The original logo for the original Atari (as in, not the watered-down ghost we know today) is, for the history-conscious, about as close to a religious symbol as old-school arcade and console gamers are going to get.
While the company didn't invent the video game, it did do more than anyone else in the 1970s to popularise the medium, so Atari's logo holds a special place in the hearts of many. It's an icon, a reminder of an era past, and even though the now French-owned brand has little in common with its American predecessor, it is smart enough to retain that famous piece of branding.
It was designed by George Opperman, Atari's first in-house graphic designer. Hired by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in the earliest days of the company, Opperman was kept busy coming up with the art for Atari's arcade and pinball machines, but his most recognised work is in creating the famous "Fuji" logo, so named because of its resemblance to the Japanese mountain.
The origin of the design actually has nothing to with Mt. Fuji. Opperman designed it with two things in mind: the first was that the overall silhouette was to look like the letter A, matching that of the company, while the second was that its three "prongs" were based on Atari's first hit game, Pong.
How so? The outside lines represented the two players of the game, while the one in the centre stood for the line that ran down the middle of the Pong "court" in every game.
For over ten years the logo was used on all Atari products, but when the company was split in 1984, its arcade and console businesses going their own ways, the icon began its long, sad journey away from its ancestral home, passing through several sets of hands (including those of toy giants Hasbro) before winding up with French publisher Infogrames, who are now known as Atari, despite the only thing they have in common with the original company is the name and, well, this logo.
Sadly, Opperman died not long after the split of Atari, passing away in 1985.
Atari 2600 FAQ [AtariAge]
The ‘Fuji' logo [Art of the Arcade]