Nolan Bushnell, 20 Start Ups Later, on Chemical Engines, Existentialism and “My Cave.”
Susan Bratton

Episode 89 - Nolan Bushnell, 20 Start Ups Later, on Chemical Engines, Existentialism and “My Cave.”

Nolan Bushnell

is the founder of Atari, Inc. and the Chuck E. Cheese Pizza-Time Theaters and is considered to be the father of the video arcade industry.

Bushnell has started over 20 companies, most recently uWink and NeoEdge Networks. He has been named by Newsweek as one of "50 Men that Changed America."

Hear from Nolan what advice he'd give entrepreneurs. What to do if you have to change your business model. The attributes of a successful start up management team. His opinion of the "4-Hour Workweek." Where he'd invest $10 million of his own money if he could only invest in one social networking company.

Find out what it was like to live in the Folger's Mansion in Woodside. How he named his yacht. For what he wants to be remembered. The axiom by which he lives his life. His greatest achievement. From where he draws his strength and inspiration. And what other profession he'd be if he wasn't a successful technology entrepreneur.

In this revealing interview, Nolan shares life perspectives and some very personal insights with you, dear listener.



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Susan Bratton:  Welcome to Dishy Mix.  I'm your host, Susan Bratton, and on today's show you're going to get to meet Nolan Bushnell.  Nolan is an engineer, and an entrepreneur, and you are probably familiar with him because he founded both Atari and the fabulous Chuck E. Cheese Pizza-Time Theaters chain.  If you haven't played an Atari game, you've probably eaten at Chuck E. Cheese, and Nolan is coming up to be a keynote at the iMedia Breakthrough event, and Brad Barrons, one of my big fans, recommended that Nolan come on the show, and of course I jumped at the opportunity, because Nolan is an amazing entrepreneur, having started over twenty different companies.  And we're going to talk about some of the newest companies that he's worked on, and is working on:  uWink, and NeoEdge Networks, which is a gaming company.  So, let's bring him on the show.  Welcome, Nolan.

Nolan Bushnell:  It's good to be here.

Susan Bratton:  It is good to have you.  Thank you so much for doing this quickly so we could get you on the show before you go do your keynote.  So, why don't you just give our listeners a little history?  We're going to spend most of our time talking about the future, but bring us up to the current state of the life of Nolan Bushnell, would you?

Nolan Bushnell:  Well, I think the touch points are:  I started out as a kid doing ham radio; which was the only way you could be a geek back then.  Then I started, actually, an advertising company, called the Campus Company, when I was in college.  And to keep me from running around, I took a part time job, nights, working at the amusement park.  And so, sell ads during the day, sell balls to knock milk bottles down on nights, and got good at it, and was actually promoted to manager.  And so, while I was pursuing an electrical engineering degree, I was probably the only carny-engineer in the country at the time.  And I started playing some of the games on the big mainframes, and thought to myself, "If I could make these cheap and put them in the amusement park, they'd make a lot of money".  Three years later, after I'd graduated, and started in business I saw a cheap computer, and went forward to build a video game.

Susan Bratton:  That's kind of that classic entrepreneurial-synaptic thing that happens, where you take two completely different things:  Peanut butter and chocolate and you put them together, and they're really fabulous, right?

Nolan Bushnell:  Precisely, and I said I was in the right places at the right times.  (laughs)

Susan Bratton:  That's a good part of it, too, isn't it?  I want to ask you a number of questions all about the entrepreneurial side; I'll let you finish your story of bringing us up to speed, but I'm bookmarking that with you, that I really want to delve into your perspective on being an entrepreneur.

Nolan Bushnell:  Cool.  Okay, then after I did Atari, actually, while I was doing Atari, I thought that it would be good to have a place that kids could play my games, because up to then, you could only play in a pool hall, or in a bowling alley.  So, I started Chuck E. Cheese inside Atari.  when I sold Atari to Warner, they didn't want to be in the restaurant business, so I bought it back from them, and grew the company, up to almost 280 restaurants.  And then I did a thing called Catalyst Technologies, where we did such companies as Etak, which...

Susan Bratton:  Mapping.

