Pong, 1969: A Milestone in Video Game History

The world’s first video game, OXO, was invent­ed in 1952. As the title sug­gests, it was sim­ple tic-tac-toe, and you could only play it on the EDSAC com­put­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge. (Watch it in action here.) The fun did­n’t real­ly get start­ed until the late 1960’s, when Robert Baer, Bill Har­ri­son and Bill Rusch devel­oped a ping pong game you could play on your tele­vi­sion. The above video shows Baer and Har­ri­son play­ing the game on the “brown box” — the pro­to­type for the com­put­er con­soles that would make the 70s and 80s such won­der­ful, seden­tary decades to be a child.

Baer insist­ed on detailed note-tak­ing, with the hap­py result that you can now read all of his team’s ear­li­est notes and mem­os at the online archives of the Lemel­son Cen­ter for the Study of Inven­tion and Inno­va­tion. Or you could just play Pong.

via Matthias Rasch­er

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (5)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Nice video :)

    I’ve just spent 30mins try­ing to beat brows­er pong at your link! Hehe­heh

    Just thought I would add some infor­ma­tion to this for you. I think there are a few inac­cu­ra­cies to what you write here.

    *The game is shown in the video is called Table Ten­nis.

    *Pong was released by Atari in 1972

    *OXO was one of the ear­li­est video game, but an ear­li­er patent filed in 1949 for a mis­sile defence tar­get game is cur­rent­ly the ear­li­est game I have seen evi­dence for, though there may also be ear­li­er undoc­u­ment­ed ones.

  • Daneon says:

    Actu­al­ly in 1967 Rusch made the sug­ges­tion of a type of game that end­ed up as ping-pong. After that they made that game into a type of Hock­ey game. Bush­nell was one of the three Part­ners that came up with the Atari how­ev­er before that he made the ping-pong arcade type games. Atari set­tled out of cort with Mag­navox which was the Man­u­fac­ture of the Odyssey over the fact that Baer’s Patients of the idea of pong pre­dat­ed Atar­i’s pong. That what I think hap­pened any­ways.

  • Lauren Harrison says:

    Hel­lo! I am the great niece of Bill Har­ri­son and the facts giv­en were very nice to know. My uncle Bill died ear­li­er this year in April. He was a great man and very hum­ble. Tak­ing cred­it for this would be the last thing he ever want­ed out of mak­ing this game, so thank you.

  • Micheal says:


Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.