Pong !

Matt Barton's picture

Well, I've decided to leap forward a bit and start working on the Pong chapter. While many people seem to think Pong is more fun to historians than gamers, I did see its draw demonstrated recently in Chicago during a videogame exhibit. They had set up a giant pong game on a big screen, and had the knobs on a dais in front of the screen. It was by far the most popular game at the exhibit; people were lined up to play, and it was remarkable seeing little kids play alongside their parents or even grandparents. Truly, I don't even think Tetris or Super Mario Bros. has this broad of appeal.

At any rate, I'm worried that the story of Pong has just been told too often, so I might minimize the Bushnell and Alcorn stuff and focus instead on the game and why it was popular (in context). Might also be fun to talk about the home editions were so widely copied, and how we had the first inklings here of what would become the videogame crash of 1983--I'm thinking of the pong games that claimed they had 100 games or so; they were only tiny variations of the same game (i.e., maybe there was one with two balls instead of one, so that counted as a new game). No doubt, many consumers got home with it, saw how naive they had been, felt cheated, and decided not to buy any more games. This of course set the stage for Nintendo, who managed to convince people that their brand represented quality.

Could also be fun to talk about the precursors that seldom get mentioned, such as baer and the tennis for two game.

Anyone have any thoughts on Pong?


Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969

I disagree about people being disappointed with Pong home systems. I think it was very clear what you were getting and at the time that was plenty, since there really wasn't anything more advanced until 1976 and even then you wouldn't see anything with notable potential until a year later. The market definitely became flooded with Pong systems and that caused a mini-market depression (sort of a light version of what would happen in '84), but the industry obviously righted itself.

I may pull it from the other book, but it will be important to talk about "Tennis for Two" and Ralph Baer's forebear that clearly influenced Bushnell. Other stuff too that would worth the pull.

I was kind of hoping you'd be working on Myst and King's Quest, as I'd be pretty hopeless on those, particularly the former.

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Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
LOL, well I can certainly do

LOL, well I can certainly do those, too. I think I'll skip to Myst and leave Pong for the time being, esp. if you already have material you can recycle for it.

davyK's picture
Joined: 05/21/2006
I have only good memories of

I have only good memories of pong consoles. When it came out it was revolutionary - and the whole family played. As a matter of fact the closest experience I have had to it was when the Wii arrived in our home - everyone has had a go at that too.

The 2600 attracted some interest too as far as I remember, but apart from Combat, shooting games tended to make family members lose interest.

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