Before ‘Pong,’ There Was ‘Tennis for Two’
Before the era of electronic ping pong, hungry yellow dots, plumbers, mushrooms, and fire-flowers, people waited in line to play video games at roller-skating rinks, arcades, and other hangouts. More than fifty years ago, before either arcades or home video games, visitors waited in line at Brookhaven National Laboratory to play “Tennis for Two,” an electronic tennis game that is unquestionably a forerunner of the modern video game.
Tennis for Two was first introduced on October 18, 1958, at one of the Lab’s annual visitors’ days. Two people played the electronic tennis game with separate controllers that connected to an analog computer and used an oscilloscope for a screen. The game’s creator, William Higinbotham, was a nuclear physicist lobbied for nuclear nonproliferation as the first chair of the Federation of American Scientists.
Visitors playing Tennis for Two saw a two-dimensional, side view of a tennis court on the oscilloscope screen, which used a cathode-ray tube similar to a black and white television tube. The ball, a brightly lit, moving dot, left trails as it bounced to alternating sides of the net. Players served and volleyed using controllers with buttons and rotating dials to control the angle of an invisible tennis racquet’s swing.
(Read more at Brookhaven National Laboratory | History:The First Video Game?)