first successful commercial video game originally was not such




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Portal Gizmodo decided to share a little-known fact about one of the oldest and most popular video games in history. In this article, we’ll discuss the game Pong, which was developed by who joined the company Atari Allan Alcorn. It turns out this video on its original idea was not planned as a commercial product.

When Alcorn was hired at Atari in 1972, Nolan Bushnell, who founded the company with Ted Dabney, Allan said that Atari has recently signed a contract with GE, through which the company Bushnell has committed to establish a very simple electronic game of table tennis. The task was to create a field on which the two vertical lines (imitating a tennis racket) repelled each other “ball”, and the scoreboard showing the current account in the game. Management was carried out at the same time thanks to two controllers, the so-called paddle.

Only here the point is that in fact no contract with GE Bushnell did not sign, but only wanted to entrust Alcorn to design something very simple, because Alcorn had no experience in the design and development of video games, though had a very useful set of knowledge computer science and electrical engineering. And despite the fact that this game is not ultimately intended for a wide audience, Bushnell wanted to make Alcorn think that this project is very important and requires a lot of effort in its implementation.

After reviewing the terms of reference for this game, Alcorn found it very boring and so I decided to add some fun to the game: to make sure that the ball could bounce off the racket at impact angles. In addition, Allan made it so that the ball after each successful strike increased his speed take-off. By a happy occasion in the code of this program the error occurred as a result of which the ball could now fight not only on the racket, but also on the top and bottom edges of the playing field. Alcorn felt that it would make the game even more interesting, as experienced players will try to deceive his opponent, sending the ball in a different direction.

Despite the fact that the game Pong was originally conceived as a training simulator for programming skills, Bushnell and Dabney very impressed that Alcorn has developed in just a few months. Although leaders still remain skeptical look at the commercial potential of the product, they decided to try out a prototype in place of the bar Andy Capp’s Tavern and see the reaction of visitors. They thought that if the game will appeal to visitors places, they try to find a way to sell it to Bally Manufacturing or Midway Manufacturing – two companies with which Atari had entered into contracts for the development of other games.

In the end, both of these companies are very interested in this game. However, during the first week since the start of testing in the bar game was “hang” and Alcorn sent to repair it. Once in place, Alcorn found that the fault of the game took place due to the fact that the pouch of coins (the role of which are usually carried out cartons of milk) was exhausted, and the coin fell on the electronic board, called a closure.

The manager later admitted drinking establishment Bushnell, customers literally lining up to play this game. From this point on Bushnell understood and agreed that she should start Atari mass production of this game. To implement this ideas, Bushnell told (actually cheating) Bally that allegedly Midway does not see potential in this game. Then he convinced Midway that Bally did not see the commercial potential of Pong. When both companies heard this, they decided to retreat. So at Bunella remained all rights to Pong, and at the same time an opportunity to continue to work with these companies.

After numerous financial and operational difficulties on the market yet received the first arcade game Pong, which immediately gained immense popularity, bringing creators from one arcade machine from 35 to 45 dollars a day. Later, Atari released a home version of the game, which is exclusively distributed through retail chain Sears. The home version has become so popular that the first Christmas, when the game went on sale, it sold more than 150,000 copies of Pong. So originally developed simulator to hone programming skills became the first commercially successful game in the history and the founder of the first game of the boom.
Bonus facts:

From the words of Nolan Bushnell, Atari got its name in honor of the phrases sounded in the logical board game «Go». In this game, the capture of another stone (chips) of the enemy player usually says «atari», which is the equivalent of the word “check” in chess. The very same word «atari» is derived from the Japanese word «ataru», meaning “hit the target”;
The idea of ​​the game Pong could (and perhaps could not) appear in the head Bushnell after reading other electronic version of ping-pong, developed by Magnavox. The essence is that the game was designed by Magnavox before Pong. According to some versions Bushnell was able to play this game on the Magnavox Odyssey – the first home video game console. It is said that a few months before the release of Pong Bushnell was able to play the game from the Magnavox at a trade show, held in San Francisco. However, the Bushnell says that he has not been on any show, and in any game is not played. In fairness it should be noted that the only “witness” that Bushnell is still playing this game at the exhibition are the only employees of the most Magnavox. Whatever it was, the success of Pong Magnavox forced to sue Atari for violation of their patents. It is important to note that the market had been earlier versions of the electronic table tennis, which were released before the game from Magnavox and in which he played the Bushnell (even as a college student). Many believed that Atati can win this trial (although several later Nintendo tried to sue the Magnavox on the same ground, but lost the case). However, this matter as to the court and did not make it, because Atari did not have money for his defense (at the then estimated it would cost the company $ 1.5 million). Realizing the futility of the trial, Magnavox Atari has decided to offer a very peaceful way out of court proceedings – Atari pays them 700 thousand dollars, and Magnavox forgets this fact. Magnavox nevertheless decided to sue the companies producing clones of Pong. Unlike Atari, which has no money left after paying 700 thousand dollars for the settlement of this conflict, wallets its competitors, produces a copy of Pong, were full;
Another point that was specified in the decision between Magnavox and Atari, lay in the fact that the Magnavox all rights to all new commercial products that will be released within the next calendar year. To avoid such penalties, Atari decided to just not release any consumer products throughout the year and at the same time retaining all of its planned products in development. What’s interesting is that the agreement was signed a week before the largest annual international exhibition of electronics Consumer Electronics Show. Atari could produce new products, but could not release them until the next CES. During this time, Magnavox literally pounded his lawyers office Atari, to those from time to time to check what the company Bushnell during this imposed ban;
Ralph Baer, ​​creator of the electronic version of table tennis from Magnavox – games around which the company sued Atari, – and also created the first game-shooting for a light gun. Later, this idea will be used by Nintendo in its game «Duck Hunt». In addition, Bayer is the creator of the popular in the 80s electronic game «Simon» for memory training;
The reason why the Bushnell believed that Pong will not be commercially viable product was the fact that, in his opinion, the game is too simple to entertain humans. This is a very interesting observation. Before becoming a co-founder of Atari, Nolan Bushnell (and Dabney) developed a game called «Computer Space», which became the world’s first commercially available video game which required the player coins for the job. The player’s task it was in flight on a space ship and destroy other spaceships. The game proved to be very unpopular with the public testing. Players have complained about its excessive complexity and general lack of understanding of what the same from them in it they want. However, in the circle of university dormitories really liked the game. Particularly interested in her future electrical engineers. Despite all this, Bushnell and has not learned from its mistakes. Alcorn once said:

