Welcome to the real "PONG" F.A.Q. - v 1.06-e Creator & Maintainer: Sylvain De Chantal in cooperation with the museums curator
O.K., here's the legal stuff
Copyright 1997-2009, Sylvain De Chantal. All rights reserved. This document may be copied, in whole or in part,
by any means provided the copyright and contributors sections remain
intact and no fee is charged for the information. Contributors
retain the copyright to their individual contributions. The data contained here in is provided for informational purposes
only. No warranty is made with regards to the accuracy of some
informations. Additional contributions is welcome. Please mail additional information,
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I hope that anybody will like it, it took me at least a year just
trying to find information of anykind about pongs. Many thanks to all the persons who sent me comments, corrections
or informations! Please go see chap#6 for the credits roaster. This FAQ is now dedicated to William A. Higinbotham
since the 10th November of 1997 for the honor of his memory. May the Gods be with you!
1.0) Who is ... ?
If anybody has any
insight stories related to the following inventors,
please contact Sylvain De Chantal or the museums curator.
Who is Wiliam A. Higinbothom ?
William A. Higinbotham
William A. Higinbotham,
who was a physicist, used a small analog computer - a Systron Donner SD-3300 - in the lab to graph and display the trajectory of a moving ball on an oscilloscope, with which users can interact.
It was the year 1958.
Along with Technical Specialist Robert V. Dvorak who actually assembles the device, to create in three weeks the game system they name "Tennis for Two", and it debuts with other exhibits in the Brookhaven gymnasium at the open-house in October 1958.
The idea for creating a game came from studying the manual of the SD-3300 where some simple presentation programs where described. In fact the writer of the SD-3300 manual deserves also to be named as co-inventor - sadly we do not know his name.
"Tennis for Two" dispayed on an oscilloscope
Tennis for Two reappears for the 1959 open-house, and modifications include a larger monitor to display the action, and changeable gravity settings to show what it would be like to play tennis on another planet. After this final appearance, the system is then dismantled and its components put to other uses.
William A. Higinbotham doesn't market or copyright his invention, thinking the idea so obvious as to be not worth pursuing. But his testimony is called upon years later during legal attempts to break the Magnavox videogame patent obtained through the development of their Odyssey home videogame system.
Who is Steve Russell ? The Creator of Spacewar!
Steve "Slug" Russell
Steve "Slug" Russell is a programmer and computer scientist most famous for creating Spacewar!, one of the earliest videogames, in 1961 with the fellow members of the "Tech Model Railroad Club" at MIT working on a DEC Digital PDP-1. Present are also Wayne Witanen and J. Martin Graetz, Alan Kotok, Peter Samson, Dan Edwards along with 25 year-old Steve Russell.
The game is to control two tiny spaceships, one called the "WEDGE" and
the other called the "NEEDLE", they battles around a tiny dot in the
middle of the screen that represent the Sun. The game featured an
accurate portrait of physics in outer space. MIT Student Peter Samson created a very realistic star field backdrop program called Expensive Planetarium
Spacewar! is such a huge hit with the computer community that copies are quickly spread around to other educational facilities in the U.S. across the then burgeoning Internet precursor ARPAnet, and DEC even uses the program to demonstrate the capabilities of its PDP-1 to new clients.
Not only would seeking royalties contradict the hacker ethos revered by these early computer geniuses, but also likely is the fact that the system Spacewar! is running on is the size of three refrigerators and costs US$120,000. Due to its public domain status, the game will end up being one of the most copied concepts in videogame history, from numerous arcade translations like Computer Space and Space Wars to home console games for systems like the Atari VCS and Odyssey2. History is also made by two Spacewar! addicts at MIT who wire together the first gaming joystick devices to replace the control switches.
Who is Ralph H. Baer ? Inventor of the Home Video Console and "Video Ping-Pong"
Working for a military contractor called Sanders Associates in 1966, Ralph H. Baer had an idea for a new use for televisions. He
had the vision to create a console that would enable people to play electronic
games on their television sets. Baer's first game was about putting out fires.
The game involved a red
box representing a house that was on fire. Players controlled the game
with a lever that represented a water pump. If they pumped the lever fast
enough, the box turned blue, meaning the fire was extinguished.
Baer sold his game machine to Magnavox.
