Have time to waste on this lovely August Saturday? If you do, there's an appallingly expansive look at the history of Atari's early years (19 pages, plus one for citations) over at Gamasutra. This is actually a companion piece to the first Atari retrospective, which looked at the years from '71 to '77 (also clocking in at a mere 20 pages). It's stuffed with quotes, so the length isn't simply 'and then ... and then ... and then ....' Steve Fulton describes this period as one of the most exciting for Atari:
This four-year period — from 1977 to 1981 — contains some of the most exciting developments the company ever saw in its history: the rise of the 2600, the development of some of the company's most enduringly popular games (Centipede, Asteroids) and the development and release of its first home computing platforms. This comprehensive look back, filled with quotes from the original creators and other primary sources, offers a detailed peek into the company that popularized video gaming as the '70s turned into the '80s, and created the first viable market for home consoles.
If you've got the time, it's definitely worth a read — it's pretty comprehensive and some of the 'insider' insight is pretty interesting. Atari: The Golden Years — A History, 1978-1981 [Gamasutra]