pay for product from kiosks;  uWink – the first touch screen ordering and entertainment system at restaurant tables;  X2 – a new game company focusing on powerful new tech, and Modal VR – an end-to-end virtual reality platform that delivers large-scale and fully wireless immersion for multiple users at once.  In the process, he pioneered many of the workplace innovations that have made Silicon Valley a long-standing magnet for creative talent.  Additionally, he has consulted for numerous corporations, including IBM, Cisco Systems and US Digital Communications.  He has been featured by major media worldwide including Fast Company, Wired, Huffington Post, CNET, The Guardian, BBC, and as a guest on countless business news shows.

Nolan Bushnell, speaker, has won several awards around the world and has been featured in many documentaries about Silicon Valley and Video Games, including recently in CNN’s “The Eighties” produced by Tom Hanks, and will soon be seen in 2019 in another major documentary called “Game On” on The History Channel about the video game industry.  Nolan was even given a cameo in the 2013 film “Jobs” starring Ashton Kutcher, a tip of the hat to Nolan for his role in hiring Steve Jobs for his first job ever at Atari.  Currently, a biopic about Nolan, tentatively titled “Atari”, with Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company is set to begin production likely this year.


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