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Games Entertainment

Arcade Games Officially Over The Hill 121

Posted by timothy
from the everyone-loves-an-anniversary dept.
evilandi writes: "Spacewar, the world's first arcade game, is 40 years old this summer. Read this article at the BBC and play Spacewar using a Java emulator- remember, this was a two-player only game, designed in 1961 when programmers had friends who were in the same room! Spacewar, which was similar to Asteroids, later shipped as standard software for the PDP-1." Well, maybe the first electronic arcade game ;) -- or can anyone cite counterexamples?
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40th Anniversary of Arcade Games

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    According to the PONG FAQ, spacewar is the _second_ video game:

    "MIT student in 1961, creates "Spacewar"(the second video game), is the first interactive computer game on a Digital PDP-1 computer."

    See the rest at <http://www.classicgaming.com/museum/faqs/realp ongfaq.shtml> (After removing the slashspace between realp and ongfaq)

  • Before arcade games had the "continue" option, then games were meant to be FUN and to ENTERTAIN and CHALLENGE the player to improve. They started easy and became more difficult as you played. Eventually, the skilled player could play forever on a single credit.

    The "continue" option, once a curiosity and a gift to the player, is now routinely abused. It's lets the game designers slack off and make games impossible to become good at. "The player can just 'continue'" they'll say. And the new player dies in 20 seconds. Yah, there's a great way to hook new players.

    And moreover, it is now the goal to force players to continue ad infinitum. Because entertainment is no longer the main reason for arcades, but rather, extracting money from player's wallets.

    "powerups" are also an almost equally bad concept. Because when you die and lose your powerups, you are so hopelessly underpowered that you may as well walk away from the game at that point.

    I fully expect to see the above two concepts combined someday. With a row of slots labeled with the various powerups which the player inserts quarters into to "buy" during game play.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2001 @05:11AM (#2183571)
    Heres a Did You Know for anyone who didn't: Spacewar was based on a mathmatical accident?

    A coder was attempting to draw a curved line on the screen of the TX-0. However, he misplaced a symbol in the code, and when the code was ran, it drew a circle. This was a surprise to the coder, to say the least. He had just discovered a new mathmatical process.

    That code to draw the circle, ended up being the code that drew the "black-hole" in the center of the screen.

    O.K it's a tenious link, but still.
  • That makes two of us. The game was wonderful, and challenging, with lots of options. Vectored thrust made it hard for anyone who didn't understand physics to play.

    I have not been able to find a copy of it in any arcade game systems.

    ttyl
    Farrell
  • Did you read the post???

    It says it is a "two-player only game"!
    __________________________________
    Stop privacy invasion!
  • The article was written in 1981.
  • The life expectancy for an American in 1998 (most recent available statistics) is 76.7. The numbers fall between 75 and 80 for most citizens of western Europe, and is only slightly lower for those of eastern Europe and most of Asia. Therefore, 40 is an accurate average halfway-point for most humans.
  • I've just spent a few minutes playing the Java emulated version. It's pretty neat.

    I noticed that the center of rotation is the nose of the ship instead of a point at the center of the ship, like in Asteroids.

    I can't remember seeing any other game like this where the rotation center was not the ship center.

    I wonder if it was designed that way on purpose or if it's just that way because nobody had ever done it any other way.

    Also I think it's more fun to try to put the ships in a stable orbit than to try to fly and shoot. Of course I'm the only one here so there's nobody else to shoot at!
  • I recall a story online about what a few computer researchers considered their first computer game. It consisted of loading the computer full of NOP statements (no-operation, i.e. don't do anything this clock cycle), pushing the "RUN" button to start the program, and seeing who could hit the "STOP" button the fastest. Why let things like total lack of UI ruin the opportunity for a good competition?
  • Is the original Spacewar code out there? Yes.

    When I was Manager at The Computer Museum we had the code in the backroom on papertape. Since then I've seen it floating around for the PDP-1 emulators. It was in machine code so there was no source/compile/binary path.

    As The Computer Museum (neé The Digital Computer Museum (Digital as in DEC)) had a full working PDP-1 out on permanent display for special occasions (or for Big Donors which is the same thing) we'd fire it all up & let folks play on the original hardware.

