The History of Classic Video Games - The Second Generation

The remarkable success of Pong has electronic companies jumping onto the bandwagon with their own console systems, many of which are simply clones of Pong. In response, Atari introduces the Atari 2600, an advanced cartridge based console that brings 8-bit versions of arcade and original games to living rooms. This begins the Second Generation of Classic Video Games, which continues the success of video games and consoles until the market becomes flooded with advancements and knock-offs faster than consumers can keep up.

1976 - The Second Generation

  • Coleco is the first to take advantage of General Instrument's infamous AY-3-8500 chip, with Telstar, a self-contained system that plays three games. Instead of being separate, the control knobs are attached to the sides.
  • The Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp. release the Fairchild Channel F home video game console. It is originally called the Video Entertainment System, but changes its name the next year after the release of the Atari VCS/2600.
  • Steve Wozniak creates the Apple-1 desktop computer. His friend Steve Jobs comes up with the idea of selling the computer via mail order. Although not the first desktop computer sold, it is the first to use a keyboard.

1977 - Video Game Consoles

  • The Atari VCS (later known as the Atari 2600) hits the scene and reinvents the home console market. The third and most advanced cartridge based system, the VCS/2600 delivers advanced 8-Bit graphics to your TV and a wide variety of games, from originals to remakes of the biggest arcade hits. Although nowhere near the quality of the Con-Op Arcade units, the VCS/2600 becomes the father of modern console gaming.
  • Bally-Midway enters the console market with Astrocade, available mainly through mail order and computer stores.
  • Nintendo releases their first home console system, the Color TV Game 6, a self-contained console that plays 6 variations of tennis (basically Pong).

1977 - Computer Gaming

  • At MIT's Laboratory for Computer Sciences, Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, Tim Anderson, and Bruce Daniels create the text based adventure game Zork for the PDP-10 minicomputer. It quickly gains a cult following on ARPANET, a predecessor to the Internet, mostly used by government agencies and computer technicians.
  • Three groundbreaking home desktop computers release simultaneously: the Tandy TRS80, the Commodore PET and most popular of the group, the Apple II.

1978 - Arcades and Consoles

  • Historic Arcade Games Release:
    - Space Invaders, the first game to display high scores.
  • Nintendo makes its first foray into the Coin-Op Arcade market with Computer Othello, an arcade version of the classic board game. Computer Othello is never released outside Japan.
  • Carol Shaw creates 3D Tic-Tac-Toe for the Atari 2600 and becomes the very first female video game designer.
  • Ralph Baer creates tech for Sanders Associates that is licensed to Coleco for KID-VID, a preschooler console video game using audio cassette tape controls and "live" music.
  • To compete with the Atari 2600, Magnavox releases their second generation console, the Odyssey2. Like the 2600 it features 8-bit graphics, but also has a built-in keyboard.

1978 - Computer Gaming

  • The PDP-10 computer is again used to create a milestone in online computer gaming at Essex University when Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle create the first MUD (multi-user dungeon) program. MUD enables the first multiplayer computer text games via ARPANET, which evolves quickly from a simple group of locations where players can move and chat to including objects, events, virtual creatures and NPCs (non playing characters) . This is the precursor to the Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) .

1979 - Arcades, Consoles and Computers

  • Sears releases Tele-Games, a clone of the Atari 2600 that uses the same components, and interchangeable game cartridges.
  • Mattel begins test marking their home console system, the Intellivision, in Fresno, California.
  • Three of the four Zork creators, Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, and Bruce Daniels, team up with Joel Berez to found the computer game software company Infocom.

1979 - The First Handhelds

  • Atari develops a handheld console system using hologram technology called Cosmos. Although games are created for the system and the console advertised, Atari pulls the plug and never releases the system.
  • Milton Bradley releases Microvision, the very first handheld gaming console with interchangeable cartridges. The system is plagued with problems including screen rot, which destroys the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) ; easily damaged button controllers; and a high sensitivity to static electricity, which destroys the game cartridges. Only 13 games are released for the system, most notably the only licensed game, Star Trek Phaser Strike.

1980 - The Arcade Games

  • Historic Arcade Games Release:
    - Pac-Man - The most popular video game of all time.
    - Battlezone - The first arcade game to feature 3D graphics.
    - Defender - The first to use a virtual world where things happen off screen that effect the gameplay. Considered to be one of the most difficult video games of all time.

1980 - Consoles, Computers and Handhelds

  • After a successful test market the year before, Mattel releases Intellivision to the mass-market. Of the systems released thus far, this is the first to give the Atari 2600 any real competition, with superior sound and industry-first 16-bit graphics capabilities.
  • Gunpei Yokoi creates the Nintendo Game & Watch. This marks the first line of standalone style LCD games that are still popular today.
  • Kelton Flinn and John Taylor create Dungeons of Kesmai, the first commercially successful multi-user online role-playing games. Unlike its predecessors Kesmai utilizes graphic images instead of just text.

1981 - First Gaming Mag

  • Dona Bailey becomes the first female coin-op arcade game designer when she creates Centipede with co-designer Ed Logg.
  • Kelton Flinn and John Taylor revamp and upgrade their multi-user online role-playing game, Dungeons of Kesmai, and rename it Island of Kesmai. This new version is an instant hit.
  • Arnie Katz and Bill Kunkel publish Electronic Games, the first video game magazine.
  • IBM launches the Personal Computer, marking the beginning of the modern PC age.

1982 - Arcade Games

1982 - Console and Computer Gaming

  • Tron, the first movie about a video game premieres. The arcade game based on the film becomes a classic unto itself.
  • Coleco releases the Colecovision video game console with the processor of a desktop computer, giving it the highest graphics of any console system.
  • Atari releases the Atari 5200 SuperSystem in response to dropping sales of the 2600. Although the 5200 has superior graphics, better games and the most advance controller of the time, it is not backwards compatible with 2600 games, and suffers from a poor marketing campaign.
  • Commodore 64 releases and quickly becomes the most popular home computer of all time. Most gamers of this generation get their first experience of computer games using this system.