A retrospective of video games from conception to the 8-bit era

Kotok, Russell, Graetz playing Spacewar
Alan Kotok, Steve Russell & Martin Graetz play “Spacewar!“ at the Computer Museum

Part 1 – How IT All Began

The first part of this retrospective focuses on the beginning of the video game industry. 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 considers a video game the origin can be traced back to the 1940’s in early cathode ray tube based missile defense systems.

Part 2 – The birth of the video arcade

In part two of this retrospective the focus is on what influenced the video arcade industry and the early stages of the video Arcade. Most people hear the term arcade or coin-op and think of video arcades but both terms started well before video games were invented. An arcade game is a coin operated entertainment machine but not necessarily video game related. To clear up the misconception between arcade games, coin-ops and video arcade games we have to take a look back in history to identify were it all began and what influenced the video game industry in the arcade market.

Computer Space Cabinet
Computer Space – 1st commercial video arcade game

Part 3 – The Birth of The Home Video Game Console

As companies were striving to become a major player in the video arcade market another battle was going on to lead the way in the home video game market.   In part 3 of our retrospective we look at the conception of home video game console and cover what is considered the 1st generation of home consoles.

Part 4 – The Golden Age of Video Arcade Games

From late 1978 until the end of 1983 the video arcades reached a peak in popularity, innovation and earnings. This period is often referred to as the golden age of video arcade games. In late 1976 video arcade game technology became more sophisticated moving away from Transistor-Transistor Logic (TTL) technology to using Microprocessors allowing for better graphics and sounds. In part 4 of the retrospect we explore the height of the arcade era.

Space Invaders Cabinet
1978’s Space Invaders marks the beginning of the era known as the Golden Age of Video Arcade Games
Atari 2600 Woodgain
The Atari VCS is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor based hardware with cartridges containing game code

Part 5 – 2nd Generation of Video Game Consoles (Cartridge Based Games)

In the final installment of this retrospective the focus is on the 2nd Generation of video game home consoles. The second generation of consoles began in 1976 with the release of the Fairchild Channel F system and lasted until 1984, ending due to the great video game crash of 1983.   This era is credited with developing the first cartridge based games with information burnt onto ROMs inside removable media, as well as the beginning of 3rd party developers.