    Speaking as not-a-big-gamer it was fun, challenging, impressively responsive. Invariably it was a crowd pleaser to both young and old alike. Considering that "glass teletypes" were a novelty when Spacewar debuted the vector-graphics & fluid motion were undoubtably a revalation to most folks.

    Trivia:

    • "Spacewar" is widely considered the first computer arcade game. Defining "first" is always a tricky business as there's always someone coming out of the woodwork with a one-off they built presumably years before or with something else in mind but it could be interpreted as, etc.
    • We often stored a spare bag of vomit-cleanup in the large interior of the (unplugged) PDP-1. Nothing to do with the PDP-1 it was just the most convenient place in that gallery. However occ. when showing off the PDP-1 to guests (who'd often worked on it) they were startled to see it when we'd open the case.
    • The PDP-1 monitor was a hexagonal case with a circular display. The hexagon-enclosing-a-circle later became the logo for DECUS, the Digital Equipment Corporation User Group.

  • Sorry, "Continue?" is not the ultimate way to get you to part with your money. The ultimate way is "Green Elf, your lifeforce is running out".

    --

  • ..arcade games have no street cred when kids realise their grandad could've been doing the same thing.
  • Hey come on!40 isn't over the hill. The Human body is capable of life for a maximum of 120 years. I think the oldest person ever on record was like 121 or thereabouts.So if that's true then 61 would be target age. And no I'm not 40, I've still got a ways to go yet before I get there. : )
  • american fail to live up to thier full life expectancy, due to thier poor diet, pollution ect. the fact remains if they took better care of themselves they'd live much longer.
  • "You love the e-Plane_arium. You will help the e-Plane_arium in any way you can."

    --
  • Just goes to show you that anything that is well commented can be understood, even if not maintained.

    I agree with Scott Nudds - C is processor independent assembly language.
  • by AlpineR (32307) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Monday July 30, 2001 @05:35AM (#2183585) Homepage
    Quoth the history essay:
    Steve Piner wrote a text display and editing program called Expensive Typewriter (For a while, "expensive" was a favorite adjective for naming various PDP-1 routines that imitated the functions of more mundane devices. Among them was Peter Samson's E. Planetarium, as we shall see.)

    So that's what the 'E' in all those e-businesses stands for. I would've done better in the NASDAQ if someone had told me sooner.

    AlpineR

  • by gorilla (36491) on Monday July 30, 2001 @06:49AM (#2183586)
    Actually it wasn't jammed, the coins fell into an empty milk carton, and the coins overflowed the carton, and landed on the PCB. The excellent Pong Story [pong-story.com] website has all the details.
  • Vector graphics. Gray on black. The controls were rotate left, rotate right, accelerate, and fire. Great game.
  • I believe the "nasties" were actually called "Space Invaders"... :)
  • Kennywood, outside of Pittsburgh, has few arcade stands. Not nearly as intense and amazing as Hershey was way back in '92, but - get this- they have a ORIGINAL WORKING SPACIE INVADERS. The case is old, the paint and instructions worn completely off by over twenty years of gaming. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, they have Dig Dug and a few others- still just a quarter.

    Hell, I commute three hundred miles twice annually to access the only working Centipede machine I've ever found. One quarter on that will last you longer than half a dozen will on Tekken....
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday July 30, 2001 @06:08AM (#2183590)
    > It's amazing what playing those old games brings back. If I fire up MAME with any given ROM, chances are I've seen the game and can tell you exactly what I was doing at that point in my life.

    Shameless plug alert: If you're in the Bay Area, you can get the real thing in about six weeks:

    CA Extreme [caextreme.org], September 15-16, in San Jose. Two days, all the classic arcade machines you can play. There's even a bunch of guys with a laser projector hooked up to vector games... (C'mon, what geek didn't fantasize about being able to play Tempest using a low-lying cloud as a projection screen, FAA regs be damned ;-)

    And under the same roof at the same time, Vintage Computer Fest 5.0 [vintage.org]. The name says it all, tons of stuff to dr00l over.

