Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Video Game History (1950s to 1970s)

In 1947, it is believed that the first game made on a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) was created by Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann. There was a patent filed in this year and was later issued in 1948. The game consisted of you firing a missile at a target using several knobs to control the missile. There was an overlay on the monitor with targets drawn on them because at the time there was no graphical way to put them on screen with the missile. Although it’s believed to be the first instance of a game being created it is not considered to be one because it didn’t generate video signals for displaying on TV sets or monitors.

In 1951, a young man called Ralph Baer is said to have come up with the idea of playing games on a TV set. He worked at Loral, a TV company, where he was asked to ‘Build the best television set in the world’. He pitched the idea of playing games on TVs as well but his boss didn’t approve it. Although his idea was turned down he would later build ask Bill Harrison to make a system. This was later released as the Home TV Game. 

In 1952, another man called A. S. Douglas was writing a thesis on Human-Computer interaction and showed his work through a graphical tic-tac-toe game displayed on a CRT using the EDSAC vacuum-tube computer. This is the earliest graphical game.

In 1958, Willy Higginbotham created a game using an analog Donner computer connected to an oscilloscope which was used to display the game. The game he created was called Tennis for Two which was controlled by two people to play against each other. 

In 1961, Stephen Russell along with Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen experienced vector graphics. The game was a simple space shooter which consisted of little space ships controlled by the users. This game would be known as SpaceWar!. They noticed that the stars were being randomly generated by the debugger program and decided to make some changes to improve this game. They added the actual constellations with moving stars. Finding the game was still easy they progressed by adding a sun that had a gravitational pull on it. Although this didn’t qualify as a game because it didn’t use video display it was a massive step forward into games entering the family home.

In 1969, Ken Thompson, an AT&T computer programmer wrote a video game called Space Travel. He built it on the MULTICS operating system which AT&T pulled out of shortly after. Thompson ported the game to Fotran code which ran on the GECOS operating system. At the time it cost $75 an hour to run the game on this system so Thompson sought out a cheaper alternative. While learning the assembly language for the PDP-7 the development for Unix began.

In 1971, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney created the first arcade game. Called Computer Space, based on Stephen Russell’s SpaceWar!. Nolan Bushnell created Pong a year later and the two of them formed Atari Computers the very same year. The later re-released Pong as a home video game.

In 1972, the Odyssey was released. This was the first commercial video game console that could be played at home. Released by Magnavox it was designed by Ralph Baer. The console was programmed with 12 games.

In 1974, the company Kee Games released Tank. The game was designed by Scott Bristow and gameplay consisted of two tanks weaving in a maze while avoiding land mines and each other. The game was significant because it used ROM chips to hold graphical memory. This allowed for more complicated detail.  Tank became the biggest selling game of 1974 so Kee and Atari merge. 

In 1976, Fairchild released the first programmable home games console called Fairchild Video Entertainment System. This was renamed to Channel F. This console was one of the first to utilize the newly invented microchip, created by Robert Noyce.

In 1977 many manufacturers sold their systems at a loss to clear stock. This caused a glut in the market and forced Fairchild and RCA to abandon their game consoles. Atari and Magnavox remained despite making a loss in 1977 and 1978. The crash was eventually ended with the success of Space Invaders created by Taito in 1978.

Space Invaders sales boosted the games industry with massive sales which lead to the golden age of arcade games. It also revived the home video game market.

Over these years only a few of the games that were created were considered as games and only so many of them became successful and significant in the future of video games. Although the games that were created would have significance on future programmers developing I don’t believe that they were as important as Pong. Pong was the game that everybody played when it was released. If Pong hadn’t of become as successful as it did I don’t think the video games industry would have been developed so early.

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