Whitehead worked for Atari in the late 1970s developing games for the Atari 2600 (or VCS for video computer system). There, he developed several games, including a VCS implementation of chess, a feat many other programmers considered impossible for the system. He was also one of the developers of the operating system for the Atari 400/800 computers. Eventually he and others felt that they were not receiving fair compensation for their work, specifically, Atari refused to include credits for the developers in their games. Whitehead and a few other colleagues (Alan Miller, David Crane and Larry Kaplan) left and co-founded Activision, the first third-party video game developer.
There, with others, he created a VCS development system with an integrated debugger and minicomputer-hosted assembler. It was used for most of Activision's VCS titles. He also developed a "venetian blinds" animation technique: an algorithm that horizontally reused and vertically interlaced sprites several times while rendering each frame, to give the illusion that the system had more than the maximum number of sprites allowed by the hardware.
In 1984, he and other founders of Activision became disillusioned with their company. Their stock had dwindled in value and morale was low. They thought that diversification to the home computer market — such as with the Commodore 64 — was the key to success. He left Activision with Alan Miller (another co-founder of Activision), and they founded Accolade. Soon after, Whitehead left the video game industry for good. Ironically, Accolade was later acquired by Infogrames, which shortly afterwards changed their name to Atari.
Whitehead left in order to "give back to God and spend time with 'the fam'". After leaving Accolade, Whitehead says he helped with "low income families, getting non-profit religious start-ups going, [and] spending time in the garden."
Of the current state of the industry, Whitehead said that it is:
|“||Too dark and derivative for my taste. The console and computer gaming business is too narrowly defined by the 14 [year old] male mentality and all his not-so-honorable fantasies. It's being driven by what has worked and afraid of what a 10 million dollar development bust will entail. It has lost its moral compass.||”|
- Home Run (Atari)
- Football (Atari)
- Blackjack (Atari)
- Casino (Atari)
- Star Ship (Atari)
- Video Chess (Atari)
- Boxing (Activision)
- Stampede (Activision)
- Chopper Command (Activision)
- Private Eye (Activision)
- Skiing (Activision)
- Sky Jinks (Activision)
- Interview with Bob Whitehead from DigitPress.com