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday July 30, 2001 @06:59AM (#2183591)
    > A couple of bits of broken mirror, a pair of speakers to drive X-Y deflection, a laser pointer, and the side of a building...

    LaserMAME [lasers.org]. Laser projection isn't as simple as it looks, and it's taken about 20 years for the tech to get cheap enough to filter down to the geek level, but it's here.

    (For the simpler graphics of SpaceWar, it could probably be done for less than $1000 in used/reconditioned parts, and would make an excellent science project if you've got high-school age sproggen.)


  • My friends and I really enjoyed hanging out at the arcades. Then they started getting machines that forced you to keep adding quarters no matter what your skill was.

    Do I look like a gambling addict?

    Wait until the X-box becomes a subscription service.
  • Spacewar was written in machine code.

  • No, they had multiple colors, they just had to glue colored cellophane onto the screen to achieve it.

    Oh thank you thank you thank you!

    I spent last weekend going around to each of my friends, saying "Hey, do you remember those monochrome arcade games that had cellophane glued to the screen?" Each person said "What? I've never heard of such a thing!" I was beginning to think I'd imagined it all...

  • Was Space Invaders in 1978, in a drug store at the Ala-Moana mall in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was hooked on sight, and my fate was sealed in that one moment. It shouldn't come as a surprise that I ended up as a computer programmer.

    It's amazing what playing those old games brings back. If I fire up MAME with any given ROM, chances are I've seen the game and can tell you exactly what I was doing at that point in my life.

    As an aside, the first game I was ever good at was Spy Hunter. Most of the time my quarter would last under a minute, but I could play Spy Hunter for upwards of an hour.

  • The Space Wars machine wasn't like the other games. The graphics on the outside were plain. The game was great! It had so many options. With/without the black hole, one/two player, and so many others. My friends didn't seem to see the magic in it like I did, though. Too complicated. But the physics of it! I knew it was special. When Asteroids came along, the ideas had been refined, and perhaps dumbed down enough for it to become popular. Years later when I read on the 'net of the hallowed history of the game, and of its geek following, I knew I was part of a tradition.
  • I remember when I saw the Space War game in an arcade. It was cool even though it was not the best in the arcade. The arcade was one in Hersheypark (the big one not far from the Kissing Tower). All of the new games (new at the time) were the laser disc type stuff or similar. Ones like Firfox(LOVE that game), LockOn, Dragon's Lair, Space Ace (could never figure these ones out) and of course PacMan's and others. In the big, dank corner of the arcade they had Star Trek, Space War and Moon Lander. Space war intrigued me but I thought Moon Lander was the coolest because of the big throttle control they had on that thing. It was cooler then the controller FireFox and Star Wars used but much older. I never landed the lander but man did I plug quarters in it!

    I will be able to visit this arcade in about two weeks. According to Hersheypark's website it's still there. Man I hope there are at least some of the old games there (I would LOVE to play Firefox but I here because of the cheap assed laser disc that was in it there may not be many working ones around).

    I think MAME is a good thing and I would like to see some of teh manufacturers release the ROMS with no leagal issues attached so we can either download them, or pay a fee for a CD full of them. The arcade games of the past must be preserved and if they can't be preserved in the antique sense, we should at least preserve the code so they can be played on modern machines.

  • All flaming aside, if you knew your history, the TX-0 has less computational power than your average palm top. The PDP-1 isn't much more powerful.

    That's my point--I was just pointing out a(nother) small problem with the article. I just forgot to add the *dripping sarcasm*.

    ~=Keelor

  • by Keelor (95571) on Monday July 30, 2001 @04:51AM (#2183599)
    The task fell to a group of proto-geeks enthused by the possibilities of the shocking amounts of computer power suddenly available - about that of a modern day palmtop computer.

    ...

    Giddy with the power of the TX-0 and another MIT computer, a DEC PDP-1, the group decided to recreate the galactic vista of Doc Smith's work using the 30 line display and mighty nine kilobytes of memory available on the PDP.

    Wow... I guess palmtops in the UK must be behind the times a bit.

