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Obituary: Bob Smith, Atari 2600 programmer, has passed away

Smith was a programmer at Atari during the 1980s and worked on a number of titles such as Star Wars: The Arcade Game and Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

May 15, 2023

2 Min Read
Atari developers Bob Smith (left) and Rob Zdybel (right) in a Time magazine feature.
Image taken from Time's 2012 article on key figures in video game history.

Bob Smith, a programmer at Atari, passed away on May 13. Time Extension saw the news of his passing from Smith's co-worker, Seamus Blackley on Twitter. 

Blackley referred to Smith as "common name for such an uncommon man...if you play videogames of any type, this brilliant and kind man’s work and craft are part of you."

In the early 1980s, Smith was a programmer for Atari, particularly the Atari 2600. His first game was 1980's Video Pinball, and he would later go on to develop for titles such as 1983's Star Wars: The Arcade Game, and 1995's Solar Eclipse.

Smith also co-founded game developer Imagic in 1981 with Bill Grubb, Rob Fulop, and Dennis Koble. All four were Atari alums, and marked the Atari 2600's second third-party publisher after Activision in 1979. 

Imagic went defunct in 1986, and during its lifetime released 24 titles, including 1982's Atlantis and Moonsweeper in 1983. The studio was heavily affected by 1983's video game, and was sued by Atari over the game Demon Attack, which Atari said resembled 1980's Phoenix. The two companies later settled out of court. 

According to Smith's son, Adam Smith, Smith worked at Bally Sente in the later half of the 80s. His one game, Moonquake, never got released.

Later on at Accolade, he worked on Barkley Shut Up and Jam and its sequel. He was then the lead coder on the never-finished Star Control 4, which was canceled after Star Control 3 failed to meet expectations. Smith retired in the early 2000s to Oregon. He was 73 when he died on Saturday, in Clackamas, OR.

Update: a previous version of this article contained incorrect credits. We've added comments courtesy of Adam Smith to reflect accurate game credits.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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