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.

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Comments (5)
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  • 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:


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