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25 Jul 2017

World's first video game: two lines and a dot

World's first video game, nerdgasm alert

This story goes exactly 59 years back in the past when the world's first video game was created.

Tennis for Two, developed by Dr. Higinbotham, working at Brookhaven National Laboratory, comprised of two lines and one dot that moved to and fro.

It was this small ripple that would one day become a multimillion-dollar industry. It's a trip down the memory lane.

In context

World's first video game, nerdgasm alert
To spice things up a bit


To spice things up a bit

Higinbotham joined Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1948. In the annual visitors' day of Brookhaven, thousands came for a tour.

Since their existing exhibits were dull, he decided to create an interactive demonstration. He felt that "it might liven up the place to have a game that people could play, and which would convey the message that our scientific endeavors have relevance for society."


Here's an idea

The instrumentation group, in which he worked, had a small analog computer capable of displaying various curves including the path of a bouncing ball.

Higinbotham decided to create a tennis game and started working on it. Since he had worked on displays for radar systems and others, it was something he was confident that he could deliver.

He made the necessary drawings and blueprints.

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Nothing fancy, just the basics


Nothing fancy, just the basics

After it was done, technician Robert Dvorak took around two weeks to make the device a reality. After some minor debugging, the world's first video game, Tennis for Two was ready to make its debut.

The instructions were simple - players had to turn a knob to adjust the angle of the ball and press a button to push it towards the other player.


The grand daddy of video games

The game had very basic graphics. The display gave a side view of a Tennis court marked by two lines, one was the ground and other was the net.

The ball was a dot that bounced back and forth. Players had to keep the score themselves.

It was an instant hit! Visitors stood in long lines for hours to play this very game.

Knowing one's gamer roots


Knowing one's gamer roots

Next year, Higinbotham gave it a larger display screen. The previous one was just five inches in diameter.

Another feature was also added. It could now simulate stronger or weaker gravity. So, one could now pretend to play on Jupiter or Moon.

Now when we look back, it appears trivial. But this was the first brick in the video gaming history.

Drum rolls, please.

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