Happy birthday, video games!

Posted by Conor Murphy on August 30, 2012 in Game News -- Share:

Scattered Gamepads of Many BrandsVideo games have reached significant milestone, according to a recent Smithsonian blog post. No, Hidden Object games haven’t achieved sentience (yet). Our beloved form of entertainment has hit the big 4-0. That’s right – playing video games as a form of home entertainment turned 40 years old on approximately August 29. So, bring out the birthday cake, candles and a few online games to celebrate!

Video games have come a long way in the past few decades, so let’s take a moment and think about where it all began. Many people believe the first home video game to be Pong for the Atari, but the blog post pointed out that a table tennis game for the Magnavox Odyssey predated the popular game by a couple years, making the launch of the Odyssey the first official home video game system.

PCWorld celebrated the Odyssey’s birthday by taking the video game system apart and analyzing some of the components. The system launched in 1972 and cost around $99, or approximately $548 in today’s money. You may be able to get a decent computer with that kind of money these days, but the old video game platform did have one thing going for it that most of today’s systems don’t – the Odyssey came with 12 games! However, playing those 12 games may have been somewhat complicated – the old system didn’t function like today’s gaming powerhouses do.

“Unlike modern game consoles, the Odyssey does not contain a computer,” the article stated. “Instead, it generates images based on discrete circuitry that directly manipulates the video signal going to the TV set. Each game uses different parts of the circuitry …The system shipped with six cards. Each card acts as a series of on/off jumpers or connecting wires that essentially programs the console to operate in a certain way.”

Well, with that description, it’s pretty easy to see why it took a decade or three for video games to catch on. It’s easy enough to lose pieces of a board game. Imagine losing one of those gaming cards. Despite the seemingly complex nature of playing it, the Odyssey was pretty successful, selling 330,000 units worldwide, according to PCWorld. Not to mention the fact that one of its games inspired Pong. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Conor is a Marketing Manager with Big Fish, working out of the Seattle office. In his spare time he enjoys watching science documentaries and playing old school adventure games. Get in touch with him on Twitter! or Google+