Sunday, June 15, 2008

History of Video Games

The origin of video games lies in early cathode ray tube-based missile defense systems in the late 1940s. These programs were later adapted into other simple games during the 1950s. By the late 1950s and through the 1960s, more computer games were developed (mostly on mainframe computers), gradually increasing in sophistication and complexity. Following this period, video games diverged into different platforms: arcade, mainframe, console, personal computer and later handheld games.
The first commercially viable video game was Computer Space in 1971, which laid the foundation for a new entertainment industry in the late 1970s within the United States, Japan, and Europe. The first major crash in 1977 occurred when companies were forced to sell their older obsolete systems flooding the market. Six years later a second, greater crash occurred. This crash—brought on largely by a flood of poor quality video games coming to the market—resulted in a total collapse of the console gaming industry in the United States, ultimately shifting dominance of the market from North America to Japan. While the crash killed the console gaming market, the computer gaming market was largely unaffected. Subsequent generations of console video games would continue to be dominated by Japanese corporations. Though several attempts would be made by North American and European companies, fourth generation of consoles, their ventures would ultimately fail. Not until the sixth generation of video game consoles would a non-Japanese company release a commercially successful console system. The handheld gaming market has followed a similar path with several unsuccessful attempts made by American companies all of which failed outside some limited successes in the handheld electronic games early on. Currently only Japanese companies have any major successful handheld gaming consoles, although in recent years handheld games have come to devices like cellphones and PDAs as technology continues to converge.

A device called the Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device was patented in the United States by Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann. The patent was filed on January 25, 1947, and issued on December 14, 1948. It is described using eight vacuum tubes to simulate a missile firing at a target and contains knobs to adjust the curve and speed of the missile. Because computer graphics could not be drawn electronically at the time, small targets were drawn on a simple overlay and placed on the screen.

Tennis for Two
In 1949-1950, Charley Adama created a "Bouncing Ball" program for MIT's Whirlwind computer. While the program was not yet interactive, it was a precursor to games soon to come.
In February 1951, Christopher Strachey tried to run a draughts program he had written for the NPL Pilot ACE. The program exceeded the memory capacity of the machine and Strachey recoded his program for a machine at Manchester with a larger memory capacity by October.
Also in 1951, while developing television technologies for New York based electronics company Loral, inventor Ralph Baer came up with the idea of using the lights and patterns he used in his work as more than just calibration equipment. He realized that by giving an audience the ability to manipulate what was projected on their television sets, their role changed from passive observing to interactive manipulation. When he took this idea to his supervisor, it was quickly squashed because the company was already behind schedule.
OXO, a graphical version tic-tac-toe, was created by A.S. Douglas in 1952 at the University of Cambridge, in order to demonstrate his thesis on human-computer interaction. It was developed on the EDSAC computer, which uses a cathode ray tube as a visual display to display memory contents. The player competes against the computer.
In 1958 William Higinbotham created a game using an oscilloscope and analog computer. Titled Tennis for Two, it was used to entertain visitors of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Tennis for Two showed a simplified tennis court from the side, featuring a gravity-controlled ball that needed to be played over the "net," unlike its successor—Pong. The game was played with two box-shaped controllers, both equipped with a knob for trajectory and a button for hitting the ball. Tennis for Two was exhibited for two seasons before its dismantlement in 1959.