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Educational Product : Wozniak and Bushnell to Join Forces on New Toy

April 23, 1986|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | Times Staff Writer

Combine one legendary computer whiz kid and one former computer game marvel and what do you get? A mysterious electronic educational toy, according to preliminary reports.

Joining forces are Steve Wozniak, best known as the moneymaking co-founder of Apple Computer and the money-losing organizer of the US Festival rock concerts, and Nolan Bushnell, who scored big hits with his Atari computer games and Pizza Time Theatre chain, only to see both ventures falter.

Bushnell and Wozniak are scheduled to announce at a news conference today that Bushnell's company, Axlon, will buy Wozniak's firm, CL9, for undisclosed terms. The two will co-chair Axlon and will combine their talents to produce electronic toys, according to spokesmen for both companies.

No Details on Toy

A key project for the new venture will be an electronic toy that is educational, said Sam Bernstein, president of CL9. Bernstein declined to describe the toy further except to say that it's called NEMO, an acronym for Never Ever Mentioned Outside.

The idea for the Bushnell-Wozniak venture arose at a recent barbecue at Bushnell's house, an Axlon spokesman said.

The deal is still very tentative, Bernstein cautioned, adding that as of midday Tuesday, Bushnell and Wozniak had not even signed a letter of intent. But a "chemistry" exists between the two storied entrepreneurs, he said.

Wozniak's CL9, which is based in the Northern California city of Los Gatos (the name means "cloud nine"), is developing an infrared remote control device for consumer electronics products. Axlon, of Sunnyvale, Calif., sold $16 million worth of cuddly electronic bears, cats and dogs last year.

Creator of Pong

Wozniak, 35, founded Apple Computer with Steven P. Jobs in a Los Altos, Calif., garage in 1976. Wozniak left Apple twice--the last departure coming in March, 1985.

In between his Apple stints, Wozniak organized the US Festivals in 1982 and 1983 and lost millions of dollars.

Bushnell, 43, created Pong, which launched Atari on a roller coaster of successes and disasters. He sold the company to Warner Communications in 1976 for $28 million. Another of his ventures, Pizza Time Theatre, also enjoyed roaring success and sudden failure, filing for bankruptcy court protection in early 1984.

The merger of Axlon and CL9 won't be the first time that Bushnell and Wozniak have combined their talents. The two collaborated in creating the successful video game Break-Out in 1974.

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