The Roundup: Atari Pong birthday news extras

Bat-and-ball video game laid the foundations for video game industry in 1972.


Pong is a very significant title in the history of computer gaming. The simple bat & ball top-down table tennis game, released by Atari in the USA on this day in 1972, helped establish the whole video game industry. Now, income from video games easily eclipses that of its glamorous cousin, the movie industry.

Atari’s digitised table tennis game wasn’t entirely original, even in 1972, as it was based upon an electronic ping-pong game which was included in the pioneering Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video console. According to the linked Wikipedia entry, Pong wasn’t designed to be the hit that it became, though. Allan Alcorn developed it during a training exercise set him by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell. Both Bushnell and Atari co-founder Ted Dabney liked the quality of the title so much they invested in commercialising it.

The history of Pong goes way back before Magnavox, who sued Atari for copyright, though. Ralph H. Baer was the originator of the digital title and made a prototype “brown box” that played a version of ping-pong as early as 1966. Baer’s brown box could play different games using cards (cardboard templates), which indicated dip-switch positions for the box, configuring it for titles such as volleyball, checkers, and more.

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