The Atari programmer and Imagic co-founder Bob Smith has passed away, his former colleague Seamus Blackley announced on Twitter yesterday.
Smith was a programmer at Atari back in the early 80s, getting his start at the company by programming 1980's Video Pinball for the Atari VCS. He later became a supervisor at the video game company, overseeing other programmers like Howard Scott Warshaw and Tod R. Frye, before leaving Atari in 1981 (along with Dennis Koble, Bill Grubb, and Rob Fulop) to form a new publisher named Imagic.
There he would program games for the Atari 2600 including Dragonfire (1982), Riddle of the Sphynx (1982), and Moonsweeper (1983), as well as a port of Atari's Star Wars: Arcade for the Parker Brothers (1983).
After Imagic's liquidation in 1986, Smith continued working in games, including at companies like Accolade, The 3DO Company, and Innovative Leisure (a mobile start-up established by Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley that comprised several Atari legends). He was also a regular guest speaker at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, where he shared many great stories about his long and eventful career.
Blackley wrote on Twitter:
"We have lost someone to whom many of us owe very much. You may have never heard of Bob Smith, “a common name for such an uncommon man,” as Ed Rotberg says, but if you play videogames of any type, this brilliant and kind man’s work and craft are part of you. I’m so very sad."
The news will obviously come as a shock to those who were inspired by Smith's early work for the Atari 2600. Our thoughts go out to Smith's friends and family during this difficult time.