On November 29, 1972, Atari announced the release of the videogame Pong, a ping-pong simulator that’s become a milestone in the history of videogames.
Some attempts to create ping-pong and tennis games had been made in previous years but with little success because at the time creating videogames using a TV set was really complex. A version was produced in 1971 by Magnavox for its Odyssey console, the first videogame console in history.
In 1972, Nolan Bushnell founded Atari and started producing cabinet-type coin-op games. The first of these games produced by Atari was Pong, a game similar to the ping-pong games created in previous years but with various improvements among which stood out the possibility of giving a spin to the ball.
Allan Alcorn, the Atari engineer who created Pong, built a prototype by inserting a black and white TV set purchased at a store in a wooden cabinet. The prototype was tested in a bar in September 1972 and a few days later the owner called Atari to report some problems and Alcorn discovered that the mechanisms had been jammed by an excess of coins.
The success of the test led to the decision to produce the cabinet version of Pong (photo ©ProhibitOnions) and its official announcement. After some initial production problems, the console started being sent out, also abroad in collaboration with several partner companies. Obviously, this helped to further increase Pong’s success.
In 1974, Atari engineer Harold Lee proposed to produce a home version of Pong to be used with the home TV set. On August 3, 1975, the first console with Home Pong, the home version of Pong, was launched on the market.
Over the years, other versions of Pong were produced such as Pong Doubles, Super Pong, Quadrapong and Pin-Pong containing variations of the game. However, the big leap forward came in 1976, when a more sophisticated evolution of Pong was produced in which a single player had to hit the bricks of a wall with the ball to remove them. This was the game Breakout which, like Pong, was later cloned and brought in different versions on new platforms.
Videogames have become more and more sophisticated and now Pong seems very basic but its success determined the success of Atari and therefore of other videogames that have made the history of the arcades and of this field in general. Recently, Atari brought them to the web where it’s now possible to play them again in a section of the company website, yet another recognition of their historical importance.