    ~=Keelor

  • I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the 'minor' historical detail that a chap named Ken Thompson decided that writing something called UNIX and B would be a helpful in porting a more advanced version of Spacewar called Space Travel to a shiny new PDP, and ensure that it could be repeated easily each time a new machine was brought in.
  • In A.D. 1961
    Space War was beginning.
    Captain: What happen ?
    Operator: Somebody set up us the black hole
    Operator: We get signal
    Captain: What !
    Operator: Oscilliscope turn on
    Captain: It's You !!
    Cats: How are you gentlemen !!
    Cats: All your ships are belong to our gravity
    Cats: You are on the way to destruction
    Captain: What you say !!
    Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time
    Cats: HA HA HA HA ....
    Captain: Take off every 'zig*'
    Captain: You know what you doing
    Captain: Move 'zig'
    Captain: For great gaming hegemony

    * zig = Zero Influence of Gravity torpedos
  • If I remember correctly the first video game was at some family gtg way back when. Some guy used an oscilliscope? to make a 'tenis' game. Anyone have more info. Saw this on History Chan a bit back.
  • Moderators, read the link?

    Quotes from the linked article:

    • Atari Pong - 1975-1977
    • Pong, while not the first videogame
    • Spacewar is generally considered to be the first nationally-recognized computer game. Programmed in 1962 by MIT student Steve Russell

    What it _does_ say about 1958 is: Willy Higinbotham is often recognized as inventing the first "video" style game. While working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1958, Higinbotham turned an oscilloscope into a playable version of video tennis, which he called "Tennis for Two."

    Now if you want more on Pong and Nolan, go see my other post ;)

  • by Troed (102527) on Monday July 30, 2001 @06:12AM (#2183604) Homepage Journal
    Of course, made by Nolan Bushnell [thetech.org] - who set aforth to create Atari, dominating the videogame industry for years.

    Quotes:

    • He is arguably the father of computer entertainment.
    • Nolan Bushnell founded Atari in 1972
    • and the following year opened the first Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant
    • created [...] Commputer (sic) Space (in 1970), in your daughter's bedroom

  • Spacewar came before Pong, but wasn't very sucessful. Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari, ported Spacewar, but it wasn't too successful (it had *gasp* instructions), so he made a game simple enough for "a drunk in a bar" to play - Pong. See http://www.pong-story.com/atpong1.htm [pong-story.com] for more info.
  • Speaking of Spy Hunter, MS have left a clone of it, called Dev Hunter, as an Easter Egg in Excel 2000 [eggscentral.com] (it's way more fun than that stupid flight simulator from 97). See, they're not totally evil : )
  • *sigh*, yet again I find that my education (http://www.eee.bham.ac.uk/woolleysi/microhistory. htm - The University Of Birmingham UK, School Of Electronics, 3rd year undergrad Microprocessor Module) [bham.ac.uk] has left me with only half the information.

    And for once it's not because I was sleeping in lectures ; )

  • Nope. I don't even play him on TV.

    Who is Scott Nudds?

  • by smcdow (114828) on Monday July 30, 2001 @05:13AM (#2183609) Homepage
    Look at the source [mit.edu], which is in this [mit.edu] directory.

    Gotta love assembly!! Makes you wonder why we ever bothered inventing higher level languages....

  • by Catbeller (118204) on Monday July 30, 2001 @05:55AM (#2183610) Homepage
    I was just reading the H1B thread, and the IT-People-Are-Not-Ageist argument was being bandied about. Then I see 40=over the hill here :)

    Nah, this isn't a kingdom run by 25 year olds :)

    When I was punk kid of 20, I used to wonder why the old farts of 40 used to smile at us when we so rightously derided their gray hairs and hairy ears. Now I know why they smiled...

    If they would have said something in response, it would have been this: "It's your turn REAL SOON, monkey boy. And I'm doing yer girlfriend."

    I hope the yunguns here enjoy the scenery, 'cause it ain't gonna last long for them. I wonder, with how much aplomb will they face the end of their careers at 35?

    I'm hoping for 150 meself.