Magnavox accepted Baer's technology but ignored his vision. Baer wanted
to create a simple device that could retail for under $20; Magnavox
programmed 12 games into the system, dressed it up with playing cards
and plastic overlays that players could put on their television screens,
and charged $100. They called the system the Odyssey.
The first prototypes of the Odyssey were finished in early 1972. In May,
Magnavox started demonstrating them around the country at private showings.
Toward the end of the month, the Odyssey was shown at a trade show in
Burlingame, California, just outside of San Francisco. One of the people who
attented at the show was a young engineer named Nolan Bushnell, he saw
the Odyssey and the games that it could played, and one of those game
cought Bushnell's eyes... Read an article written by Ralph H. Baer about the beginning of video PingPong and the Odyssey.
Who is Nolan Bushnell ? A very talented Marketing Manager
Nolan Bushnell promoting PONG, around 1974
Student at the University of Utah in 1962, became addicted to "Spacewar!" - Steve
Russell's game. He liked the game so much that in 1970, two years after
his graduation, took his daughter's bedroom and converted it into a
workshop in which he could create an arcade version of the game.
His first idea was to use a computer, prices of computers had dropped
sharply by this time but they still cost far too much to use in arcades.
But instead of using a computer, he built a device that could only play
"Spacewar!" with cruder graphics which he recalled it "Computer Space".
Later in 1971, he sold the idea to Bill Nutting, owner of Nutting
Associates. Nutting hired Bushnell to oversee the creation of Computer
Space while working on other engineering projects. They began to ship
the game by the end of 1971, but Computer Space was a failure. They
sold about 500 to 1,500 machines. Bushnell left Nutting Associates, formed a partnership with a friend
named Ted Dabney and opened a new company called Syzygy but saw that the
name already belonged to another company, so he chose - Atari.
Atari's first product was PONG, an electronic tennis match
in which players batted a square ball back and forth with rectangular
paddles. Created by engineer Al Alcorn - and NOT by Nolan Bushnell but
helped with the game since he saw the "Tennis" game on the Odyssey only a
few weeks ago at the Magnavox Profit Caravan demonstration in May of 1972.
Bushnell´s incriminating signature from the Magnavox Profit Caravan guestbook
where Odyssey was demonstrated in May of 1972
The original Atari PONG instructions
PONG was a simple game with minimal instructions.
BALL WILL SERVE AUTOMATICALLY
AVOID MISSING BALL FOR HIGH SCORE
Bushnell and Alcorn placed a prototype of their game in
Andy Capp's Tavern, a Sunnyvale, California bar. Two weeks after installing the game, Alcorn got a late-night phone call
from the manager of the bar.
The game had broken down, and he wondered if
he could fix it. When Alcorn went to check the machine, he found a most
unusual problem. There were so many quarters jammed into the coin drop
that the game had stopped working. Within a few months, Ramtek, Nutting,
and several other companies released imitations of Pong. Magnavox sued
Atari for infringing on Baer's patents and ended up paying Magnavox
$700,000! This is it, the first videogame court battle.
The original Atari PONG Arcade
In 1973, Eight to ten thousand units are made, PONG is an unprecedented
success. Ted Dabney panics about competition and sells half is share to
Bushnell. Bushnell forms Kee Games (named after Joe Keenan) to provide
"competition" for Atari.
In 1974, Atari began work on Home Pong, proposed by Harold Lee, a consumer
version of the popular arcade game that could be played on a television
set. Lee, Alcorn, and an engineer named Bob Brown develop the product.
Because of the Odyssey's poor sales record, no retailers are interested
in carrying the Atari Pong console, a tiny black and white box with two
mounted paddle controller dials.
In 1975, After being turned down by toys, electronics and department stores,
an Atari executive reached Tom Quinn, from Sears, Roebuck. After several
meetings with Bushnell, he ordered 150,000 Home Pong consoles for Christmas,
and the console is badged with the Sears Tele-Games logo.
By January 1976, Home Pong had become the new champion. Attracted by
Atari's success, several companies release home video game consoles.
Because of a rush on circuits, only Coleco receives its full order in time.
Based on technology largely similar to the Pong machine, Coleco's Telstar
Pong machine debuts. And a new menace for pongs systems is born: the
Fairchild Channel F, the first programmable home game console, and not
long after the RCA Studio 2 made it's appearence.