Nolan Bushnell:  ...was the foundation and most of the prime patents for automobile navigation; you've got a map in your car, it's based on Etak's stuff.  Then I did a robotics company, and a e-commerce company, and a video display company, and a microwave company, and a toy company, and several others.  And then, I did the company called uWink, which is a, think of it as Chuck E. Cheese for adults.  It's really a touch screen at every table; all the ordering is done by touch screen.  And then, you can play games, and they're just not games like you play in your basement, or in your bedroom.  It's really games for public place consumption; we call it social game play.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, group games, table games.

Nolan Bushnell:  Group games, all kinds of fun stuff.  The idea of games that make you talk more with your friends, rather than less.  So, we're pretty happy with what we've done.  We have one in Mountain View, California, two in Los Angeles, one in Hollywood and Highland, the other one in Woodland Hills.  And we are now making our software available to a lot of other people, and we've got installations in McDonald's, we've got installations in Chili's, and we think that the purposes is going to be really, really fun.  Then I'm Chairman of the Board of NeoEdge, which is a casual game ad-enabled business, which I'm very excited about.  It's a business that really allows casual games to have a new economic model, and I always believe that if you can get some money in it, in something, then everything is better.  So, it's kind of that "magic sauce" that I think will create some very, very interesting product in the future.

Susan Bratton:  All right, we have a lot to cover here, so I want to go back to uWink.  And then, I want to also get to NeoEdge.  uWink is super fun; I went recently with my husband and daughter, and one of her friends from school, and his mother, and we had a fantastic time.  We liked to play Truth or Dare at the table.  It was really a fun time.  The kids loved ordering on line, and I have to say the staff was exemplary; they took really good care of us.  I liked the whole thing, because it kind of feels like, a pizza place; it's fairly casual, but well designed.  And the idea of having conversation around the games, what you said, made perfect sense to me.  You do talk more with each other.  It's like there's a level of intimacy that's created in, and doing some of these games together that you don't get in a normal dinnertime conversation.  Do you think that that is fundamentally a huge opportunity for many restaurants?  Do you think that people will love this?  Do you think it's going to be like a phase, kind of like we used to have the jukebox right at the tables at our diner, and we could choose songs, and talk about songs and play songs, kind of that thing?

Nolan Bushnell:  Well, I think that, I never like to say everybody will, I think that our technology will be used in probably 80 percent of the fast-casual.  We'll never get into the candlelight and rosebud kind of fine dining...

Susan Bratton:  Sure.

Nolan Bushnell:  ...we won't really ever be in the steakhouse place.  But anything where you're sort of having a less than twelve dollar average meal; we'll be there.

Susan Bratton:  Got it.  And are you expanding uWink, as well?  Or are those really just proof-of-concept stores?

Nolan Bushnell:  They're really proof-of-concept; there are people that are really so much better at running restaurants than we are.  And so, what we really want to be able to do is create really, really good software, and make sure it works in our restaurants, and then roll it out to the world.

Susan Bratton:  Got it.  That makes complete sense.  And funnily enough, uWink Mountain View is almost across the street from NeoEdge Networks.  (laughs)  How did that happen?

Nolan Bushnell:  Well, it turns out that I was early for a board meeting, and I thought, "This would be a good place for a uWink", and just went up and down the street, and asked every restaurant whether it was for sale, and one of them was.

Susan Bratton:  Mm hmm.  Yeah, that used to be, kind of a pool hall.

Nolan Bushnell:  Yeah, it was kind of a...

Susan Bratton:  Burger joint.

Nolan Bushnell:  Steak house.  It's called California Steak House, I think.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.  Well, NeoEdge.  Now, the one big deal that I know you've done at NeoEdge; you create casual games, and Yahoo; a lot of their casual games are the NeoEdge games, right?

Nolan Bushnell:  Correct.

Susan Bratton:  Is that your biggest deal so far?

Nolan Bushnell:  Yes, it is.  But we also are selling advertising along with it.  So, we've done a couple pretty good sites on that.  But I think the Yahoo thing sort of put us on the map, and something we've taken seriously.  Then of course, we've got a deal going with Microsoft, too.

Susan Bratton:  I know that at the iMedia Breakthrough event, you're keynoting, and you're keynoting about new places to put advertising, and I didn't realize, I didn't know you had the Campus Company, and I know you've been focused on understanding the ad revenue world since you were in college.  What is it that's new about NeoEdge and the way ads are done in that environment?