  • If you goto an auction for vendors you can buy centipede machines for around 500 sometimes less. Check out USamusement [usamusement.com] for auction locations and dates. They also have pinballs, jukeboxes, air hockey, sit down videos, almost any coin-op equipment you can think of.
  • Typically the came Computer Space is considered the first "arcade" game

    A quick Google search [google.com] shows that Computer Space was the same thing as Spacewar, except ported from PDP to dedicated hardware.

    because it set precedent for all future games: coin accepting, dedicated unit instead of multipurpose computer

    All? Taito's Space Invaders (1977) was one of the first popular arcade games to use a microprocessor instead of a board full of 7400-series logic chips. Nintendo's VS Multisystem and PlayChoice machines, SNK's Neo-Geo system, and the Capcom Play System had replaceable program cartridges, making the machines definitely multipurpose.

  • And no mention of Sinclair (ZX81, Spectrum), Acorn (BBC micro), Commodore (C64, Amiga), Atari (games consoles, ST) et al...

    Incidentally, the history is the history of the _PC_, ie. state of the art, multi-thousand-dollar machines. The history of affordable appliance-level computers is another story entirely.

    Grab.
  • Pong Was the first, making it's debut in 1958 according to this article

    The article seems rather confused.. PONG was produced in 1973, not 1958. Atari wasn't even founded until 1972, when Nolan Bushnell left another job. The guys at classic gaming should maybe do some research. I think they were referring to the game created by Willy Higinbottom at the Brookhaven national Lab. The game was a tennis type game. (looked like Pong turned sideways) game played on an Ocilliscope (sp?).
  • YES! There was a military game where the person was to drive a jeep around buldings and shoot tanks and such, with the occasional helicopter flying in to make things interesting. The buildings were overlays on the glass.

    I had located this game ROM for MAME awhile back (I..er..own the machine and it's stored in my closet) and loaded it into the trusty emulator only to find that...well...all you could see was a black screen, your vector-drawn jeep, the approaching tanks, and NO buildings. Talk about a challenge!

  • by kisrael (134664) on Monday July 30, 2001 @06:26AM (#2183616) Homepage
    At the end of may I wrote up spacewar for my kisrael.com quote/link blog [kisrael.com]:

    Spacewar! [mit.edu] is one of the grand-daddies of modern videogames, and a much deeper deathmatch than Pong. (I was amazed at how developed its deathmatch became when I read this old Rolling Stones article [wheels.org].) Written by MIT Hackers who were inspired by the space opera Fiction of E.E. "Doc" Smith [wheels.org]. Someone has an the original game [mit.edu] running on a PDP-1 emulator. There's a decent funny introduction at classicgaming.com [classicgaming.com] and a more comprehensive set of Spacewar! links [wheels.org] as well. (Possibly the most obvious sequal to Spacewar! was the brilliant Star Control series [classicgaming.com]. The first game added 12 new types of ships, each with 2 unique weapons systems, and the second created a whole universe to support it. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.)
    --
  • Yep, I remember that on Space Invaders... Don't remember seeing it on any other games, though.

    When the aliens hit the yellow cellophane you knew you were in trouble!!

    ---

  • You have to remember this was one of the first ever games. Just the novelty of it was amazing at the time. This is probably before you were born, but this was a time before bank machines, home computers, etc, etc. Your comment is like complaining about the Ford Model T .. It had terrible gas mileage, had a bumpy ride, it would make you want to avoid cars all together.

    ---

  • At a highway rest stop the other week, I saw a brand spanking new Namco machine that had Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga in the same box! I thought that was cool and a great idea. It was the same old classic 8-bit arcade games that have been in arcades since the early 80's, not with revamped updated 3D 256-bit graphics.

    I proceeded to play a (rather successful, by my standards) game of Galaga, and the WEIRDEST FREAKING THING HAPPENED when my last ship got destroyed.

    Galaga asked me to CONTINUE!!! I am still sort of shaken up by this. They released the classic Galaga, but with a hack in it that lets you continue. How ODD! I mean, I've been playing Galaga for like 20 years now, and it never asked me to continue until last month. What the hell?

    For a game dork like me, that's like looking up one day and noticing there are two suns or something.
  • A friend and I were about 13 and his parents rented a Winnebago to take a trip. They asked me to come along. One of the stops was in Las Vegas (only 2 weeks before the big MGM fire). We walked into the upper floor of the Circus Circus and that was where I saw Asteroids for the first time. I was never really good at it, but it remains on of my favs.