By 1977, Atari released a game system that change videogames forever:
the Atari 2600 VCS. Bally released the Astrocade in 1978. By the end
of '78, pongs became boring to play and companies ended producing and
marketing them since people wasn't bying them anymore. The fate of Pong
has been sealed and "died" without remorse.....fate can be cruel.
Well, to tell you the truth, there isn't really much specification about
"PONG" systems, the Odyssey 1 has no microchip, it was made with transistors. A microchip called the "AY-3-8500", made by General Instrument in
1975?, was THE chip that Coleco installed in their "PONG" system and that
many manufactuers did based their systems on this chip, more than 75 other
companys had issued similar video game clone units.
Thanks to Ramon Martinez, here's is the schematic of the AY-3-8500,
this info is greatly appreciated!
Mainly, "PONG" systems has:
- power ON/OFF
- 2 "paddles"(turning knobs, levers, sliders...)- up to 4
- RESET button
- SELECT GAME button or switch
- BEGINNER/INTERMEDIATE/PRO skill switch
- BAT SIZE (small/large) switch (may or not)
- BALL SPEED (slow/fast) switch (may or not)
- SLICE (min/max) switch (may or not)
- SERVE button or switch(manual/auto)(may or not)
- Color or Black&White
- 2 player generally (but can be 1 to 4 players)
- PISTOL or GUN (may or not)
And usually has those type of games:
- SQUASH (or SMASH,GRIDBALL,HANDBALL)
- JAI ALAI
- SKEET (or SHOOT)
4.0) What is Computer Space ? The first Arcade System
by Roger Earl from Electric Playground Game Reviews
Computer Space Advertisement
Considering that Computer Space was the world's first publically available
video game, it may seem a bit strange that most people have never heard of
it. Perhaps Computer Space is the ultimate example of how a video game needs
to be playable in order to be remembered. Pong captured the fame regardless
of the advantages that Computer Space had.
First publically available video game, almost a full year before Pong.
Futuristic looking fiberglass-molded cabinet.
Computer Chip design (Pong was solid-state).
Appeared in a popular Sci-Fi movie.
An original design created by Nolan Bushnell
(The Pong design was "borrowed").
Nolan Bushnell's pre-Atari company Syzygy (the name means: The Sun, Moon
and Earth in total eclipse) designed Computer Space and was manufactured by
Nutting Associates. To the best of my knowledge, Nutting never produced
another video game. Although loosely based on Steve Russell's Spacewar game
(1962), which Bushnell played on a PDP-1 computer at MIT, the game was
changed significantly enough to make the relation between the two disputable.
The game and cabinet were designed as an example of what future entertain-
ment would be like.
1.Insert quarter and press start; your rocket ship will appear.
2.There is no gravity in space; rocket speed can only be changed by engine
3.Evade the saucers' missiles and use yours to score hits.
4.Outscore the saucers for extended play in hyperspace.
You controlled a rocketship around a starfield on the black & white
screen with a shoot or be shot style of gameplay against "computer-guided"
flying saucers. Actually, the flying saucers only tended to move up, down,
or diagonally (a Z pattern). Like many games of the era, hitting the targets
largely depending on mastering the phenomena known as "after-touch", meaning
the bullets could be guided after you have shot them. The game was timed,
with bonus (hyperspace level) time according to your performance. A switch
setting inside the machine could allow two games on a single quarter. Two
"games", not lives, because your score was completely reset at the end of a
timed game. The controls consisted of four buttons: thrust, fire, rotate
left and right.
What is missing in my description is the fact that the game was incredibly
slow. Computer ciruit technology just wasn't ready for the graphical
intensity of video games, that is perhaps the main reason why Nolan Bushnell
went with a solid-state design on his next project. The other problem was
the feeling of inevitable failure that came along with the time limit,
cushioned only slightly by the promise of bonus time. Combining the
frustration of turning ever so slowly on an inclosing invader.
With the clock ticking, giving you the kind of dread that a video game
should never impose. After the game is over, you have an urge to push your
nose high in the air and try to feel superior to a game that has only beaten
you because of its lack of technological prowess.
