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Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device

To tell the story about the creation of the first video game and how it all began we have to go back before the days of Atari, before the days of the video arcades and before the days of pong. The origin of video games is complicated and depending on what you consider a video game the origin can be traced back to the 1940’s in early cathode ray tube based missile defense systems.

On January 25, 1947 Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann filed for a patent on a device called the “Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device” which was issued on December 14, 1948 thus making it the earliest-documented video game on record.

Goldsmith and Mann’s cathode-ray tube based game was inspired by the radar displays used in World War II. The “Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device” allows a player control of the CRT’s electron gun much like an Etch-A-Sketch. The beam from the gun is focused at a single point on the screen to form a dot representing a missile, and the player tries to control the dot to hit paper targets on the screen, with all hits detected mechanically. The device required players to use overlay pictures of targets such as airplanes in front of the screen with only the dot from the CRT’s electron gun being displayed on the screen.

Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device Patent
Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device Patent – Filed on January 25, 1947 and issued on December 14, 1948

There are a lot of people that view this as an electronic toy more than a video game but this is subjective and open for interpretation. Though this device did not use any computer hardware nor did it produce graphics through a video signal it did allow players to play a simple game that was displayed on the same CRT technology that was used in television sets thus marking the beginning of a new age of cathode-ray tube technology and what they could be used for. Up until this new device any type of display was simply used for viewing purposes but this device allowed changes to what was happening on the display, it was interactive. No matter if you view this as a video game or an electronic toy one thing is certain, it helped lay the foundation of what has become one of the largest and most profitable entertainment industry in the world.

InventorsThomas T. Goldsmith Jr.
Estle Ray Mann
Research Center
DuMont Laboratories
GenerationPre-First Generation
Patent FiledJanuary 25, 1947
Patent IssuedDecember 14, 1948
Hardware TypeInteractive Electronic Game
Manufacture StatePrototype
ComponentsCathode Ray Tube

An Overview of the first interactive electronic game



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