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Pong, an adaptation of table tennis to the video screen, was the first widely popular video game. "Pong" was first released by Atari in 1971, although other computer games in the form were created previously.

History of Pong

The earliest form of an electronic ping-pong game (perhaps the first computer game ever) dates back as a game played on an oscilloscope, by William A. Higinbotham at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1958.

In 1966, Ralph Baer made a design for running simple computer games over a television set. His ideas were patented, and he created a game resembling "Pong" proper except with slightly more complex controls. Magnavox was the first to come up with a stand-alone unit, it was called the Odyssey 1TL200.

Arcade Pong was first introduced in 1972 by Atari. Al Alcorn[?], one of the Atari's first employees, created the first Pong arcade machine, a prototype mounted on pinball bars. The system was first tested in Andy Capp's Cavern, a bar in Sunnyvale, California. When the system was first put into place in this bar, only two people took notice of it and started playing. By the next day, however, its popularity had grown decently.

Two weeks later, Magnavox learned of Pong, and notified Atari that they had a patent on the concept, which they had patented. Atari paid $700,000 for use of the rights, but saw a rapid return on the investment. By the end of March 1983, Atari had sold between 8,000 to 10,000 coin-op Pong systems.

Many versions of Pong were released: Pong Doubles (a 4-player Pong), Quadra Pong, Doctor Pong, etc. The many bootleg versions included Rally, a Pong clone that was made just after the original was released, and several make-it-yourself Pong kits.

The home version of Pong was conceived in 1973 and designed by Al Alcorn, Bob Brown, and Harold Lee in 1975. Because of the decreasing success of the Odyessy, retail outlets weren't interested by Atari's home console, but they would stock Pong. These systems has on-screen digital scoring, something absent from other versions of Pong.

However, Sears[?] rejected the Pong system, claiming it did not sell well. An Atari sales director contacted Tom Quinn, and after several meetings with Nolan Bushnell, Sears ordered 150,000 Pong consoles. Pong was sold under the Sears Tele-games label. Christmas 1975 was the most popular season for Pong, with customers lined up outside the stores waiting for Pong shipments.

The Pong systems remained popular in the US until the late 1970s and in Europe until the early 1980s. Pong is still considered today to be the game that shaped the console market.


The original concept of Pong was as a simple ping pong (table tennis) simulator, hence the name of the game. In ping pong two players stand on either side of a ping pong table and bat a small ball back and forth between them, and this basic concept is carried through to Pong. A small "ball" moves across the screen, bouncing off of the sides, and the two players each control a "paddle" that slides back and forth across their end of the screen. If the ball hits the paddle, it bounces back towards the other player's side; if it misses the paddle, the other player scores a point. The "ball" would be reflected in different ways depending on how the ball collided with the paddle. Pong can be played by a single player, with the opposing paddle being controlled by the computer, or by two players, each controlling a paddle. On arcade machines the paddle would usually be controlled by a wheel or knob, responding with variable speed depending on how fast the player turned it.

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