So Computer Space didn't take off as a runaway hit, that was reserved for
Pong the next year. At the most it was considered a novelty.
Even so, it wasn't a complete disaster or at least the manufacturers had a
bit of faith in it eventually catching on. I say this because after the
initial run of machines, they released a two player version with alternative
controls (strange joystick-dial combos). Both versions were available in
three colors: candy-apple blue, candy-apple red, & candy-apple green. The
candy-apple part meaning that they were painted in that metallic sparkling
stuff that was so popular in the 1970's. The cabinets looked so much like
a prop in a Buck Rogers film that one was featured in the Charlton Heston
Sci-Fi cheeser Soylent Green, although they had painted it white to match
the decor of the film.
Computer Space has the same charm that the Ed Wood films do. It is a game
so bad as to be a bit amusing. Collectors travel great distances to
obtain one and with good reason. If I were to rate Computer Space as a
piece of pop-art to place in your office or home, I would without a doubt
give it a glorious 10 out of 10. As a piece of nostalgia it doesn't rate
high for me because I don't remember it from it's original era. As a game,
I doubt if it would score even a 1. So I'm doing something a bit strange
with the score on this game, I'm compromising for which I can without a
doubt say is the best coin-op cabinet ever made...
The Odyssey (AKA Odyssey I) Came Out In 1972 and was invented by Ralph Baer.
It played a game "PingPong" as well as a number of additional
games that required overlays and playing pieces.
The Odyssey had two
removable controllers that allowed the user to control their paddle in BOTH
the x and y axis. In addition, the Odyssey came with 6 Cartridges that
(along with a number of screen overlays, game boards and cards) allowed the
user to play a number of different games.
As an option, Odyssey owners could
buy the "Shooting Gallery" which included four more games and an electronic
gun. The gun was simply light sensitive and a score can be racked up quite
easily by pointing it at your local light bulb.
* Odyssey console (of course !)
* Two plug-in controllers
* Six Magnavox C-cells (when you buy it at the time)
* Six Plug-In Game Cartridges (no# 1 through 6),
* Original switchbox with two hooks and box,
* 12 foot game cord,
* 36 or 24 pages instruction manual
* Eleven 18" TV overlays
* Eleven 23" TV overlays
* Game Field/Roulette Board
* Stadium Scoreboard
* Two football tokens
* Two yardage markers
* 20 pass cards
* 20 run cards
* 10 kick off cards
* 10 punt cards
* 6 play cards
* 30 clue cards
* 13 secret message cards
* 48 plastic chips(sealed)
* Two Dice
* Play money
* 50 state cards
* Affairs of State (answer folder)
* States study map
* 28 Simon Says cards
* Cat and Mouse stickers(25) sheet.
It's interesting to note that future game cards were planned and there was
an accessory port. If you look at its innards - there are NO Integrated
Circuits (IC´s) at all. About 85,000 Odyssey's were sold in 1972 and about
20,000 rifles. Apparently people believed you had to own a Magnavox
television for it to work which scared away some buyers. After that time,
the Odyssey sales fell due to the outbreak of competition.
Many thanks to these guys !!! If it wasn't for them or for their info,
this FAQ wouln't exist !!
* Martin Buchholz
* Randy Buss
* Greg Chance
* Steve Cooper
* Dean Dierschow
* Phillippe Dubois
* Roger Earl
* Eric Hamel
* Kevan Heydon
* Tom Howe
* Robert A. Jung
* Steven Kent
* Corey Koltz
* Jeremy Larsen
* Harold A. Layer
* Ramon Martinez
* Dan Mazurowski
* Doug Manegre (DougM)
* Rene Meyer
* Danny Monaghan
* David Orlikowski
* Fabrizio Pedrazzini
* Rico Quetzalcoatl
* Christopher Rodgers
* Glenn Saunders
* Joe Scoleri(the Maverick)
* Lee K. Seitz
* Pieter Verhallen
* Alan Watkins
* Sam Z...?
* Jason "Kaotic Page" * EGM Magazine
* the Japanese Classic Videogame Station Odyssey
* the defunct Arton's Pong Page
* and some few people that I lost their name and some
info due to my harddisk crash...
Thanks and see you in the next version ! Copyright 1997-1999, Sylvain De Chantal, firstname.lastname@example.org
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