Nolan Bushnell:  It's really "new old".  There are a lot of ways that you can put advertising into a game.  A billboard says, as you drive by in your new virtual car, things like that, for a long time.  But what we feel is that the standard stock and trade, almost every company that has a serious advertising budget has a 30 second spot.  And so, what we've done is we've been able to create this "wrapper" technology, so that the programmer of the game doesn't even know we exist.  And all of a sudden, we can put a 30 second spot before the game, interstitially, during the game; between round one and round two.  We can put our ads really around a game in some very, very important and interesting ways.  So that it's really cheap.  These companies spend millions of dollars in getting these 30 second spots, and that's kind of what they expect to run.  And it turns out that it's very effective, because people are waiting for the next round to start.  They're okay to have a little bit of a rest, and boom; we hit them with the really highly qualified ad, and it works.

Susan Bratton:  I've heard that casual gaming is the number three on line activity, after e-mail and web surfing.  Have you seen social medial start to encroach on that, or is on line gaming so far out ahead, still?

Nolan Bushnell:  It's so far out ahead, and actually, the amount of distance between is actually increasing.  People are funny; once they get into casual games and a type of game, it's really their drug of choice, as far as relaxation.  They just do it more and more and more of it.

Susan Bratton:  Like all the housewives that are hooked on Snood, and never get the vacuuming done?

Nolan Bushnell:  That's the one.

Susan Bratton:  (laughs)  I know, actually, that I know from experience.  One of the things that I want to talk to you about is, one of those kind of, "Okay Nolan, put on your long-term perspective hats", here's my question:  I was thinking about Pong taking off, when other tennis games that maybe were even invented before it languished.  I was thinking about how Google took off, even though there was Excite, and Yahoo, and Microsoft before them.  Then, actually, Brad Barrons was the one who gave me the stimulus for this question:  What is it when things go, even though others have done it beforehand?  Have you any advice for us about that?

Nolan Bushnell:  Oh absolutely.  There's good, and then there's good enough.  And there's adequate.  There's a lot of things that just don't reach the level of acceptability.  And in terms of Pong, some people say Ralph Baer, who was the guy who started the Magnavox game, well, didn't he invent Pong?  Because Ralph has said that several times.  No he didn't; he invented Odyssey, and Odyssey wasn't fun.  And Pong was.  They're both ping pong games.  But one rose to the level of acceptability, and the other one doesn't.  And I can actually tell you that the reason is the angle of bounce off the paddle is the difference between it being a good game, and not a game at all.  And without that little characteristic, you don't have a fun game in Pong.  And I can show you by flipping a switch, because one of the guys did a version of Pong for our units, and he put in angle incidence, angle reflection, and the game isn't fun.  It's really funny; I hadn't realized how powerful that core concept was.

Susan Bratton:  So there's something about the nuance of making it really good, instead of just okay.  That allows...

Nolan Bushnell:  Yes.

Susan Bratton:  ...a second company in to take off like a rocket.

Nolan Bushnell:  Yeah, I remember Alta Vista, and there were probably seven such companies...

Susan Bratton:  Sure.  Webcrawler, yeah, right.

Nolan Bushnell:  Webcrawler.

Susan Bratton:  Good old Excite, my alma matter.  All right.  Well, I want to go to a break, because when I come back, I want to first of all thank my sponsors, because I get to have these conversations with you, and we all get to listen to what you have to say because of them.  So, we're going to give them their due, and when we come back, I want to talk a bit about entrepreneurs.  You are one heck of an entrepreneur, Nolan, starting over twenty companies, in the last, what, forty-odd years?  So, let's do that, and when we come back, we'll talk about it.

Nolan Bushnell:  Great.  I'd love that.

Susan Bratton:  Good, all right.  We're with Nolan Bushnell.  He's founder of Atari, and Chuck E. Cheese. Currently working with uWink and NeoEdge Networks, and he'll be speaking at the iMedia Conference coming up called Breakthrough, and we're going to go to a break, and thank our sponsors.  I'm your host, Susan Bratton.  Stay tuned, and we'll be right back.

