Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Early History Of Computer Games

I know its hard to believe, but computer games have been around for longer than some of our parents, yet they never played them? A strange thought, why is it that we, the new generation have a huge following in computer games, yet the generation that pioneered and first made them, have often no interest? It almost seems rather ignorant, but this blog entry will briefly review the early history of computer games, and answer the one question that really makes me think... Why do our parents hate computer games?

Where did it all start?

Shockingly, computer games were first coming into a playable state around 1952, in the form of Naughts and crosses. A simple game, yet a tough task for young A.S Douglas in the university of Cambridge, England (Take that yanks!). Studying a PHD in Human-Computer Interaction Douglas used the universities EDSAC computer (Essentially, a giant stick of Ram) to start the games industry. However, The game was programmed for, and only worked on the universities EDSAC computer, and therefore was not the most accessible game made.

What next?

Later, in 1958, William Higinbotham designed the computer game 'Tennis for two' on the Brooklyn National Laboratory's Oscilloscope. While the game was once again a healthy development for the computer games industry, it was also once again designed for a specific piece of scientific equipment. And was not accessible to the general peon public.

But things started to improve for joe public in 1962 when Steve Russell Invented the game 'Spacewar!' designed for computer use! This was better, because a handful of people owned computers, while still rare, they were still more popular than the household Oscilloscope.

To the public!

In 1967 Ralph Baer invented the game 'Chase'. Chase was the first game designed for a television set, this meant people could play it, because even the middle class owned televisions! The industry became interesting, people started reading, hearing, and learning about new computer games. Scientists, devoid of any care for physical appearance smiled on the front of magazines with their new toys. People got interested.

Then came 'Pong', notice how most people think 'Pong' was the first ever game? Thats because most people are stupid and shouldn't be humored when they open their mouthes.

Pong was the first hugely popular commercial game. People wasted quarter after quarter down the arcade, playing this piece of modern history. After its huge success in arcades, the creators,
Nolan Bushnell and Al Alcorn, started Atari Computers, and developed 'Pong' as a household Game.

By this point, and after over 20 early years of computer games' existence, everyone knew what a game was. They even existed in peoples living rooms, by the television.

From this point on, history mainly repeated itself, a developer would make a game, sometimes with a friend, and it would be released either at the arcade, the home, or both. I shan't write about it because frankly it is boring.

However, there is still an interesting future to come, and I shall write about it in a later blog, the great depression etc.

But now, back to my question, why is it, parents don't like computer games? Surely their families would have been a part of the hype, their parents may well have purchased 'Pong'.

I am almost certain that it is down to one of three reasons:

Social Stigma
Cost too much
The depression coinciding with their childhood

The Social Stigma maybe? It is well known that when computer games were first made they weren't liked by everyone. A lot of people saw them as a waste of time and productivity, and almost everyone doubted that they would catch on (ha, what a mistake you old farts).

Cost too much? A lot of people weren't well off and new technology costs a lot of money, maybe the parents, thinking the games wouldn't last, or catch on, decided to keep their coppers and send their children to work in the mine?

We all know that feeling, say for example, when I was young I used to play with my Thunderbirds, I had them all, metal and proper. They would come and save my lego men from the terror of my cat, Launching out of their polystyrene base, why polystyrene you ask? Because my parents were too stingy to buy me the Tracy Island base I saw on television and begged for every Christmas. Funny. I wont be springing for the silver package when I stuff those two in the old retirement home, revenge is a fucker isn't it?

Back to the question... Maybe the depression? We will find out soon...

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