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It's a long way from Call of Duty! How the multi-billion pound video games industry began 40 years ago with table tennis in black and white Classic video game was the first release by Atari in 1972They were later sued after another company claimed it stole their idea
00:07 GMT, 27 November 2012
Now here's an anniversary to make you feel old. Pong is 40 this week.
The classic video game, one of the first to reach mainstream popularity, was officially released on November 29, 1972 – 40 years ago this Thursday.
The two-dimensional table tennis simulator, the first release by Atari, is credited with being one of the progenitors of the video games industry, which is now worth a phenomenal $65billion a year.
Simple, but addictive: Pong, the first release by Atari, is credited with being one of the progenitors of the video games industry, which is now worth a phenomenal $65billion a year
The simple two-dimensional simulation of ping pong, consists merely of two paddles which moved up and down to pass a moving spot between each player.
Yet its addictive gameplay captured the imagination of thousands of players around the world, building Atari's status as an early video games giant.
The game was designed by Allan Alcorn, an expert in electrical engineering and computer science, who was handed the project as a training exercise by Atari co-founders Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney.
It was not the first commercial coin-operated video game – that accolade belongs to Computer Space, which Dabney and Bushnell helped to develop for Nutting Associates.
But it was the first to really take off with the paying public, spawning a host of imitators and, indeed, a lawsuit from the makers of the first home computer games console who claimed it was a rip-off of their product.
Despite that, it formed the basis of Atari's first home video games console and, following a settlement, the company went on to become, for a time, the world leader.
The high tech of the old days: Liverpool FC and England footballer Steve Heighway and a woman playing the computer tennis game Pong on the Videomaster games console
Atari's Home Pong console, released through Sears in 1975: A far cry from today's all singing, all dancing motion sensitive video games entertainment systems
Pong is a two-dimensional sports game that simulates table tennis.
The player controls an in-game paddle by moving it vertically across the left side of the screen, and can compete against either a computer controlled opponent or another player controlling a second paddle on the opposing side.
Players use the paddles to hit a ball back and forth, with the aim being for one to earn more points than opponents by forcing fail to to return the ball to the other.
Pong was the first game developed by Atari after its incorporation in June 1972 by Bushnell and Dabney, who were fresh from producing Computer Space.
The pair asked Alcorn, an expert in electrical engineering and computer science who had no computer games experience, to develop the game as an exercise to familiarise him with game production.
Bushnell told Alcorn that he had a contract with General Electric for a product, and asked him to create a simple game with one moving spot, two paddles, and digits for score keeping.
The way we played: A little boy plays a video game of noughts and crosses in a picture dated to 1975
Youngsters play on a Sega Mega Drive: The video games industry has come on in leaps and bounds since its early beginnings
ATARI CO-FOUNDER'S DOUBTS ABOUT THE LATEST NINTENDO
Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell has said he doesn't get Nintendo's latest tablet-controlled console the Wii U and told of his doubts about its long term success.
'I am baffled by it,' he says in an interview with the New York Times. 'I don't think it's going to be a big success.'
He told the paper that Nintendo's latest machine could mark the end of an era in which consoles are the dominant force in gaming.
'These things will continue to sputter along, but I really don’t think they’ll be of major import ever again,' he said, adding that consoles are being made obsolete by mobile games.
Nintendo has admitted it is losing money on every Wii U sold, but claims that the sale of just one game per machine would put them back in the black.
Alcorn built the first prototype from a $75 Hitachi black and white television set bought from a local shop and placed in a 4ft wooden cabinet, with wires soldered into boards to create the necessary circuitry.
Feeling the basic game was too boring, Alcorn added features to give the game more appeal, according to Wikipedia. He divided the paddle into eight segments to change the ball's angle of return.
For example, the centre segments return the ball a 90 angle in relation to the paddle, while the outer segments return the ball at smaller angles.
He also made the ball accelerate the more it was returned back and forth between paddles; missing the ball reset the speed.
Despite its simplicity, the game impressed Bushnell and Dabney so much that they felt it could be profitable and they installed a prototype in a local bar for market testing, where it was a success.
Despite interests from gaming companies including Midway, which would later go on to fame with the Mortal Kombat series, Atari decided to build the product themselves and by 1973 were shipping Pong cabinets worldwide.
Experts consider Pong the game that launched the video game industry, with the release of its home version in 1974 the successful beginning of home video game consoles.