(commercial break)

Susan Bratton:  All right.  We're back with Nolan Bushnell.  So, Nolan, here's something interesting that I heard.  You know the number could be right or wrong, but it's probably darn close.  Chet Homes told me that 94 percent of all companies who get started never even get to a million dollars in revenue, and 95 percent of those never even make it.  What is it, you've launched 20 companies, you had some bombs, I'm sure; is there anything that you can tell us that determines what is one of those companies that's going to break the million and then the ten million barrier?

Nolan Bushnell:  Well, I think that a lot of people think that entrepreneurship is about that big idea hitting you on the head when you're in the shower.  And I look at it as, it's really a process that takes a awful lot of work.  And the more work you do beforehand, really going through all the issues, and really understanding, not just the product, but the marketing channels and various things, that you have a much higher probability of success.  A lot of businesses are started, and they're not really pursued in a serious way.  A lot of the companies that fit into the statistics are companies that are formed that are never really, they never really get venture funded, because they are not serious about it, sufficiently.  They think they're serious about it, but they're really not.  I just think you need to really, really do your homework, and if you do your homework, you can change your odds.  Of the twenty companies, I consider that all of them, with the exception of four, I would say that they sell at a profit.  Some of them were big profits, some of them were smaller profits, but the four that didn't make it, I knew pretty quickly into their life that there was something not quite right about the concept.

Susan Bratton:  A lot of times companies start, and they do their homework, and they get into a business.  And they realize that that business model's not working.  They're a couple years in, and they're thinking, "Okay, we need to try something new.  And we have an idea".  What's the chance of success for a company like that, or the advice you would give a company that says, "Hey, we've got to respond to the market", or "The landscape has changed", or "Our idea wasn't good; we're going to do something new".  What do you have to say about that?

Nolan Bushnell:  I think that that's very, very typical.  I don't think that there's any company that I've ever formed that has turned out to be exactly the way I thought it was going to be.  Wasn't is Sun Tzu that said no battle plan succeeds with engagement upon engaging with the enemy?  It's a rough and tumble world out there, and I think you need to be somewhat flexible.  You can't be too flexible, because times are going to get tough in the most successful companies; we had one summer, we call it the Summer of Despair, at Atari, where it just seemed like everything was going wrong.  And we almost went bankrupt, and yet, 20/20 hindsight, the business was sound, and that sort of thing, but we made some mistakes.  And so, I encourage people to modify, morph, be flexible, respond to the marketplace, respond to the condition.  Right now, if you had a business that required large amounts of debt, you probably need to rethink your business plan.  Because on large amounts of debt, the way it was for the previous two or three years, is just not going to happen in today's marketplace.  So you have to change your strategy, if that was one of your premises.

Susan Bratton:  I'm interviewing Sir Ken Robinson, coming up shortly.  And I've had him on the show before.  He's an amazing man.  And he just wrote a book.  He's a creativity and education expert, and he just wrote a book called The Element, and his premise is that you need to figure out where the intersection of your passion and your talents lie, to be truly successful.  I have also had Marcus Buckingham on Dishy Mix.  And he wrote a book called The Truth About You, which is about how to discover; there's an actual process for discovering what it is that you do, that is uniquely your feature set, if you will, that puts you in that zone of being just amazing.  So, they're both two amazing men who are coming at this thing, and finding out what that thing is, that's really amazing about you; what's yours?

Nolan Bushnell:  That's really hard.  For me, a business plan, or a business idea is kind of like that chipped tooth that you keep investigating with your thumb, or with your tongue...

Susan Bratton:  (laughs) Yeah.

Nolan Bushnell:  ...and with me, when I all of a sudden see something of a market need, or a technology that needs to be pushed in a certain direction, I kind of worry it for a while.  And then, I find myself going through the economics, and trying to figure out what it's going to cost.  And then I start putting things down on paper, and before long, I've done a spreadsheet for the first year of operation.  And it sits there for a while, and ferments, or ripens, (laughs) or maybe it rots a little bit, I'm not sure.  And I come back, and I look at it, and modify it, and fix it, and see some logical problems that I did, and before I know, I've got it started and I've started putting people around it, and money, and the company is launched.  And it's not all at once; I've decided that I would never have an idea and launch it the next day.  I think it takes this fermentation, and this research phase to do the company correctly.