  • Yeah... and given the way he had it set up, it wasn't that different from what we'd understand as an arcade game today. It was apparently quite the tourist attraction in his lab.

    /Brian
  • Actually, a Palm has about as much computational punch as a 386/25 or maybe a bit more. The chip is a derivative of the 68020 and I think it runs around 30mHz (or at least the first DragonBalls did).

    /Brian
  • Does anyone have the source? Does it compile?
  • Spacewar, for all its charm, never really made it past the eyes of a few hundred geeks.

    Spacewar did come out later after the pong craze. I remember playing it with my brother at an amusement park. We played until we were out of money. Things that were cooler than pong about it:

    • Vector graphics with really thin lines
    • Fantasy factor- you could pretend you were in a spaceship instead of pretending you were on a tennis court
    • Cool options like the black hole

    I can't remember if this was before or after Space Invaders but I think it was before.

  • Ok, I admit... every so often I fire up my still working 8088 and play a game of spacewar against the computer. Not bad for a machine that's about 15yrs old. And it still runs Wordperfect 5.1 and Lotus 123 2.2 very well. Of course the old seagate 30MB is finally starting to show some errors, but I figure it's good for at least another 5 to 10 yrs yet.


  • Now that's cool. I love reading these little snapshots of the past. Hehe, this reminds of something my AP US History teacher used to say -- "Documents are our windows into the past." He said it so much it was funny, but it's true. I think my favorite phrase from this particular document is "The use of switches to control apparent motion of displayed objects" -- really gives you the feel that this is a new concept. :-)
  • Thanks for this link! I've been looking for Billy Boy's legendary letter for some years now.

    It's the last open thing Microsoft's ever written.


  • No, they had multiple colors, they just had to glue colored cellophane onto the screen to achieve it.

    I'm not making that up. :*)
  • by dstone (191334) on Monday July 30, 2001 @06:11AM (#2183629) Homepage
    A couple of bits of broken mirror, a pair of speakers to drive X-Y deflection, a laser pointer, and the side of a building...

    Anyone? Anyone?
  • Pinball machines did not use electronics until the mid-late 1970s. Prior to that, the game logic was
    implemented by electromechanical relays and switches only.

    Williams experimented with electronics in the
    early 1960s (1963?) but did not implement them due to cost.

    There were some experimental electronic games in the 1974 period (with some work done by Dave Nutting of "Computer Space" fame).

    The first commercial electronic pins controlled by a CPU appeared in the 1976-77 period. By 1979, all major US mfrs produced only electronic pinballs.
  • by Deanasc (201050) on Monday July 30, 2001 @04:35AM (#2183631) Homepage Journal
    I seem to remember a story on the History Chanel about a tennis game played on Osciliscopes built out of stray tubes and solenoids. Happened around 1951 I think. Anyone have more info?
  • Shouldn't we now have Son Of Spacewar!
  • that reminds me of one of my favorite Frank Black albums Teenager of the Year [allmusic.com], the opening track of which was titled 'Whatever Happened to Pong?' Great stuff.

  • Yup. There was an extensive article about Willy's creation in Creative Computing magazine, back in the 80's. I have that issue at home somewhere.

    And here's another cool article about Spacewar, also from the late lamented Creative Computing magazine:

    http://www.enteract.com/~enf/lore/spacewar/spacewa r.html

  • by Gannoc (210256)
    this was a two-player only game, designed in 1961 when programmers had friends who were in the same room! Did anyone else feel really sad when you read this?

    I'm serious.

  • You might fit in here [midtennhistory.com] or here [luma-electronic.cz].

    Don't download anything
  • I REALLY like the spacewar link, with the first picture of the "computer" and the text below "Creative Computing".
    I guess it was a year or two before IBMs "Deep Computing".

