Dona Bailey was working as a computer programmer at General Motors when she heard the Pretenders song “Space Invader” and fell in love with it. The year was 1980. She had no clue about video games.
A friend heard her say that she liked the song, and he got really excited. He told her there was a “Space Invaders” game at a bar nearby. They went to lunch so she could see what that song was about.
“He gave me a quarter and I lost all my lives before I could even figure out what I was supposed to do on the screen,” she says. “But I got really intrigued.”
That’s how she came to join Atari, the company that cemented the video game industry in the 1970s and early 1980s with “Pong,” and thanks in part to Bailey, “Centipede.” Though she stayed only two years, Bailey left her mark as one of the rare female programmers at Atari.