Susan Bratton:  Are you the kind of a guy that throws off tons of ideas, and then you just have to pick them, or is it this thing where you get something in your craw, and you just need to germinate it?

Nolan Bushnell:  No, I get a lot of ideas, and at any point in time I probably have five or six business plans that are in some level of implementation.

Susan Bratton:  I'm thinking about you with these funny little Kimchi jars all around you, as you're sitting at your desk and you're fermenting all these ideas.


Nolan Bushnell:  It's actually pretty true.

Susan Bratton:  When you're assembling a team, are there any particular attributes that you look for in the people that you put into a team?  Are there, "I've got to have these three kinds of skills"? Obviously, the technical skills need to be there, sure, but I'm talking about a little like more interpersonal, or talent kinds of things.

Nolan Bushnell:  Well, I think the number one thing is character.  I really want people who are honest and have this sense of duty and obligation, but at the same time, with whimsy.  But there are people who believe in value received and value given, and then there's a whole set of people who believe, "I'm going to get what I can, and give back as little as possible".  And to the very extent I can, the people who really want or expect a free ride, I don't even want to take time to spend with those people.  My wife likes to say, "There's one of those people that thinks that if they carry your briefcase, they'll get rich".  (laughs)

Susan Bratton:  So, character.

Nolan Bushnell:  You've got to stay away from those people.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.  And what do you do to ferret that out?  How do you tell who has character?  Unless you've gone through some bad times with people, often it's very hard to tell whether they have character or not.  What are your indicators?

Nolan Bushnell:  Well, the first step, when we talk about a senior management position, I would never hire someone, if I didn't take them out to dinner with their wife, if they're married, and either my daughter or my wife.  Women are much better...they've got much better bullshit detectors than men do, and I've recognized that my wife and my daughter have much better, much, much, much better sense of frauds and flakes.  And so, I use them.  (laughs)  And they're very, very ready to let me know when somebody I'm dealing with is a phony.

Susan Bratton:  You leverage their intuition to...

Nolan Bushnell:  Exactly.

Susan Bratton:  ...determine someone's character.  Also, certainly, who you marry is definitely a reflection on who you are.  Have you read that book, The Four Hour Work Week?  Or do you know about it, have you heard about it?

Nolan Bushnell:  I've heard about it, and I think I read an excerpt, but I haven't read the book.

Susan Bratton:  You know, it's supposed to be this idea, that the new-rich, escape the nine-to-five, they can live anywhere, and they just run their businesses on the Internet, and everything happens while they're having their Pina Coladas on the beach.  I call that business porn, by the way, Nolan.  That's my word for that book.  But I actually keep this book on my desk to motivate myself, like there's a possibility that I could have a four hour work week, because as an entrepreneur, you know what my work weeks are like. 

Nolan Bushnell:  Right.

Susan Bratton:  What do you think about the idea of the four hour work week?  You think it's possible?  Would you want one?

Nolan Bushnell:  I do think it's possible.  In fact, I know a couple of people that have those kinds of things.  They're not quite four hour work weeks, but they would be more about integrating their passion and their love with their work.  But they have a very, very nice lifestyle, and they spend a lot of time traveling, and they don't have large organizations, and they're making very, very significant amounts of money.  So, I think it's possible.  I think that any business, unless you have some monopoly component to it, and those are really, really hard, that if your guy who is only spending four hours, and you're vulnerable to a competitor that will come in and spend a forty hour or an eighty hour work week.  So, I think that it happens, but only in pieces (laughs), and it's not sustainable.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.  Well, so if you're in one, and enjoy it while it lasts, right?

Nolan Bushnell:  Exactly.

Susan Bratton:  Hey, we only have a couple minutes left, and I was wondering if you do, I know you're a game guy, will you go on a lightning round with me?

Nolan Bushnell:  Please.

Susan Bratton:  Okay, so what I thought would be fun, is if I ask you a question, and you just answer it with the first thing that pops into your head, and I'll ask you maybe like ten questions all in a row.  And they'll just be fun ones.   Does that sound good?

Nolan Bushnell:  Let's do it.

Susan Bratton:  Okay.  If you were going to invest ten million dollars of your own personal cash, and your children's inheritance, and there's a lot of them; don't you have eight children?

