TUAW interviewed one of only a few people to ever hire Steve Jobs, the founder of Atari Nolan Bushnell. As you might expect, he is working on a few iOS projects, and he is particularly interested in augmented reality. These paragraphs stand out:

“He basically lived just below me in Woodside for many, many years, before he moved down to Palo Alto, and he’d just walk up the hill to my house and we’d go on and bullshit about stuff. We kept in contact — I’m writing a book right now called ‘Finding the Next Steve Jobs,’ because I was one of the few people that ever gave him a job.”

Bushnell says even at that early point in his career, Steve stood out. “The thing that people miss about Steve is that Steve was very, very driven and very passionate. He was an enthusiastic individual about everything. He had one speed and it was full blast,” says Bushnell. Some of the qualities Jobs is now known for were some of the reasons he first was able to join on at Atari back in the early ’70s. “We looked at what people did in their spare time, how diverse they were. We never looked at grades, college degrees. One of the best engineers at Atari never graduated from high school, and he was one of the prime architects for the 2600.”

Bushnell says that attitude at Atari definitely shaped Apple as a company later on. “We were focused on merit. And the fact that we can go to work in tennis shoes and a t-shirt started at Atari and it was taken to Apple. Because we said this is a meritocracy, we don’t care where you go to school, when you come to work, we don’t care if you come to work, we don’t care where you are we you are at work. You get the job done, we’re happy.”

Interesting to think that some of Apple’s culture is derived from Jobs’ days at Atari. The book should be interesting.