Google always likes to have some fun with milestones important to the tech-friendly crowd, and the latest loving nod is directed toward Atari’s classic brick-breaker Breakout, which turned 37 in April 2013. Type the phrase “Atari Breakout” into a Google image search and watch the magic happen, or simply follow this link if you’d rather avoid the extra keystrokes. Then sit back as your screen transforms into a playable browser version of the game, with image search results representing each colored block. Clear a stage and a new random search term automatically repopulates the blocks; “curry chicken” is our favorite.
Breakout was hatched in the minds of Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell and Tank co-creator Steve Bristow. The two set out to create a single-player version of the paddle-based gaming sensation Pong, with the second player’s paddle replaced by a field of bricks that would disappear whenever the rebounding ball came into contact with one. The task of developing a prototype was handed to future Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, an Atari employee at the time.
Presented with the challenge of keeping the number of microchips on the game’s circuit board to as low a number as possible, Jobs brought in fellow Apple founder Steve Wozniak to take over. The legendary programmer and inventor put the game together over a period of four days and nights, eliminating enough chips from the design to earn Jobs a $5,000 bonus on top of his $750 flat rate. As the story goes, Jobs split only the flat rate with his eventual Apple cohort. It is apparently one of the factors that added to the tension between the two men many years later.
Ironically, the design submitted by Woz was too complex for Atari to replicate and had to be modified, at added expense. The game eventually arrived as a coin-op arcade machine in April 1976, and it later went on to invade homes on the Atari 2600 console. Many ports, clones, and re-imaginings followed in the subsequent three decade. The classic game’s most recent rebirth was 2011’s Breakout: Boost, a free-to-play title for iOS devices that served as an early sign of present-day Atari’s push to reinvent itself as a key player in the mobile games space.
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