Nolan Bushnell:  Correct.

Susan Bratton:  Eight children, so they're not going to want you to squander this.  Ten million dollars of your own money to invest in any social media company, which one would you choose?

Nolan Bushnell:  Oh, probably Facebook.  But it really depends on what the price is.

Susan Bratton:  (laughs) Spoken like a good businessman, that was not an emotional decision, huh?

Nolan Bushnell:  Right.

Susan Bratton:  Facebook.  Any particular reason why?

Nolan Bushnell:  I think that it has the right "sauce", in terms of the fun, and it's not too weird.  I kind of wished I didn't have so many friends.  (laughs)

Susan Bratton:  Awwww.

Nolan Bushnell:  That's a bad thing, because I realize, in going through my Facebook page, there's a lot of people that I don't really care that much about what they're doing.  So I say, "Why do I have them on my Facebook?".  Oh, well.

Susan Bratton:  Oh well, Nolan, you can remove them, and they won't know.

Nolan Bushnell:  Really?

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, you just go into your friends list, and there's a little X next to each name, and you can exit and remove them from your friends list, and they don't get notified.

Nolan Bushnell:  Oh, that's cool.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, see you can actually thin it down; you can do some weeding.  Now, I'm expecting you to accept my friend request, though, so don't remove me, because I'm going to know...

Nolan Bushnell:  I won't.

Susan Bratton:  ...I'm going to watch...

Nolan Bushnell:  I wouldn't think of that.

Susan Bratton:  (laughs)  All right, here's another one:  What is the axiom by which you've lived your life?

Nolan Bushnell:  Existentialism; the journey is the reward.  Make every day interesting.

Susan Bratton:  Nice.  What do you think is your greatest achievement?

Nolan Bushnell:  My eight kids.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.  Who's the wisest person you've ever met?

Nolan Bushnell:  Bob Noyce, who was one of the founders of Intel.

Susan Bratton:  What was it about him that was so wise?

Nolan Bushnell:  Just "down-home, aw shucks" kind of philosophy.  It's one of those things where whenever we'd go out to dinner or lunch, I'd feel like I was a smarter person when we left the lunch.

Susan Bratton:  Have you been to the Intel Computer Technology Museum, at the main campus?

Nolan Bushnell:  Yes, I have.

Susan Bratton:  At the Robert M. Noyce Building, yeah; that's a good computer museum...

Nolan Bushnell:  Yes, it is.

Susan Bratton:  Named after Bob Noyce.  Where do you draw your strength and inspiration?

Nolan Bushnell:  This will sound very isolated, but I get a lot of inspiration from solitude.  I have, what all my kids call my cave, and it's a room that I've made out in the garage, and it's got all my stuff around it, and it's a combination of workshop, and office, and inventory, and library, and I just feel like I can conquer the world from inside that cave.

Susan Bratton:  I love it.  It sounds like a really fun place.  It sounds like a place my daughter would love to go, because there's got to be amazing stuff in there.

Nolan Bushnell:  Oh, there's a lot of stuff, but my kids use it as a substitute for Fry's; they go into Dad's office and they can always find an extra mouse, or an extra keyboard, or some other various thing.  I used to have full sets of tools.  Now, I don't.  You know (laughs), one of those problems of having kids.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, well they need to build their time machines and stuff.

Nolan Bushnell:  Exactly.

Susan Bratton:  You lived, at one point, when you lived up here, I know you're down in L.A. now, but you lived in Woodside at the Folger's Mansion.

Nolan Bushnell:  Right.

Susan Bratton:  What was that like, living in that Folger's coffee guy's mansion?  Was it Tudor style, kind of a big thing like that?

Nolan Bushnell:  Well, it's more Edwardian, but...

Susan Bratton:  Mm hmm.

Nolan Bushnell: was on sixteen acres, sort of in the middle of a park.  It's a good life; it's good being really rich.  I think the kids all love that environment, it was a fun house, and we had a Dungeons and Dragons cellar, and we had a game room up on the fifth floor, and a lot of houses don't have the fifth floor.  (laughs)  And a theater, and all that stuff.  It was really fun having it.  We live more modestly now, but it's still fun.  I'm really convinced that it's not your surrounding that how you structure your life that gives you the happiness.

