TIL about Tennis for Two, a 1958 video game played on an oscilloscope invented by a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory for a public exhibition. Largely forgotten until patent litigation in the 1970s, it was the first video game developed purely for entertainment.

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William Higinbotham had no idea he’d created something that would one day become a billion-dollar industry. He’d only made it to liven up the dull Visitor’s Day expo at the nuclear power plant where he worked. He thought the only reason people were lining up to play it was because everything else at the expo was so boring.


Yeah, I remember that. Back when I was in the Navy used to play that on the radar screen when things were quiet and I got bored. The board of inquiry never determined how that torpedo sank the Admiral’s new yacht, and I ain’t saying shit.


There was a working version of this game in The Museum of Living Computers in Seattle. I got a chance to experience it first hand a few years back. The game is borderline unplayable. Controls are sluggish and weirdly hard to use considering it’s basically just a knob and a button. It’s also really hard to tell when you score a point. And I loved every second of it.


The Sputnik era of the late 50s and early 60’s is not as bland as folks think.


Mouse in the Maze was another very early computer game. It was demonstrated in a 1983 episode of The Computer Chronicles, which is on YouTube.