The Early History of Gaming – Part 1

Since it made its first steps in the commercial fore in the 50s as something of a technological oddity at a science fair, gaming has evolved into one of the world’s more profitable forms of entertainment. The recent explosion in mobile technology has seen gaming go through its latest revolution and pave the way for a new crop of gamers. Gaming is now such a huge part of popular culture that even grandmothers are aware of a game known as Angry Birds and over 42% of Americans consider themselves gamers, with 80% of households in the U.S. owning a console.

Early days

Dr Edward Uhler Condon showed off the very first recognised game machine in 1940 at the New York World’s Fair. It was based on an old maths game called Nim. Around 50,000 peopled played Nim in the half a year that the game was displayed, with the computer allegedly winning over 90% of all games played.

It wasn’t almost 30 years later, however, that we saw the first game system meant for commercial home use when the Brown Box was released in 1967 by Ralph Baer. The Brown Box was a tube-circuit that connected to a television and enabled two players to control cubes chasing each other on the screen. It could play a number of different games, such as sports games, checkers, and ping pong.

Advanced technology, at least for the day, was used to add such accessories as an attachment for a golf putting game and a light gun for a target shooting game. Looking back, Baer said that they weren’t sure that they had a valid product until they realised, they could play ping pong with it.

Magnavox licensed the product and released the game system in 1972 under the name Magnavox Odyssey. Atari is often considered to have been the first games console but that didn’t come until a few months later.

From 1972-1975 when the system was discontinued, approximately 300,000 products were sold. Poor mismanagement of in-store marketing campaigns was blamed for low sales figures, along with the reality that home gaming was still somewhat of a new concept to Americans at that time. While it may have been mismanaged, the case remains that it was the birth of what we today know as digital gaming.

Arcade gaming and Atari

Taito and Sega were the very first companies to create interest in arcade gaming after they released two electro-mechanical games in the mid-60’s called Crown Special soccer and Periscope. Nolan Bushnell, known as the Godfather of Gaming, founded Atari in 1972. It became the very first gaming company to create a significant benchmark for a wide-scale community around gaming.

Atari developed their titles in-house whole also developing an entire new industry around the “arcade”. In 1973, the company also sold the first actual electronic video game. Gamers could buy Pong for $1,095. In addition, shopping malls, bowling alleys, and bars all over the world began to introduce arcade machines into their venues.