Spacewar! running on a PDP-1.
Ralph Baer with his “Brown Box” prototype. This device was a forerunner to the first commercial game console, the Magnavox Odyssey.
During the 1960’s Video Games were a rather small market, and were more often than not used as a novelty attraction or the hobby project of an academic than a serious product category.
The PLATO Educational computer terminal system is launched after being developed from 1959 through 1960, later giving rise to a number of early multiplayer games in the 1970’s once adoption picked up.
In 1962 the mainframe game Marienbad is developed in Poland as a Nim adaptation.
Dr. Nim is a dedicated mechanical digital computer game that used marbles instead of a screen launched at some point during the 1960’s.
For more information about some early mainframe games, please read the chapter on [History of video games/Early games|Early games].
Computer Technology Improves[edit | edit source]
Many key gaming technologies saw their introduction during the 1960’s.
Reed-Solomon Code is invented in 1960, allowing for more reliable telecommunication and optical media, which would later be used by gaming systems. It is also used by more obscure game media, such as Nintendo E-Reader cards.
Project Xanadu begins in 1960 and becomes a significant early attempt at implementing hypertext, as well as an early prominent example of vaporware.
An early computer animation is rendered in Sweden 1960 and broadcast in 1961.
In October 1962 the first red LED is invented. This paves the way for cheap indicator lights in consoles, as well as the red LED arrays that made the Virtual Boy display possible.
In 1963 the Dutch company Phillips brings the compact cassette to market. Cassette tapes would later be used as a medium for computer games. By the 1980’s the cassette proved popular among computer gamers in the Netherlands, as game software was distributed on radio broadcasts, where they could easily be recorded in standard players then loaded into computers.
In 1968 Digi Grotesk is created, one of the first known digital typefaces. Typography would become a key component of visual design in any video game which used text.
Doug Englebart invents the mouse in 1964. Following years of development, on December 9th, 1968 Doug Englebart hosts the “Mother of All Demos” where he demonstrates a number of concepts, such as a computer mouse, digital maps, hyperlinks, real time collaboration in the same environment, and video chat. The concepts demonstrated by Doug Englebart in the Mother of All Demos would eventually be deployed in the gaming industry, either in games themselves or by video game developers.
The space race spawned a number space age technologies and a media frenzy. From these developments, the space race spurred several key developments in the gaming industry, either through direct technological development, or by inspiring space themed games.
Spacewar! for the PDP-1 computer was among the first digital video games, and featured two players fighting around a gravity pulling star. It’s open source nature also soon leads to some of the first video game mods.
In March of 1969 Bell Labs changed focus, spurring programmer Ken Thompson to port his video game Space Travel from the expensive to run GE-645 computer to a cheaper PDP-7 he had access to, eventually resulting in the creation of the Unix operating system. Unix derived and compatible operating systems would go on to power a number of gaming devices, such as the PlayStation 4.
During the space race NASA created demand for then emerging technologies spurring their development, like microchips. This helped to promote the miniaturization of consumer electronics.
On July 20th, 1969 humans lands on the Moon for the first time, with the historic moment televised across the globe. Among those captivated by the Apollo 11 moon landing is Hideo Kojima, who would later develop games inspired by space travel, such as Policenauts.
1960’s Gaming History Gallery[edit | edit source]
Screenshot of the 1969 game Space Travel.
The Apollo 11 put Humans on the Moon for the first time, inspiring a people across the planet.
The Manchestrer Atlas computer in January 1963. Most powerful computers of the 1960’s took up a whole room.
Wonderland Arcade located in Kansas City, Missouri in 1968. These businesses used mechanical games that predated arcade video games, but would quickly adopt electronic games in the decades to follow.
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