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Fascinating facts about the invention of the
Pong Video
Game by Nolan Bushnell in 1972.

PONG VIDEO GAME
AT A GLANCE:

Pong was the invention of Nolan Bushnell, a young engineer who introduced video table tennis to arcades in 1972. Simple and addictive, Pong launched the craze for home video games. The home version was Introduced by Atari, Bushnell's company, in 1974--long before anyone had seen a personal computer.
THE STORY
RELATED INFO
VIDEOS
BOOKS
WEB SITES
HOW IT WORKS
DID YOU KNOW?
Invention: Pong Video Game in 1972
Definition: noun / game trademark
Function: Pong is a simple and addictive video game. A tiny "ball" floats back and forth across a "net" bisecting a dark Television screen, and two players use knobs to manipulate "paddles" on the screen to hit the ball. The instructions are spare: "Avoid missing ball for high score."
Patent: 3,793,483 (US) issued February 19, 1974
Inventor: Nolan Bushnell
Criteria; First to invent. First to patent. Entrepreneur.
Birth: February 5, 1943  in Ogden, Utah
Nationality: American
Milestones:
invention, history, pong, pong video game, Nolan Bushnell, Magnavox Odyssey, Ralph Baer, invention of, inventor of, history, historical, resources, profile, who invented,  web resources, book resources, fun facts, fascinating facts.
The Story:
Before there was Pong, there was Odyssey, invented by Ralph Baer in 1966. Programmed for 12 games, Magnavox's TV-based game required plastic overlays to identify colored playing fields on the screen. It also came with two hand controls and such traditional board game equipment as dice, playing cards, and play money. Consumers strongly preferred Pong's simplicity, and Pong and its numerous knockoff relatives dominated the game market until 1977, while Magnavox abandoned Odyssey about a year after its 1972 debut.

Pong was the invention of Nolan Bushnell, a young engineer who introduced video table tennis to arcades in 1972. Simple and addictive, Pong launched the craze for home video games. Introduced by Atari in 1974--long before anyone had seen a personal computer—Pong was an adaptation of the company’s popular arcade game of the same name, and it became the most popular game of the 1975 holiday season, with sales of $40,000,000 for the year.

To a generation of gamers accustomed to 64-bit graphics and blazing processor power, Pong now looks absurdly low-tech: a tiny "ball" floats back and forth across a "net" bisecting a dark screen, and two players use knobs to manipulate "paddles" on the screen to hit the ball. The instructions are spare: "Avoid missing ball for high score." And  the inside of the game is likewise unimpressive--just  three integrated circuits and a few other components. But the game's fun, straightforward design brought millions of players to the TV screen, and the industry never looked back.

The breakthrough that led Bushnell to invent the home version of Pong was the linking of mini-computers to TV terminals. In 1977, now under the ownership of Warner, Atari introduced its new Video Computer System (VCS) and nine compatible game cartridges. The company licensed the megahit arcade game Space Invaders for the VCS in 1980, and VCS sales soared to $100 million. In the early 1980s, riding high on the success of the VCS, Atari turned away from new product development, churning out software for dozens of new games and recycled versions of the VCS instead. It also took part in an ultimately unsuccessful venture that allowed users to download games for the VCS over  phone lines with a modem. When the video game market crashed in 1983-84, Atari was left with vast quantities of unsellable software and no new technology to fall back on. After the crash, consumers stayed away from home consoles, which were not reintroduced until Nintendo and Sega arrived on the scene in the late 1980s.

Mr. Bushnell founded and was CEO of Atari Corporation, a manufacturer of video games, from 1971 to 1978. He founded and served as CEO of Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theater, a restaurant chain featuring electronic entertainment, from 1977 to 1983. From 1983 to 1986, Mr. Bushnell served as the sole proprietor of Catalyst Technologies, a source of technical advice and venture capital for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. He served as Chairman for several Catalyst companies, such as ETAK, Androbot, ByVideo, Magnum Microwave, Axlon and Octus.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Nolan Bushnell Biography    from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of Video Games   from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of Magnavox Odyssey
   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Games and Toys    from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Toys!: Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson, Laurie Keller  / Hardcover - 128 pages  / Henry Holt & Company (2000)
The quirky tales behind more than two dozen novelties, gadgets and games, from seesaws to Silly Putty and toy soldiers to Trivial Pursuit.

