Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The History of Computer Games (In a Nutshell)

Right, it's about time I got started on this. I've been too busy trying to keep myself on target in regards to completing Heather's and Chris' tasks on time, so I must apologize for this delay, Lord Darth Powell. (lol)

Anyway, as the first weekly task assigned to the course, we were asked to review the early history of computer games and find out some interesting facts, such as who first decided to use computers as a means of having fun, what their background was and how this strikes as significant.

Well right off the top of my head, I can say the the very first computer game I recall, was the legendary Pong, which was made by Atari back in the 1970's. Now after scanning the task we were given, it mentioned that the first computer game was in fact brought into existence, 20 years prior to Pong, and it was known as Tennis for Two, which was pretty much a 'Umpires' view of a Tennis match. Now I don't want to bore you with all the information that everyone else has probably wrote about this, so i'll quickly make some notes just to show that I have actually done the research.

  • Tennis for Two was made by a man known as William Higinbotham.
  • William was a physicist from the USA and was known for creating the very first 'computer game' back in 1958 using an analog computer to stimulate a game of table tennis (ping-pong), on a oscilloscope.
  • An Oscilloscope is some type of equipment that is used test electronics, by allowing voltage signals to be viewed on a screen, as a two-dimensional graph, sort of like a radar.
  • William Higinbotham was one of the first men to create an electronical piece of entertainment that uses a graphical display, allowing the user to fully interact.
  • Tennis for Two was created in an attempt to try and cure the boredom of visitors to the Brookhaven National Laboratory, where William worked, but was only ever brought out twice, which was on 'Visitors Day'.
  • Hardly anything was known about Tennis for Two until the late 1970's, (After Pong's release) where William had to attend court and testify against Magnavox and Ralph Baer. (For reasons I cannot find out)
During the time between Tennis for Two and Pong, there were several other computer games, made by other people and companies, some of which include:

  • Spacewar! (1961) - A new game on a new computer called a DEC PDP-1 where two players took control of a spacecraft each and had to battle it out against one another, using missiles to blow one another up, while avoiding a large blackhole in the center of the screen.
  • Chase (1966) - When England won the World Cup, Ralph Baer was able to create a game that could be played on an ordinary television set, known as Chase. He also helped build the first ever Light Gun in 1967.
  • Galaxy Game (1971) - Similar to Spacewar!, this was the first coin-operated video game which used a DEC PDP-11/20 computer. Only one was ever built.
  • Pong (1972) - The first highly successful and widespread video game. Pong is a 'bird's eye view' version of Tennis for Two. The creators, Atari, managed to sell over 19,000 Pong machines.

So that's about it for now. I'll continue on with more up to date computer game history, leaning more towards the 80's and 90's in my next blog entry, so until then...


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