Ted Dabney, a Founder of Atari and a Creator of Pong, Dies at 81

“It’s the simplest game ever made,” Mr. Alcorn said. “One moving spot, two score digits, and two paddles. There’s never been a simpler game.”

It was an instant success.

The first Pong console, in Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, quickly broke down. When Mr. Alcorn went to fix it, it did not take him long to determine the problem: It was so full of quarters that no more could fit.

In addition to their professional partnership, the Atari founders were good friends. Mr. Dabney taught Mr. Bushnell to sail, and they bought a 41-foot sailboat together. The called it Pong. But as their company grew, their relationship soured. Mr. Dabney left Atari in 1973, selling his portion to Mr. Bushnell for $250,000.

Mr. Dabney later helped Mr. Bushnell with another venture: a restaurant that combined food, animated entertainment and an arcade. Mr. Dabney’s contribution was a system for alerting patrons when their orders were ready. The restaurant was called Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater.

In addition to Mrs. Dabney, Mr. Dabney is survived by two daughters from his first marriage, to Joan Wahrmund: Pamela Dabney of San Mateo, and Terri Dabney of Paradise, Calif. Mr. Dabney’s marriage to Ms. Wahrmund ended in divorce.

After leaving Atari, Mr. Dabney continued programming, often for the benefit of his wife. He built a recipe program so that she could search for recipes by ingredient and a bank program that allowed her to balance her checkbook just the way she wanted.

In 1995, the Dabneys opened a grocery store and deli called Mountain Market in the tiny mountain town of Crescent Mills, Calif. The shop had movie rentals, a deli, tackle and bait, and rotisserie chicken.