The History of Classic Video Games - The Age of Discovery

These trailblazing techies may not have become household names, but it was their spark that broke ground for video games to become a pop culture phenomenon over 20 years later. These are the innovations that lead to the Classics Video Games' Age of Discovery.

1889 - The Pre-History

  • Fusajiro Yamauchi founds Nintendo Koppai - a Japanese playing card company. Later they drop "Koppai" from the name and become simply known as Nintendo.


  • Brothers Edwin Pridham and Peter L. Jensen form the company Magnavox, named after their moving-coil loudspeaker invention.


  • Jukebox Manufacturer Seeburg Corporation releases the Seeburg Ray-O-Lite, a mechanical game where the player shoots at a moving duck, claiming the title of first arcade game with a light gun.

1947 - The Age of Discovery

  • Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann develop the first electronic game. Using a cathode ray tube display they simulate a missile firing at a target placed on a screen overlay.


  • For his thesis on human to computer interaction, Alexander Sandy Douglas develops the first grpahics based computer game, plus breaks ground in artificial intelligence with his game OXO (aka Noughts and Crosses). Using an EDSAC vacuum-tube computer, code written on punch cards and a cathode ray tube to display the graphics, the game allows the players to compete with a computer in a game of Tic-Tac-Toe.


  • Service and Games Company (SEGA) is founded and begins importing pinball machines to Japan.


  • As a demonstration for visitor's day at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, the head of the Instrumentation Division, Willy Higinbotham, creates Tennis for Two, a two player game consisting of a dot (the ball) being knocked back and forth across a line (net). Each player uses a knob and button to serve the ball and adjust what angle to hit it. The controls send a messages to a computer that adjusts an electronic signal's quality level to an oscilloscope. The signal then tells the computer what angle to move the ball.Tennis for Two is often credited as the first video game, mainly because it is the first one made available for public viewing.
  • Midway Manufacturing Company opens its doors to create amusement products.


  • MIT computer technicians, Stephen "Slug" Russell, Martin "Shag" Graetz, Wayne Witanen and several other contributors develop Spacewar! as a demo for the new PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1) computer. The single player game consists of two spaceships known as "wedge" and "pencil" which fly around firing torpedoes at one another. The game also features a background of stars and a hyperdrive that zaps your ship to a different part of the screen. A hit at the computer lab, the game is soon packaged with future models of the PDP computer as a demo. Lead programmer Stephen gets the nickname "slug" from his slow work habits, and it takes two years to develop the game.


  • Defense contractor Sanders AssociatesemployeeRalph Baer invents a video game to display on a television screen. The game itself consists of two dots chasing each other. With intentions to develop the technology as a training tool for the military, the government continues to fund the project with the top secret label The Brown Box Project. Baer and his team also create a tennis game for the Brown Box.Ralph Baer goes on to invent many innovations in the home video game console market as well as invent the electronic memory game Simon.


  • Rick Blomme invents online gaming when he programs a two-player version of Spacewar! for PLATO, the first public computer time sharing system that is to be the grandfather of computer networking and the internet. Over the PLATO system two players can compete in Spacewar! from separate computers.
  • Bally Technologies, Inc. a company that manufactures mechanical gambling games such as slot machines, purchases Midway Manufacturing. The company will eventually change their name to Bally-Midway.