History from PONG to MMORPG

The incredible story of Video game

Video games are electronic games and other interactive experiences using a screen and electronic game controls. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry.

Douglas Engelbart is preferably associated with Graphical user interface. In the 1960s he developed the GUI, computer mouse and hypertext. But the graphical user interface is sometimes also associated with the Video-game's history, which began in 1951 when the 29-year-old television engineer Ralph Baer was commissioned to design the best TV system. Designing television was an easy task for Baer, so he wanted to add a concept that his boss did not understand any of: Playing games on your TV system. Baer resumed this work in 1966 and developed what would become the first PONG. This was produced by Magnavox (acquired by Philips in 1974) under the name Odyssey 2000. Later (1978-1986) Philips launched the VIDEOPAC system which used an Intel 8048 CPU at 1.78 MHz. VIDEOPAC's most famous game KC Munchkin was by many users recognized as significantly better than the competing Atari's Pac-Man. Commodore 64 that used a 1 MHz CPU and a RAM chip on 64kb, was introduced in 1982. The system gave resolution of 320 X 200 pixels and 16 colors. Some estimates say that it was sold over 17 million of this type.

EDSAC Simulator Tic-Tac-Toe

Video games were also designed in England. In 1952 A. S. Douglas designed a Tic-Tac-Toe game at the University of Cambridge. The game ran on an EDSAC vacuum-tube-computer. The picture below shows that the display was arranged in an array of 35 horizontal and 16 vertical dots, or 35 x 16 pixels. The Sputnik launch 4 October 1957 resulted in major impacts in the following year for the development of computers and Internet. The civil NASA and the military ARPA were established in 1958. ARPA is probably best known for the ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet and its protocols and domains. In the same year (1958) Willy Higginbotham developed the game of Tennis for Two at Brookhaven National Laboratories. He used an analog Donner computer that was connected to an oscilloscope, which is good to show graphs. The computer changed the voltage values using operational amplifiers, popularly called op-amps. The op-amps plotted x and y points in the graph, which was shown on the oscilloscope. A ball was drawn repeatedly so it looked like it was floating across the screen, just like in a movie sequence. When the ball came to the edge in the graph, a relay connected in and reversed the currency to other op-amps - and the ball bounced back. In order to create realism in the game, it was used relays, potentiometers, coils, capacitors and op-amps to change the voltage values. As an example (PONG) the op-amps used lower voltage when the ball hit the net, than when the ball was moving on the sides of the screen. The game was more realistic when the ball bounced less from the net than from the sides of the tennis court.

The biggest development came with arcade games in the 1980's. It took off when General Instruments came up with a low cost integrated circuit that only needed a few components. The ICs and arcade games introduced sound, better control of the game, improved graphics and the counting system of points. New genres were introduced with the ICs, like adventure, strategy, first and third person shooter-games, just to name a few. CD-i refined this to a new level and established their lead to the 1990 century game consoles. Nowadays it is game consoles like Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Sony PlayStation 3 as well as PS4 (launched 2013) that are prevalent on the market.

Maze War is said to be the first MMORPG, and was available on the ARPANET in 1973. Although the PLATO system was operational as early as 1968 (with orange plasma displays and laser that made interaction on the screen possible), the first MMORPG wasn't available until 1974 with Spasim. This game supported 32 simultaneous players, and Moria and Avatar. In the 1980's MMORPG were commercialized, but the games were expensive and the users needed know-how to handle them. In 1991 AOL launched the graphical Neverwinter Nights, and in 1992 CompuServe launched Legends of Future Past. Norway contributed with second-generation MMORPG. The Norwegian company Funcom launched Anarchy Online in 2001. Today the trend goes from video games to digital media and servers connected to Internet. MMO and the popular genre of MMORPG need significant processing power and bandwidth to operate. The games have gone over to full-fledged social networking sites where people can live a Second Life in Cyberspace. To recapitulate a bit: In 1972 two players were able to play PONG simultaneously with the sound - today millions of players can play simultaneously in the MMO community with Dolby Digital audio support. That's what we call development!


Philips ES-2201

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