    --------
    For sale: Rhesus-Monkey-Torture-Kit 40$
  • Nolan Bushnell did Computer Space which wasn't quite Spacewar -- before Pong. Eventually someone did a real Spacewar arcade game, but that was years later.
  • I always thought pong was the first arcade game.
  • Here's an excerpt from the website Pons-Story.com [pong-story.com] - the history of the video game:
    Although not a video game, Willy Higinbotham built in 1958 the very first game based around a computer and a CRT at Brookhaven National Laboratory (Upton, New-York, USA). The game was shown to the public during two years in the labs, used an oscilloscope to generate the picture, and a vaccuum tube analog computer to calculate the trajectory of the ball. The game consisted in a little tennis court shown in front view: a reversed 'T' as a net, and a bouncing point as the ball (you can read a very interesting article [pong-story.com] about the story of this game). Unfortunately, Willy Higinbotham did not find any interest in his game, and did not patent it. What a pitty, when we see all the money involved in video games ! This was the short story of the first game.
    I guess it all depends on how you define arcade game...

    --CTH
  • Pong was the first stand-alone commercial game that accepted money for play. In short, the first that marketers care about.
  • by gwizah (236406) on Monday July 30, 2001 @04:42AM (#2183642) Homepage

    Why! Im my day we had to walk 5 miles through the snow to get to the arcade!
    We didnt have these fancy-schmancy game cards or tokens...Our machines used quarters! And we liked it!
    We didnt have these 3d-shoot-em-up, Parallax-scrolling, 60 fps, CD-sound, thingamabobs! We had two colors, BLACK and GREEN and the game was about as fun as getting your back waxed and WE LIKED IT!

  • Space War on the Atari 2600 was a blast, great 2-player fun.

    Another favorite of mine in the arcades was Space Duel [klov.com], a somewhat Asteroids-like game which had a 2-player mode where the 2 ships were joined together with a rigid bar. The physics model was great fun, if one person fired their thrusters, the pair of ships could start spinning like crazy. You had to coordinate strategy with your partner. (It's been so long, I don't remember if there was a "versus" 2-player mode.)

  • by HoldmyCauls (239328) on Monday July 30, 2001 @04:54AM (#2183644) Journal
    I found a story about this here:

    http://www.pong-story.com/thefirst.htm

    for the lazy: it says that the oscilloscope pong game (called "Tennis programming") was developed by Willy Higinbotham (no typos there), a chainsmoker (unfiltered, no less!) in 1958, beating SpaceWar by nearly three years.

    Lots of good tech info on the page, though.
  • I remember the Atari 2600 3D tic-tac-toe would cheat by not letting you make a move that wasn't in its favor.
  • Yea But can you play it on your T-Shirt... I can http://games.lasers.org/tshirts.shtml
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Monday July 30, 2001 @04:45AM (#2183647) Homepage Journal
    Interesting timing. A few months ago Wired published an article detailing the history of electronic arcade games. Pong was the first electronic arcade game with a coin slot. The guys who invented it found it was popular in their local bar, so they started charging a little per game.

    ---
  • No wonder I've always thought (and told people) that coin-op PONG! was the 'first' coin-op video game. I can still picture the black on yellow graphics.
  • what am I since I still prefer good old pinball :)
  • Is it just me or is the gravity variable way too high on that game? I can only escape being sucked into the "star" at the center by aiming the ship sideways. It's a challange, but not a terribly fun challange. If I had to pay a quarter for that I'd feel cheated and avoid the game in the future.

    If the game designers want my money from more than a first minute con job with pretty graphics, they'd better concentrate on making enjoyable games and not wallet-suckers.
  • Wait until the X-box becomes a subscription service.

    Or you could (gasp) NOT buy the X-Box if you'd rather not see it turn into a subscription service.

  • I guess the point I was trying to make is that depending on the way in which you classify a video based game may vary, and as such, you could possibly construe Mr. Higginbottom's game the very first 'arcade' game, since nothing prior to that game could be classified as 'video' or 'electronic only' based. If we're basing the 'arcade' classification as coin-op, then spacewar wins, if 'purchase required', then Pong wins.
  • by cavemanf16 (303184) on Monday July 30, 2001 @04:51AM (#2183653) Homepage Journal
    Pong [classicgaming.com] Was the first, making it's debut in 1958 according to this article. I also saw the little History Channel's Lost and Found episode over the weekend, and while the guy that invented Pong, as a previous poster mentioned, didn't intend to do anything more than amuse the public, it does stand as the first publicly playable electronic game. Of course, no one charged money to play it, which may mean it doesn't count as the first 'arcade' game per se.
  • How do you cheat at Tic Tac Toe? Maybe adding extra x's, or moving around the x's and o's, but both of those would be rather obvious.

