Pinball Timeline: Video Games
Part I: Early Years
by Amanda Kudler

1958 1961 1965 1970 1972 Next: 1975-1984
1958
Physicist Willy Higinbotham invents the first "video game" at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. His game, a table tennis-like game, was played on an oscilloscope.
1961
Steve Russell, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), creates Spacewar, the first interactive computer game. It runs on a Digital PDP-1 mainframe computer, and the graphics are made up of ASCII text characters.
1966
Ralph Baer, an engineer at Sanders Associates, receives support from his company (a military electronics consulting firm in NH) to explore his idea of creating interactive games using a television.
1967
Baer and team are successful in creating two interactive TV games—a chase game and a tennis game. They are also able to manipulate a toy gun so that it detects spots of light on the TV screen.
1970
Magnavox licenses Baer's TV game from Sanders Associates


Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney (future founders of Atari) begin their attempt to create an arcade version of Spacewar, calling it Computer Space.
1971
Computer Space becomes first video arcade game ever released. 1500 games are distributed. Public consensus is that it is too difficult to play.
1972
April 25
A U.S. patent is issued to Ralph Baer for "A Television Gaming Apparatus and Method"


May 24
Magnavox's Odyssey, the first home video game system, is showcased at a convention in Burlingame, CA, and is released to the public later that year.


Bushnell and Dabney found Atari. They name the company after a term from the Japanese game "Go". "Atari" is equivalent to "check" in a chess game.


Al Alcorn is hired by Atari to program video games. The first game created by Atari is Pong. Ping-Pong, the original name, is already copyrighted, so the makers name it Pong after the sound of a ball hitting the paddle.
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Next: Part II—1975-1984
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