“Pong” turns 50: The story of a trailblazer

“Pong” turns 50: The story of a trailblazer

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Digital games are now taken for granted, but in the 70s they were a real rarity. Today, Pong, the world’s first successful video game, is celebrating its 50th birthday.

Exactly 50 years ago, on November 29, 1972, the Atari classic “Pong” premiered at Andy Capp’s Tavern. At that time, the game became popular, especially in arcades via slot machines. In its original form, “Pong” was not really digital at all. Nevertheless, it shaped an entire genre and established the worldwide success of video games and an industry that is now one of the top-selling in the world.

This is how the classic game “Pong” works

Many have probably played at least one variation of “pong” themselves, and if not then at least seen it in movies from the 70’s and 80’s. The game basically works like table tennis. The players try to play the ball back to the opponent with a kind of digital bat.

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The “racquets”, which can only be seen on the screen as white lines, are controlled with a rotary knob. The idea behind it was simple: you should be able to enjoy “Pong” in a relaxed manner and even have one hand free.

Important building block for Atari

“Pong” had actually existed in another form before, namely for the so-called “Brown Box”, the Magnavox Odyssey – the world’s first games console. When the manufacturer presented his device in 1972, entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell played the tennis-like game and was thrilled.

When he founded the Atari company shortly thereafter, the ping-pong game was to be used for test purposes. But since everyone involved had so much fun, they quickly decided on their own version, which they called “Pong”. This quite obvious patent theft later cost Atari 700,000 US dollars. But the company was able to get over it, because the video game coin machine developed into a real hit despite some initial difficulties.

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Worldwide success for “Pong”

With the Atari Home Pong series, the popular game finally came into the living room at home and finally made video games accessible and socially acceptable. Due to the success of the original “Pong” game, not only Atari but also the competition developed various offshoots. If you look closely, you can still see Pong systems in many casual games.

Many experts therefore agree that “Pong” is in a way the forefather of the video game industry. And the game lives on to this day. The Atari Mini Pong Jr. handheld console, for example, was only released in 2021, on which the classic comes to life again. A tribute to perhaps the most important video game of all time.

“Pong” turns 50: The story of a trailblazer

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