Tennis for Two: Before the era of electronic pong, with the yellow dots, there were no electronic games. Or were they there?
Over fifty years ago, thousands of visitors waited in line at the Brookhaven National Laboratory to play "Tennis for Two", an online tennis game that is undoubtedly the forerunner of modern video game.
Tennis for Two was first released on 18 October 1958, one of the Workshop visitors' days. Two people could simultaneously play tennis with the electronic game, using separate controllers connected to an analog computer. The game was projected on an oscilloscope that had the display role.
William Higinbotham, creator of the game, was a nuclear physicist awarded by the Federation of American Scientists.
Guests who enjoyed Tennis for Two saw the side view of a tennis court on the oscilloscope screen two-dimensionally. The ball, a brightly lit, moving dot, left a trail as it bounced on the alternating sides of the court. The players had controls with buttons and rotating keys to control the angle of an invisible swing of the tennis racket.
Naturally, Higinbotham could not have dreamed his game would be a precursor to a whole industry that in less than fifty years represented sales of 9,5 billion dollars (2006 and 2007 only in the US, according to a report published by Electronic Software Association).
How the game worked:
The "brain" of Tennis for Two was a small analogue computer. The manual of an analogue computer of the time described how to create different curves using resistors, capacitors and relays. Among the examples given in the book were the trajectories of a bullet, a rocket and a bouncing bullet. While reading the instruction book, the bounce ball reminded me of Higinbotham a Tennis Game (PDF) and so the idea for Tennis for Two was born.
Higinbotham used four computer amplifiers to generate the ball movement while the other six amplifiers "understood" when the ball hit the ground or net and changed controls on the face of the ball.
A remake of Willy Higinbotham's "Tennis for Two" at the eGame Revolution exhibition displayed at The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. (Photo by bnl.gov)____________________________