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Pong

Pong is the first commercially successful video arcade game. Commonly mistaken to also be the first video game, Nolan Bushnell’s new company Atari Inc. released Pong in November 1972, one year to the month after his trailblazing but commercially unsuccessful Computer Space video arcade game was released.

Unlike the multi-button Computer Space, Pong’s success came from its simplicity: “avoid missing ball for high score”, where two players use a dial to volley a ball across the screen in tennis-like fashion. Due to this success, Pong was quickly copied by rival companies hoping to cash in on the new market. Atari itself released several variations of Pong.

There are two cabinet versions in the collection: the first cabinet features a flat lower front panel and a baker’s bread pan as a makeshift coin box. The second version features an angled front, presumably to provide additional foot room when standing in front of the game.

After a several years-long search, I was fortunate to acquire this game from another arcade collector in 2009. Nearly 1600 miles of driving later, this fully functioning and excellent condition Pong was finally in the collection. The game had previously been rescued from storage in the mid-west US. Little else is known about the history of this particular machine other than its circuit board was repaired just prior to acquiring it.

Ironically, after years of unsuccessful searching for this historic yet elusive arcade game, the second one was located and purchased within 20 minutes of home for a fraction of the price not but a month or two later.

Computer Space

Computer Space is the world’s first commercial video arcade game. Based on the early mainframe computer game Spacewar!, this one-player shooting contest pits a player-controlled rocket ship against computer-controlled flying saucers.

The game uses no microprocessor or memory – all game logic and display is achieved by employing a state-machine design consisting of logic gates and diodes. An off-the-shelf GE 15-inch black-and-white television was factory-modified for use as the video display and a metal paint-thinner can serves as the coin bucket. The game was conceived by Nolan Bushnell and designed by Ted Dabney.

Computer Space was manufactured in a futuristic-styled fiberglass cabinet in several colors: red, blue, yellow, and green. A one-of-a-kind white model appears in the 1973 science-fiction film Soylent Green. It is estimated that Nutting Associates produced 1300-1500 units in total, as the game was not a commercial success.

The game in my collection is red and is serial number 10116. It includes the original paint thinner can and was acquired in southern California.