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Wondering What Was The First Ever Computer Game?

Computer games today are one of the most popular past-times and thus one of the biggest industries. The graphics are so life-like, playing a computer game is akin to being in a film where you control the protagonist. Check out the trailer of Rise of the Tomb Raider below as an example

Yet computer games – or at least the idea of computer games - had been around for over two decades before the technology was good enough to sell to a mainstream audience. The story starts in 1947 with the invention of the cathode-ray tube amusement device.

The cathode-ray tube was the brainchild of Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr and his mate Estle Ray Mann. The electronic device used overlays that made it possible to play video games – albeit very basic games.

The cathode-ray tube amusement device patented in South Carolina is arguably the first computer game ever - although it does not resemble anything like the traditional video arcade games that came later. But the invention was the beginning of the video game explosion and deserves the credit.

The evolution of early video games

Wikipedia declares the first “true video games” simulated board games such as draughts and OXO. One of the earliest games was created in 1950 by Toronto-based engineer, Josef Kates who is officially attributed with designing the first digital game-playing machine.

But the first video game created purely for entertainment was Tennis for Two which featured moving graphics on an oscilloscope. This was in 1958, at which time computer software programming was still only being used in academic research institutes.

Tennis For Two 1958

It was not only the programming of games that engineers were working on. They were also experimenting with the machines themselves. Throughout the late 1950’s games consoles became faster and smaller. And they became marketable.

In 1962, a computer game called Spacewar! was released. This is the game that many commentators credit as the first computer game, purely on the basis that it was the first game to be released to the masses outside of academic research institutes.

Spacewar 1962

Yet other people say the first “true video game” was not produced until 1967, by German engineer Ralph H. Baer, who is widely known as the “father of video games.” Baer invented the Magnavox Odyssey which later went on to inspire companies such as Atari.

Magnavox Odyssey

Baer’s invention was the first games console for use in the home. It transmitted electronic signals into pictures on a television screen. If you want to argue what the first traditional computer game was, then Baer is your answer. Although, no-one ever mentions an actual game – just the console.

Baer also invented the first games console peripheral, the light gun which was used for a game pack collectively known as the Shooting Gallery. He also created a tennis game that was later marketed as Pong – the first sports arcade video game which Atari later produced as a home video game. Thus began the rise of the computer game industry.

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Zeeshan Mallick

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