The prototype for the VERITAS imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescope array was successfully operated in southern Arizona between September 2003 and April 2004. The prototype consisted of 86 mirror facets mounted centrally on a 12‐meter dish, which was built to accommodate up to 350 facets when converted to a complete VERITAS telescope. The camera consisted of half of the full 499 pixel camera. The signal and trigger electronics were nearly identical to those that will be used for the individual VERITAS array telescopes. By observing the Crab and Mrk421, as well as performing a variety of tests, the characteristics of the instrument were evaluated. The prototype met all performance expectations and served as a valuable test bed for the current design, as well as for the construction and operation of VERITAS. This prototype instrument is now being upgraded to a complete VERITAS telescope that will be operated during the construction of the full VERITAS array. The array is expected to be operational by November 2006.