Pong: The First Video Game Sensation

pong logo
The logo for the Pong home game.

On this date in 1972, Atari released “Pong,” the first commercially successful video game.

Here are some things you may not have known about it.

It wasn’t the first home video game, or the first arcade game, for that matter. The first home video game console was the Magnavox Odyssey, which was released in September 1972. The first coin-operated arcade game was 1971’s “Galaxy Game”, which was built by students at Stanford University. The first mass-produced arcade game was “Computer Space,” which was created in 1971 by Nolan Bushnell, who went on to start Atari.

After starting Atari, Bushnell hired Allan Alcorn and had him create a simple game as a training exercise. The game needed to have a moving spot, two paddles and numbers to keep score.

After three months of development, the first prototype was installed at a local bar. A few days after installing the game, the bar owner called to report a problem with the game. It turned out the coin mechanism was overflowing with quarters. After securing a loan, the first production “Pong” machines were built, slowly, using workers from the local unemployment office. Eventually, the arcade games were making $35-40 per day, which was unheard of at the time, and estimated to be about four times what other coin-operated games like pinball machines brought in. By the end of 1974, more than 8,000 units had been sold.

In 1975, “Home Pong” was released through Sears stores. About 150,000 units sold during that holiday season, which made “Pong” Sears’ most successful product of the time. Following the success of “Pong,”  companies like Konami and Nintendo entered the video game market for the first time.

Our question, what restaurant chain did Atari founder Nolan Bushnell start?

Today is International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People; Liberation Day in Albania, and Unity Day in Vanuatu.

It’s National Chocolates Day, National Lemon Creme Pie Day, and National Square Dance Day.

It’s the birthday of writer Louisa May Alcott, who was born in 1832; director and choreographer Busby Berkeley, who was born in 1895; and writer C.S. Lewis, who was born in 1898.

This week in 1972, the top song in the U.S. was “Papa was a Rolling Stone” by The Temptations.

The No. 1 movie was “1776,” while the novel “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

What was the price on the tag hanging from Minnie Pearl’s hat?


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