When was the first video game invented? Here's a hint: It happened way before Pong. While many consider the early 1980s to be the era when rudimentary games first appeared, the forerunner of the modern video game was born over five decades ago. Let's take a step back into video game history.
A wildly creative physicist named William Higinbotham gets the credit for inventing the modern video game. In 1958, Higinbotham was the head of the Instrumentation Division at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. The BNL held events for the public, when visitors could come and observe the creations underway. Higinbotham figured people might enjoy an engrossing distraction between observing gallery displays, and so he set about creating an interactive digital game that could break up the monotony of static exhibits. Simple to the extreme, "Tennis for Two" was nonetheless the subject of shock and joy when it was unveiled.
"Tennis for Two"
"Tennis for Two" was an interactive video game meant to be played by two people at once. The game presented a side view of a tennis court on an oscilloscope screen, and a brightly lit dot moved from side-to-side according to how the player moved a controller. Serving and volleying was controlled by changing the angle of the digital racquet, and all of it was presented visually on a screen using a primitive cathode-ray tube. Since the structure of "Pong" is so similar to "Tennis for Two," "Pong" is often incorrectly regarded as the first video game, but it first appeared in 1972.
While a game like "Tennis for Two" would bore the pants off today's gamers, who are accustomed to sophisticated graphics, this simple game blew the collective mind of thousands upon its release. Within weeks of the unveiling, lines of hundreds of people were clogging the gymnasium showroom at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Later, developers would look back to the wild popularity of "Tennis for Two" as inspiration for their new creations.
Today, "Tennis for Two" seems aesthetically unpleasant and dull. However, at the time it was a smashing success, and it paved the way for future video game development.
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