Atari was founded June 27 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. Their first game Pong, by Al Alcorn, was so popular that when they tested it at the Andy Caps bar the coinbox was jammed with quarters. The name "Atari" comes from the Japaneese game Go and means something close to "check". "Atari" was not their first choice tho, but "Syzygy" was allready taken.
During the 70's Atari was the fastes growing company in US history, but due to bad bussiness decisions during the 80's they lost almost everything to Amiga and the Nintendo NES.
During 1996-2001 Atari and its owners are sold back and forth and in the end Atari wich now only is a trademark and a holder of some licenses and patents are sold to Interactive (known for the game Unreal) wich now uses the Atari name for it's home games.