Today is Video Game Day. Who would of thought they would make a holiday for video games. This is a holiday right up my alley. Actually there seems to be two different video game days, might as well celebrate both. How many of you know what the first commercial video game was? It wasn’t Pong. It was computer space, by atari before it was atari. It was a partnership between Nolan Bushnell’s Syzergy, and Nutting Associates.
In November 1971 the world’s first commercial arcade game was released. And for 25 cents you could wage pixelated battle against an electronic foe. This was the year the first general purpose CPU was produced, the 4004. Which cost thousands of dollars. This year also saw the first single chip calculater. The Busicom Junior calculator, with 12 digits and 4 funcitons. It’s processor had 2,100 transistors in 360 gates plus 160 flip-flops. This pocket sized calculator sold for 395, which wasn’t bad for a calculator back then. It was the first that could actually fit in a pocket.
Computer Space was a one player game where you controlled a space ship and tried to destroy two flying saucers. The flying saucers were always aligned vertically. It lasted for 90 seconds, and could be extended if your score exceeded the machine’s score. The two player version came out maybe 2 years later. You controlled your missle once fired. So you could curve it, if the saucer was moving. However the AI player, could not change the trajectory of it’s missle. This was not a succesfully game, Nolan made only 250 dollars from this venture. 1500 games were made, with only 1000 sold. I haven’t been able to find the price for the Computer Space machine, however Pong, which came out 2 years later cost 500 to make, and sold for 1200, so it was probably around the same amount.
Have you ever wondered how a video game works? Over the next couple weeks we will delve into this game. Although it is a simple machine, it still has alot to offer. The method used to interface the screen is identical to every other game system. See you next week when we look under the hood at Computer Space.