“Nolan gave it to me, because, in his opinion, it was the simplest game in the world. He just did not see her play value. He believed that the future of the game that will bring him success, should be much more difficult than the same Computer Space. Nolan did not want me to talk about it, because these words, of course, would not have motivated me to work on Pong. He just wanted to do something to get rid of it. ”

In other words, Bushnell essentially became the “father of video games”, even without knowing it;
Project home gaming consoles Pong had the working title of «Darlene». It turns out that Darlene – is the name of a very attractive girl, then worked in the Atari;
According to the original idea Bushnell and Ted Dabney wanted to Alcorn added to the sounds of screams Pong and whistles that have been played, each time you change the account or losing. Fortunately (because Pong then would become really annoying), Alcorn at that time did not know how to create similar sounds, and to the same printed circuit board already had a lot of other parts. Instead Alcorn found another solution for sound effects in Pong:

“I’m just a little tricky to master clock to find the right frequency and tone. As a result, all the sounds were created in an afternoon. In fact, all the sounds contained in the machine itself “;

Soon after the release of Pong Atari has created a new independent company Kee Games, which allegedly worked as their competitor. Communication between Atari and Kee Games was kept secret. Office Kee Games engaged neighbor Bushnell, Joe Keenan. The meaning of this venture was to getting from distributors “exclusive” contracts for the development of new games. In this game, produced by these two companies were to almost exact copies of each other and would differ only in minor details, which would help to miss a trick distributors. A year later, the plot yet been disclosed. When the public learned that the Kee Games was created, and to a greater or lesser extent, governed by the most Atari, it was closed. However, due to the phenomenal work done in the Kee Games Joe Keenan was appointed president of Atari;
Game console Atari 2600 was the first Atari game system with support for multiple games. At the moment, this gaming console still holds the record for “prefix with the highest life-cycle.” He is fourteen years and two months. Production consoles, it was decided to stop in 1992;
In the early stages of the game console Atari 2600 was not very popular due to the fact that many people simply did not understand that it can be played in other games, not just in the different versions of Pong, whose popularity began to decline slowly. In the first year of its release it was sold only 250 thousand game consoles Atari 2600. However, sales of consoles increased sharply in 1982. As a result, Atari sold 10 million game consoles, and virtually the same number of copies of their most popular video games, including Space Invaders and Pacman. All this has allowed Atari to earn $ 2 billion;
For its time, the Atari 2600 had a very powerful “iron” and was one of the most powerful home gaming systems based on the CPU. Its processor is a special version of the crystal MOS Technology 6507, worked at an impressive rate of 1.19 MHz. The “truncated” version of the chip could handle 4 KB of memory, and the console itself was set to 128 bytes of RAM;
Game console Atari 2700, which has not gone on sale, had a wireless remote control with a radius of up to 304 meters (!). The problem consoles, and more precisely, its wireless control was the fact that any other console Atari within 304 meters could be exposed to waves of wireless controllers. Furthermore, controllers of this console have sensory, rather than the usual buttons. Unfortunately, the problems with the system itself, its interface and a huge range of the wireless controller does not allow the console to enter the market;
Just four years since the founding of Atari and the upcoming release of the Atari 2600 game console, Bushnell sold the company to Warner Communications company about 30 million (120 million by today’s standards) dollars. After just nine years of Warner Communications sold Atari to Jack Tramelu, founder of Commodore International, later left it, for $ 240 million in securities, equal to about half a billion dollars by today’s standards;
The prototype of the original arcade Pong was compiled on the basis of black and white TV of Hitachi, which Alcorn bought for $ 75 in the store Payless, which was located next to the office Atari. To the finished machine was added to the milk carton, which acted as a collector for the trivia game. The only instructions on how to play the game, was the phrase: “Do not miss the mark on the ball”;
It is very interesting that breakthrough game console Magnavox Odyssey was not able to become a popular home video game console to a greater extent because people did not realize that the prefix can work perfectly with any TV. Most people believe that the console only works in conjunction with television Magnavox. This fact, as well as the failures of the marketing department Magnavox allowed companies such as Atari and Nintendo, to take a leading position in the market;
Nintendo came into the business of issuing home consoles in 1977, when they released their console Color TV Game 6. This console allows you to play six different versions of the ping-pong table. After that, the Japanese company has released a prefix Color TV Game 15, which is easy to guess, allowing people to play in 15 different versions of this game. It is worth noting that all of these clones Pong Nintendo’s really been successful and have sold over one million copies. This allowed Nintendo, whose business in the market consoles were at that time not very good, to stay afloat.

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