Steven Mayer

2024 Fellow

For his pioneering role in the development of the video game and personal computing industries 

We were creating something entirely new, and the excitement was palpable every single day.

— Steve Mayer

Steven "Steve" Mayer, a pivotal figure in the history of Atari, played a crucial role in the company’s rise to prominence during the golden age of video games. Born in 1944, Mayer’s journey into the world of technology began with a passion for electronics and a keen interest in video games.

Mayer cofounded Cyan Engineering with Larry Emmons, which after its acquisition by Atari in 1973, became its Grass Valley R&D center. The late 1970s was a period of change for the company. While Atari was at the forefront of the burgeoning video game industry with its hit Pong, clones of the game had begun to eat away at the company’s profits. Atari was sold to Warner Communications in order to raise the capital to diversify the company’s product lineup, ultimately leading to founder Nolan Bushnell’s departure.

Despite the corporate turmoil, Mayer spearheaded Atari’s development of new products for the home. Working with Ron Milner, he invented the Atari VCS and its working prototype. Under his guidance, the company expanded into home gaming consoles, releasing the Atari Video Computer System or VCS, later renamed the 2600, one of the best-selling consoles of all time. Mayer also led the development of Atari’s 8-bit personal computers, the Atari 400 and 800.

Despite Atari’s success, the company faced numerous challenges during Mayer’s tenure. The video game industry experienced a severe downturn in the mid-1980s, due in part to market saturation and a flood of low-quality games. Atari struggled to adapt to these changing market conditions, and internal tensions and corporate restructuring further compounded the company’s woes. However, Mayer remained committed to Atari’s mission of pushing the boundaries of interactive entertainment. He continued to champion innovation and creativity within the company, overseeing the development of groundbreaking games like Gauntlet and Paperboy.

In the late 1980s, as Atari faced mounting financial difficulties, Mayer made the difficult decision to leave the company. He pursued new opportunities in the tech industry, bringing his wealth of experience and expertise to startups and established companies alike. His leadership and technical knowledge helped shape the early days of gaming and computing.


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