[ARCADE] Arcade PCB
Breakout © 1976 Atari, Incorporated.
Breakout sets up with eight rows of bricks; each two rows are different colors. The color order from the bottom up is yellow, green, orange, and red. Players get three balls to try to knock down as many bricks as possible by ricocheting the ball against the wall off of a video sledge hammer. The higher the row, the more points the bricks are worth. To add to the challenge, the hammer decreases to half its size after the ball breaks through the red row and hits the upper wall. Ball speed increases after four hits, increased again after twelve, to highest speed in the orange and red rows.
Breakout was released in April 1976.
Nolan Bushnell put out the word at Atari that he would pay anyone who could design the game and reduce the number of ICs that it used, $100 per IC removed from the design. Steve Jobs, at the time a low-paid technician at Atari, accepted the challenge. He originally attempted to work on the design himself, but soon found himself in way over his head. He then brought in his friend Steve Wozniak, who liked to hang out at Atari and playtest the new games as they rolled off the assembly lines.
Woz and Jobs stayed up for four days working on the design. Woz would work on the game at night, take a small catnap, go to work at his day job at Hewlett-Packard, and then return home at night to resume work on the design. In the end, Woz reduced the design down to 42 ICs, and both he and Jobs contracted mono from staying up for four days straight working on it. Jobs received a $5,000 bonus and told Woz it was only $700 and gave Steve Wozniak his '50%'... $350.
Years later this truth would come out and it would add to the already increasing friction between the two which eventually lead to Steve Wozniak quitting Apple. Meanwhile at Atari, the Breakout design was ingenious, however no one could figure it out so production could not begin. Al Alcorn says about Woz's design, "It was remarkable... a tour de force. It was so minimized, though, that nobody else could build it. Nobody could understand what Woz did but Woz. It was this brilliant piece of engineering, but it was just unproduceable. So the game sat around and languished in the lab".
In the end, Alcorn assigned another engineer to redesign the game so that it was more easily replicated. The final game had about 100 ICs.
Approximately 11,000 units were produced. There was an upright dedicated cabinet with sideart of the word 'Breakout' in red letters, being smashed in by a ball. There was also a unique looking round cocktail version, the cocktail is easier to find today because people rarely did conversions on cocktail tables.
Zachary Hample of New York holds the official record for this game with 896 points on June 25, 2002.
The First Quarter- A 25 Year History of Video Games by Steven L. Kent