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Technology: How video games were invented

June 23, 2012

If I were to tell you that once-upon-a-time there used to be a life without cell phones and video games, you’d find it hard to believe, right? After all, these technologies have been available as far back as you can remember. But the reality is that most of the hi-tech gadgets that we are so dependent upon today were a mere fantasy even 50 years ago. They were just ideas that some brilliant people worked hard on and gifted these inventions to the world.

Take video games as an example. If you are a hardcore gamer, can you imagine your life without Nintendo Wii, Xbox and Playstation? But these consoles are a very recent addition to the list of video games-related technologies that have developed over the years.

Perhaps, you might have heard your parents mention ‘Atari’? Ask them, and they will tell you about Pong, a game originally created by a company called Atari Incorporated, way back in 1972 — 40 years ago.

Pong was a two-dimensional tennis game and its creator was a man called Allen Alcorn. In those days, you could not simply buy a game and bring it home and play. There were places where these games were installed and they were coin-operated (arcade games). This meant that you had to put a coin in the machine to play the game!

Soon, the video game became very popular, and other companies began copying the idea. What was very special about Pong was that it eventually brought the concept of original home video game system where you could play the games on your TV sets. However, a lot of people believe that the foundation stone for home video games was laid by another console, Magnavox Odyssey, which was marketed in the mid-60s, but retired by the mid-70s.

A year before the invention of Pong, another very interesting game called Computer Space was created. The inventors were Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, who later founded Atari, Inc. Often regarded as the first arcade game, Computer Space was also the pioneer of the first mass-produced (made in a large quantity) video game that was also sold commercially. This was a space game which included player-controlled rocket ships and machine-controlled flying saucers where the players had to destroy the saucers by either firing at them, or moving the rockets out of the saucers’ way.

However, neither Pong nor Odyssey was actually the pioneer of video games. Long before that Tennis for two, or Ping Pong, an electronic tennis game is credited for this. This was created in 1958, by a gentleman named William Higinbotham who was a nuclear physicist.

Widely believed as the father of all video games, this game was very easy to play. Visitors would see a two-dimensional side-view of a tennis court on a black-and-white screen. This screen was called ‘oscilloscope screen’ and had eight squares or divisions. The ball was a brightly lit moving dot, and players used controllers with buttons and rotating dials to move the racquet’s angles to bounce the ball to both sides of the lighted net.

After Pong, a lot of companies jumped on the band wagon. Nintendo made its appearance in 1974, in Japan, with a game called Go and over the years it has continuously introduced new and innovative games. Sega releases the Sega Genesis in 1989 and Sony gifted Playstation to the world in 1994. Microsoft made a late entry in 2001 with Xbox.

Like all inventions, we know that the game consoles will continue to improve themselves, and more and more advanced versions will release in the market. Hardcore gamers can have faith that they will never run out of the opportunity to play their favourite games, and as for getting bored? No chance!