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.[1][2]

In 1962 the mainframe game Marienbad is developed in Poland as a Nim adaptation.[3]

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]

A transparent compact cassette, showing the magnetic tape.

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,[4] which would later be used by gaming systems. It is also used by more obscure game media, such as Nintendo E-Reader cards.[5]

Project Xanadu begins in 1960 and becomes a significant early attempt at implementing hypertext, as well as an early prominent example of vaporware.[6]

An early computer animation is rendered in Sweden 1960 and broadcast in 1961.[7][8]

In October 1962 the first red LED is invented.[9] 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.[10] Cassette tapes would later be used as a medium for computer games.[11] 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.[12]

In 1968 Digi Grotesk is created, one of the first known digital typefaces.[13][14] Typography would become a key component of visual design in any video game which used text.[15]

A mouse prototype which began development in 1964 by Doug Engelbart and Bill English.

Doug Englebart invents the mouse in 1964.[16] 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.[17][18] 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.

A PDP-1 computer with Spacewar! creator Steve Russell.

Spacewar! for the PDP-1 computer was among the first digital video games, and featured two players fighting around a gravity pulling star.[19][20] It’s open source nature also soon leads to some of the first video game mods.[20]

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.[21] Unix derived and compatible operating systems would go on to power a number of gaming devices, such as the PlayStation 4.[22]

During the space race NASA created demand for then emerging technologies spurring their development, like microchips.[23] This helped to promote the miniaturization of consumer electronics.[23][24]

On July 20th, 1969 humans lands on the Moon for the first time, with the historic moment televised across the globe.[25] Among those captivated by the Apollo 11 moon landing is Hideo Kojima, who would later develop games inspired by space travel, such as Policenauts.[26][27]

1960’s Gaming History Gallery[edit | edit source]

  1. “The Game Archaeologist: The PLATO MMOs, part 1” (in en). https://www.engadget.com/2013-08-03-the-game-archaeologist-the-plato-mmos-part-1.html. Retrieved 21 November 2020. 
  2. “How PLATO changed the World…in 1960”. 3 June 2017. https://news.elearninginside.com/how-plato-changed-the-world-in-1960/. Retrieved 21 November 2020. 
  3. “Marienbad (video game)” (in en). 3 September 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marienbad_(video_game). Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  4. “Reed-Solomon Codes”. https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~guyb/realworld/reedsolomon/reed_solomon_codes.html. Retrieved 21 November 2020. 
  5. “Nintendo E-Reader Technical Details”. https://www.caitsith2.com/ereader/tech.htm. Retrieved 21 November 2020. 
  6. “World’s most delayed software released after 54 years of development” (in en). the Guardian. 6 June 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/06/vapourware-software-54-years-xanadu-ted-nelson-chapman. 
  7. Wenz, John (25 June 2015). “These Retro Animations Were Far Ahead of Their Time”. https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/design/a16205/these-early-computer-animations-show-how-far-weve-come/. Retrieved 21 November 2020. 
  8. “3D Animation Design: 5 Large Industries Reshaped by It”. 3 July 2020. https://cgiflythrough.com/blog/3d-animation-design-5-industries/. Retrieved 21 November 2020. 
  9. “LED at 50: An illuminating history”. 9 October 2012. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19886534. 
  10. “Total rewind: 10 key moments in the life of the cassette” (in en). 30 August 2013. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/aug/30/cassette-store-day-music-tapes. 
  11. Moore, Bo (20 April 2015). “New storage format could hold 220 terabytes of games—on tape”. https://www.pcgamer.com/new-storage-format-could-hold-22-terabytes-of-gameson-tape/. 
  12. “People Once Downloaded Games From The Radio” (in en). www.amusingplanet.com. https://www.amusingplanet.com/2019/04/people-once-downloaded-games-from-radio.html. 
  13. “This Was The First Computer Font” (in en). https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/jwherrman/this-was-the-first-computer-font. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  14. “The Digital Past: When Typefaces Were Experimental”. https://www.aiga.org/the-digital-past-when-typefaces-were-experimental. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  15. “Down to the Letter: The Importance of Typography in Video Games” (in en). https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/CarolMertz/20150513/243306/Down_to_the_Letter_The_Importance_of_Typography_in_Video_Games.php. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  16. Markoff, John (3 July 2013). “Computer Visionary Who Invented the Mouse (Published 2013)”. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/technology/douglas-c-engelbart-inventor-of-the-computer-mouse-dies-at-88.html. 
  17. “Highlights of the 1968 Demo – Doug Engelbart Institute”. https://dougengelbart.org/content/view/276/000/. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  18. Center, Smithsonian Lemelson (10 December 2018). “The Mother of All Demos” (in en). https://invention.si.edu/mother-all-demos. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  19. “Spacewar! PDP-1 Restoration Project Computer History Museum”. https://www.computerhistory.org/pdp-1/spacewar/. Retrieved 21 November 2020. 
  20. a b Brandom, Russell (4 February 2013). “‘Spacewar!’ The story of the world’s first digital video game” (in en). https://www.theverge.com/2013/2/4/3949524/the-story-of-the-worlds-first-digital-video-game. Retrieved 21 November 2020. 
  21. “The Strange Birth and Long Life of Unix” (in en). https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-history/cyberspace/the-strange-birth-and-long-life-of-unix. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  22. “PS4 runs Orbis OS, a modified version of FreeBSD that’s similar to Linux – ExtremeTech”. https://www.extremetech.com/gaming/159476-ps4-runs-orbis-os-a-modified-version-of-freebsd-thats-similar-to-linux. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  23. a b Gaudin, Sharon (20 July 2009). “NASA’s Apollo technology has changed history” (in en). https://www.computerworld.com/article/2525898/nasa-s-apollo-technology-has-changed-history.html. 
  24. Potter, Sean (5 June 2019). “Exploring the Moon Promises Innovation and Benefit at Home”. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/exploring-the-moon-promises-innovation-and-benefit-at-home. 
  25. Sosby, Micheala (12 July 2019). “Memories of Apollo from People All Over the World”. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/memories-of-apollo-from-people-all-over-the-world. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  26. Chen, Adrian (3 March 2020). “Hideo Kojima’s Strange, Unforgettable Video-Game Worlds”. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/03/magazine/hideo-kojima-death-stranding-video-game.html. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  27. “shmuplations.com”. https://shmuplations.com/policenauts/. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 

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