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Early Years

Chronology of the History of Video Games

editor: Ted Stahl

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History of Video Games

The Early years <- you're here
The Golden Age
The Modern Age
The "Next" generation

History of Computing

pre history
pre-industrial era
Industrial era

History of the Internet

Pin-pointing the beginning of any new technology can be determined by establishing parameters to quantify and qualify it. However, it would be irresponsible to ignore initial contributions that were steps toward said technology just because they may not meet all critera of the fully evolved form. In the case of the history of video games, these early years hold the initial insights, ideas, and curious experiments that demonstrated human interest in interacting with machines for amusement.



A.S. Douglas writes a version of Tic-Tac-Toe (aka Noughts and Crosses) for the EDSAC as part of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Cambridge. He was interested in exploring the interaction between humans and computers.

To try Noughts and Crosses for yourself, you can download an EDSAC emulator from the Department of Computer Science website at the University of Warwick by clicking here.



William Higinbotham creates a rudimentary form of electronic tennis that utilized an oscilloscope as a display. This device is solely intended for an open house at the U.S. Government's Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he is employed. (Though many refer to this as the original Pong, it is an invention in isolation. Higinbotham never patented this game and no one beyond those who saw the device at the open house ever heard of it. His invention serves as a clever use of technology, but without recognition of its potential, Higinbotham's "Tennis For Two" had no direct impact on the evolution of video games.)



Steve Russell creates Spacewar! on a DEC PDP-1 while working on his graduate degree in engineering at MIT. The game is subsequently modified by a number of other students who add features including a star field, hyperspace capability, and gravity effects. Unlike Higinbotham's contribution to gaming, Spacewar! makes a significant impact and is seen by thousands of students over the next few years. Nolan Bushnell, who was attending the University of Utah, was one of those students.



Ralph Baer begins exploring with ways to use the television as a display device for interactive entertainment. While working at Sanders Associates, he begins development of a prototype of a video game system.



Ralph Baer files one of his many video game patents on August 21st, 1969. This one is specifically for creating a "Television Gaming Apparatus and Method." This is just one of many pieces that would later would evolve into the Magnavox Odyssey. While working for Sanders Associates, they tried to market the device to a number of commercial television manufacturers. Many were interested, but feared that it would damage the picture tubes of the televisions. RCA seemed willing to invest, but wanted to buy out Sanders Associates and own the patent outright. When Sanders Associates were unwilling to be bought out, RCA lost interest.




Magnavox signs a deal with Ralph Baer to develop the Odyssey.

Nolan Bushnell begins to develop Computer Space, a free-standing version of Spacewar! that people would pay to play.




main page Last Updated on 14 February, 2005 For suggestions please mail the editors 



Footnotes & References