Editor Videogames section for the History of Computing Foundation
specialty: Videogame Hardware & Software, Multimedia and Graphic Design
Ted Stahl earned a double-major Bachelors degree in English and Communication and later followed with a Masters of Research in Communication. He currently works for Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A. as the manager of their ITS Educational Technology Instructional Multimedia area. He has always enjoyed creative outlets. Early, as a musician playing the violin, clarinet, saxaphone, guitar and keyboard, and later as a graphic designer, videographer, and multimedia author. It was his discovery of the computer as a creative tool that enabled him to find ways to merge so many of his interests.
He enjoyed learning about computing on his family's TRS-80 Model I and, a few years later, their Tandy 1000. However, it was with his own purchase of a new Atari 1040ST that he began to see his creative vision congeal. The motivation for purchasing the 1040ST was its built-in M.I.D.I. ports that enabled the computer to handle the hardware aspects of interfacing and controlling his synthesizers. He found himself able to compose more complex pieces than he ever could with his old 4-track cassette deck thanks to tools like Hybrid Arts' "SMPTE Track" and Intelligent Music's "M." Yet, that was only the beginning. After working with Antic Software's CAD 3D Cyberstudio, he became fascinated with 3D rendering and incorporating 3D generated elements into graphic design and video. And, of course, the Atari ST was known for some wonderful games that absorbed any other time that he had left. Titles like Dungeon Master, Falcon, Oids, Simulcra, and Typhoon Thompson provided the opportunity for great distraction during long recording or design sessions.
It is his fascination with the merging of media that led to his appreciation of videogames over the years. The fact is that videogames have evolved into a medium that enables us to immerse ourselves in a robust interactive stories involving the integration of powerful music soundtracks, impressive graphic design, and thrilling cinematography.
It is this (and perhaps getting Super Pong for Christmas in 1976) that has always drawn him to videogames. The first time he saw Pong on a television screen, he was fascinated. As far as he was concerned, it was magic that a box connected to a television could create an image that he could control. Unfortunately, when his parents recognized that Pong was just the beginning of videogames, they put a moritorium on console purchases for the household. Instead, they re-directed his interest toward the computer. They figured that he would get some educational skills in addition to videogame playing with a computer.
This was the belief of many families in North America in the early 1980s and it led to the eventual North American videogame crash. Yet, Ted still found ways to enjoy videogames even though his family didn't purchase another console. He played Adventure, Space Invaders, Missile Command, and Demon Attack on his friends' Atari VCS systems and treasured weekend afternoons spent with friends at the videogame arcade at his local bowling alley. In the late 70s and early 80s, the arcade was an experience in socialization for youth who didn't have the skills and/or interest in sports. It enabled many to compete based on intelligence and hand/eye coordination rather than athletic prowess. And once arcade machines implimented a high-score ranking complete with the ability to enter one's initials (Atari's Asteroids was the first to do this), Ted and his friends were able to prove how good they were to the other patrons. In all honesty, there were only a few games that he was ever good enough to get his initials on, but that didn't prevent him from enjoying them all.
So as Ted grew up, he appreciated most videogame consoles through his friends, and he enjoyed computer-based titles at home. These included Adventure and The Temple of Apshai on the family's TRS-80, continued with the King's Quest series on the Tandy 1000, and then his experiences broadened with the Atari ST, the Macintosh, and his PCs. The fact is that his parents were right about the computer. He never used a computer solely for videogames. This led them to feel that he wasn't "always" wasting his time in front of the computer.
However, with the introduction of the PlayStation, Ted decided to migrate his gaming experience off of the computer and back into the console. One of the primary reasons was because playing a game on a computer usually requires at least 30 minutes of installation and configuration first. And most titles keep at least a portion of their code on the harddrive. With larger games, this can use quite a bit of space. He found that he could only have a few games installed at any given time on a machine and if a friend came over to see a game that wasn't installed, it could be a pain. With the introduction of Sony's PlayStation, the console-based videogames seemed to be every bit as interesting as the computer-based videogames. And all you have to do to play a game on a PlayStation is stick the disc in the console and turn the power on. It was the combination of the convenience with the quality of the PlayStation titles at that time that re-introduced Ted to videogame consoles.
At that point, he took a serious look at the industry and its history. This was a history that he had experienced personally on many levels. However, he had never really analyzed it until this point. And at this particular time, it was more significant than before because videogames had become a multi-billion-dollar industry. They were on the cusp of eclipsing the motion picture industry in profits. It was the recognition of the statistics and his own personal fascination with the medium that drove him to read, research and speak with those around him about this entertainment form.
It's hard to say what the draw is in videogames. In part, it is the fascination with the interactive nature of the medium - the ability for one to be able to control what he/she sees on the screen. On another level, it is the pleasure derived from overcoming a challenge. And still more, there is a sense of appreciation of the artistic expression of the videogame - visually, audibly, and interactively. Whether it be the TRS-80 version of Temple of Aphsai with its "chunkalicious" graphics, or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (complete with its 8-CD soundtrack), this medium has grown into a truly artistic narrative form thanks to the evolution of the powerful hardware through which it is experienced. And this is why the history of videogames is such an integral part of the history of computing and why Ted Stahl is so honored to be a part of THoCP.
|Last Updated on January 30, 2005||For suggestions please mail the editors|