Today is National Video Games Day. In 1971, a company named Nutting Associates released Computer Space, the first commercial arcade video game.
Although it wasn’t a huge financial success, it began a fruitful partnership between creators Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, who left and opened their own outfit called Atari. They introduced Pong the following year.
In May 1972, Magnavox launched the world’s first home video game system. Initially dubbed the Brown Box by designer Ralph Baer, the unit later became known as the Odyssey and Baer, “the father of home video games.”
The Odyssey was sold exclusively in Magnavox stores; customers were told it only worked with the brand’s television sets, a convenient lie. By the end of the year, the company reported it had sold 100,000 units for approximately $100 each.
The box contained no microprocessor, only a board of transistors and diodes. The display consisted of white squares on a black background and was accompanied by a user manual and six cards that contained pinouts to change game settings. Custom plastic overlays had to be taped over the television screen to create color and very simple graphics.
In 1975, Atari introduced a home version of its popular arcade game, Pong, which quickly surpassed Magnavox’s sales. In 1976, Fairchild Camera and Instrument introduced the first cartridge-based system. RCA released the cartridge-based Studio II in January 1977, but it focused mainly on educational titles.
In October 1977, Atari released the Atari VCS with an initial offering of nine games, including Air-Sea Battle, Basic Math, Blackjack, Combat, Indy 500, Star Ship, Street Racer, Surround and Video Olympics. This system, later renamed the Atari 2600, would go on to dominate the industry for many years.
Celebrate National Video Games Day on your home console or enjoy the latest massively multiplayer online game. Throw a party with game-themed decorations and food. Pick up some old Atari 2600 joysticks on eBay, spray paint them and give them as trophies for the best costumes.
Happy National Video Games Day!