Sunday, 8 January 2012

History of computer games: 1950-1970

The earliest video game was created in 1947, it was a simple simulation designed by Thomas goldsmith jr. and Estle Ray Mann and was playable on a cathode ray tube. Then in 1958 William Higinbothan another game called ‘tennis for two’ and was used as part of an exhibit at BNL. This game used an oscilloscope and allowed the users to interact with it. Simulated on a screen was a vertical side view of a tennis court showing the edge of a floor with the edge of the net perpendicular to it. Each player had a knob and a button. Rotating the knob changed the angle of the ball and a press of the of button sent the ball toward the opposite side of the court. If the ball hit the net, it rebounded at an unexpected angle. If the ball went over the net, but was not hit back, it would hit the floor and bounce again at a natural angle. If it disappeared off the screen, a reset button could be pressed, this is one of the first instances of an interactive games being used for entertainment. The game was used as a one-off physics demo and was not commercialized.

The creation of “spacewars” in 1961 was another landmark in gaming history. Created by a group of students at MIT, the game consisted of two player controlled space ships and a hazardous star in the centre of the screen. Players only had a limited supply of fuel and were able to fire missiles at each other. The winner was the last one standing. The game was hugely successful amongst the computing community and copies were quickly spread around however like ‘tennis for two’, ‘spacewars’ was not commercialized or patented but is known to be the first influential computer game.

In 1966 Ralph Baer and Bill Harrison together created the first game that was able to be played on standard television set. The two carried on development along with bill rusch. In 1968 the team presented a prototype game console to sanders R & D department, capable of running several games. in 1969 sanders was presenting the first home gaming console to manufacturers  and 1972 the first video game console that could be played at home was released, called odyssey. The game system used cartridges that allowed it to play multiple games, it also include plastic sheet overlays to be taped to the tv screen which added colour or playing fields.

Gaming in a commercial state would not take off until the early 70’s where the first coin operated arcade machine was installed in a student union at Stanford University, featuring a game similar to Spacewars. These early consoles were huge, hard to use and were unsuccessful financially. However the creators, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney were not put off by this, and went on to found Atari, probably the most well known gaming company ever. Eventually in 1972 they released Pong, which received widespread success.

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