  • by freeweed (309734) on Monday July 30, 2001 @04:42AM (#2183657)
    PONG was the first commercially sucessful arcade game. Spacewar, for all its charm, never really made it past the eyes of a few hundred geeks. PONG came out a decade after, and after a day or 2 in operation, the owner called in for repairs thinking it was broken - turns out the coin slot was jammed full of quarters :) If this doesn't indicate just how new arcade games were at the time, I don't know what will!

    Incidentally, Spacewar is typically considered the first VIDEO game. As I'm sure lots of other people will point out, pinball had electronic components in it for a long time before 1961. And just for more useless trivia, the first HOME video game was the Oddyssey, built by Magnavox in 1972. So old, it didn't even have a microprocessor... just yards and yards of transistors and the like... those were the days all right!

  • it gives me a warm feelimg inside to know that arcade games have been around all my life.
  • "And moreover, it is now the goal to force players to continue ad infinitum. Because entertainment is no longer the main reason for arcades, but rather, extracting money from player's wallets."

    Ummm, since when was this *not* the case? I would have thought that coin-ops have always been designed to make money.
  • Maybe the first, fully, electronic arcade game. I'm sure pinball games and so forth had flashing lights in the 50's--after all, jukeboxes did.
    --
  • Play pong [howstuffworks.com]
  • Tim Burton is planning on releasing a new "imagining" of SpaceWar. He has revealed that it will not be the same game, but will retain the spirit of the original. The original SpaceWar vector graphics will have a small cameo in the new game.
    Insiders say the new game has several alternate endings, none of which make any sense whatsoever.

  • by Bonkers54 (416354) on Monday July 30, 2001 @04:40AM (#2183666)
    Here [wheels.org]'s a clip from an old MIT publishing.

    Where did all the time go?


  • Darn, and here I was under the delusion that the first computer game was a socially engineered version of hide-n-go-seek developed by the Altiar loving Home-Brew [onlineethics.org] club, otherwise known as "steal Bill's BASIC. [tranquileye.com]"
  • You know I was in a bar once and I noticed a old Street Fighter II game. So I thought I would play a game. I beat the game, I was shocked on how easily I did. I think the reason is I have play these Street Fighter games so long, the "original" was easy.
  • Some basic points here... 1) Spacewar! was the first _computer_video_game. There were video games that were earlier (Tennis for Two and possibly a Golf game from England). There were computer games that were earlier (tic-tac-toe and such). Spacewar! was certainly the first to put them together. 2) The first video arcade game, as such, was neither Computer Space or PONG. It was Galaxy Game. It was built to the tune of one machine, but ran for seven years straight. It claims the title by about one month. 3) Computer Space was the first arcade game to make it out to the public, and thus arguably claims the title for itself. Also the dates are so close one may be able to show this was earlier than GG, but that might be tough. Full details: www.gamesoffame.com Maury
  • by absurd_spork (454513) on Monday July 30, 2001 @04:34AM (#2183674) Homepage
    Heavens, people are going to start actually playing it just because it's old.

    On a side note, it's interesting that the first arcade game had something to do with:

    • War
    • Space
    If you look at the date (1961), it all fits nicely into a cold war space race context, doesn't it?
  • Typically the came Computer Space [klov.com] is considered the first "arcade" game because it set precedent for all future games: coin accepting, dedicated unit instead of multipurpose computer, display, controls, etc. Check www.klov.com or www.arcadehistory.com for more info, or if you'd like to chat about the classics hit #rgvac on EFNet. Also usenet rec.games.video.arcade.collecting
  • I vaugly recall that the Illiac-1 (built 1951) had a version of tic-tac-toe in which the computer cheated if you knew the correct sequence.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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