Susan Bratton:  Absolutely.  I noticed that, and this could be wrong; I read it in Wikipedia or something, but you have a yacht named Charlie, and you named your company Chuck E. Cheese.  So, who's Charles?  Is it your father?

Nolan Bushnell:  My dad was known as Charlie...

Susan Bratton:  Charlie. 

Nolan Bushnell:  ...that was his nickname.

Susan Bratton:  And you named your boat, and did you name Chuck E. Cheese after your dad, too?

Nolan Bushnell:  Actually, not.  The ad agency named Chuck E. Cheese.  I told them I wanted a name that would make everyone smile whenever they said it.  And so, they came back with Chuck E. Cheese, which gave me three smiles (laughs) [unintelligible], and I really liked it, and that's how Chuck E. was named.

Susan Bratton:  All right.  Just a couple of other quick questions.  This is fun, I like this part.  For what do you want to be remembered?

Nolan Bushnell:  As being a creative person, that has done some interesting things.  I'm always focusing on my next few projects, and so I always figure there's going to be one more that's going to be bigger than anything I've done.


Susan Bratton:  Yeah.  You're greatest achievement is ahead of you, then.

Nolan Bushnell:  I think so.

Susan Bratton:  Uh huh.  If you hadn't been an entrepreneur in the technology world, in the cross between fun and technology, what other profession might you have done?

Nolan Bushnell:  I've always wanted to be a stand up comic.

Susan Bratton:  Really.

Nolan Bushnell:  Yeah.

Susan Bratton:  Are you funny?

Nolan Bushnell:  I can be.  And, I've actually written a few riffs, and I've had so many weird experiences that, in my life, that I think I can stand up and riff on some of those, because some of them are really, really amusing.  And from the point of view of a businessman and a rich person, as opposed to a struggling artist, I think I'd probably have some interesting new kinds of wit.

Susan Bratton:  Yes.  All of the sadness that you can laugh at, about your own career, and the crazy and ridiculous things that have happened, right?

Nolan Bushnell:  Exactly.

Susan Bratton:  Mm hmm.  And I'm sure raising eight children, there's possibly a few things there, too.

Nolan Bushnell:  Yeah.

Susan Bratton:  (laughs)  That's good.  Well, there you go.  I don't know, it might be open mike night at uWink in Mountain View, one of these days.

Nolan Bushnell:  I'm definitely going to do it.  It's on, what I call, it's on my bucket list.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah. (laughs)  That was a good movie, wasn't it?

Nolan Bushnell:  It was.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.

Nolan Bushnell:  And I actually think it's good; I hadn't realized it, but I've had bucket lists at various times; I'm going to do this before I turn thirty.  I'm going to do these sorts of things before I turn forty.  And I think it's good to have those kind of goals and aspirations.

Susan Bratton:  Well, it's probably one of the reasons that you're so accomplished.  Well, this is my last question on the lightning round, and then we have to let our listeners go and live their lives.  So, my last question for you, Nolan, is:  What advice can you give the people who are listening to you right now, they are in the midst of building their careers, they're trying to weather this economy, they're in this new digital media space, what do you want to tell them?

Nolan Bushnell:  Maintain optimism.  Everything is fixable.  And if you find yourself depressed, just exercise.  I'm a big believer that we are nothing more than chemical engines that respond to our environment, and that you can fix anything about you by the proper application of the right kind of food and the right kind of exercise.  And then, think positive thoughts, and you can re master yourself in a very, very fundamental way.

Susan Bratton:  I love it.  Well, and I think a lot of people are focused on taking care of themselves more so than they ever have been.  But that being said, probably everyone still feels like they're grinding it out.  (laughs)  So, that's...

Nolan Bushnell:  Exactly.

Susan Bratton:  ...good advice, Nolan.  Thank you so much for coming on Dishy Mix.  I enjoyed getting to know you better; I've been such a fan for so many years, and it was just such a delightful opportunity for me to have you as a part of the show, and to introduce my listeners to.

Nolan Bushnell:  Well, thank you, and it was fun being here.

Susan Bratton:  Good, all right.  I am your host, Susan Bratton.  I hope you have a great day, and I will see you next week.

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