The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon
by Steve L. Kent / Paperback: 624 pages / Prima Publishing (September 6, 2001)

In this rollicking, mammoth history of video games from pinball to Pong to Playstation II Kent, a technology journalist and self-professed video game addict, covers almost every conceivable aspect of the industry, from the technological leaps that made the games possible to the corporate power struggles that won (and lost) billions of dollars.
ARCADE FEVER The Fan's Guide to The Golden Age of Video Games
by John Sellers / Paperback: 160 pages / Running Pr (August 2001)

This illustrated history of the arcade's glory days will push any game geek's thrust button.
High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games
by Rusel DeMaria, Johnny L. Wilson / Paperback: 400 pages / McGraw-Hill Osborne Media; (2003)
This is the inside scoop on the history, successes, tricks, and even failures of the entire electronic games industry.This lavishly illustrated full-color retrospective takes you on a guided tour of the evolution of electronic games from blips on a tiny screen in a computer science lab to the multi-billion-dollar industry it has become today.

ON THE SCREEN:
Video Games: Behind the Fun
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00 / Also VHS
First there was Pong. Then came Asteroids, and Pac Man, and Nintendo. At every stage of their development, Video games have pushed the limits of computing power.


ON THE WEB:

Atari Historical Society
People were waiting two hours in line to sign up on a list just to get an Atari home version of Pong.
(URL: www.atarimuseum.com)
Inventor of the Week
Invention Dimension featured Nolan Bushnell in November, 1998 for his invention of the Video Game.

(URL: web.mit.edu/invent/iow/bushnell.html)
The Tech Interview with Nolan Bushnell
He is arguably the father of computer entertainment.
(URL: www.thetech.org/revolutionaries/bushnell/i_a.html)
The Computer Hall of Fame
Nolan Bushnell Elected, Inducted September, 2000.
(URL: www.computerhalloffame.org/)
GameSpy's 30 Most Influential People in Gaming
Far from defeated, Bushnell went back to the drawing board (or to a Magnavox Odyssey demonstration, as the story goes) and returned with something called Pong.
This site has lots of COOKIES and POP-UP advertising.
(URL: /www.gamespy.com/articles/march02/top30/127/)
An Interview With Nolan Bushnell
Interview by Joyce Gemperlein, San Jose Mercury News; and Tenaya Scheinman, Senior, Menlo School
(URL: www.thetech.org/revolutionaries/bushnell/)
Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame
The Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame inductees have made a significant contribution to the world, and without these inductees, our lives would not be the same.
(URL: www.ce.org/Events/Awards/461.htm)
uWink
Over the years Mr, Bushnell has started over 20 companies. This is his most recent.
(URL: www.uwink.com)
Odyssey
Here is a brief chronology of how and when Video Games came to life. The intoduction of Magnovaz Odyssey game covered in detail. Article prepared by Ralph H. Baer, video game inventor.
(URL: www.ralphbaer.com/video_game_history.htm)

HOW IT WORKS:
How Video Games Systems Work
More than just the Pong Video Game. This How Stuff Works site has lots of COOKIES and POP-UP ADS..

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • The joysticks from the home version of Tank eventually became the standard joysticks which were packed in with the Atari 2600 VCS (Video Computer System. The Joystick was created by John Hyashi and Kevin McKinnsey and sold over 60 million worldwide.)
  • Bushnell was granted patents on some of the basic technologies for many of the early video games developed and is also the inventor or co-inventor of numerous worldwide patents in various other fields and industries.
  • It may be hard to believe, but the home video game craze was launched by a game with instructions that began, "Avoid Missing Ball for High Score"
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised January 16, 2007.
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