The Atarians was Atari's first foray into creating pinball machines. This game trip hit the arcades in 1976. The concept and design were by Bob Jonesi, who had previously created On Beam for Bally Manufacturing. Art was done by Atari's resident graphic designer George Opperman, who is most famous for the company's logo and external visuals for coin-ops.
Philadelphia Daily News reviewed The Atarians in July of 1977 and called it the "Game of the Future". Writer Gene Castellano noted that the "playfield is wider than on most modern pinball games (27-inches versus 20 1/2-inches)" and that "Atari are to be commended for giving us pinball freaks more of anything."
Indeed, Atari's machine was wider than contemporary games. It was also the first so-called widebody game to feature solid-state electronics. The new microchip-controlled technology was a huge leap for the whole industry. Solid state electronics made the games faster, and more reactive and the scores were more accurate. The revolution also opened up completely new possibilities for table design.
The Atarians featured a beautiful backglass with intergalactic superheroes fighting aliens. Unfortunately, there seems to be little information about the story behind the name or the theme. Who were The Atarians? Better yet, when are we getting a movie or a TV series about their adventures?