Even with the invention of the first computer, people found ways to play on them. The computer programmers of that time were not wasting their time or simply trying to let off steam. They had really practical reasons to develop games and so also laid the foundation for artificial intelligence.

In the 1940s and 1950s, computers took up entire rooms and were so expensive that only universities and large corporations could buy them. Most people had only a limited idea of ​​what these electronic behemoths could do and were unfamiliar with the kinds of mathematical equations these machines had to compute on a regular basis.

But games like Tic-Tac-Toe and Tennis for Two from 1958 and then Donkey Kong with that first little marginal actor Super Mario were excellent at gaining public interest and support. An added bonus was that the programmers could also learn from developing games and thus challenge the capabilities of the computer.

This mindset led a group of MIT students to create one of the first and most groundbreaking computer games in the 1960s: students Steve Russell and friends had access to the school's new PDP-1 computer, which they used to run a demonstration program Develop that firstly used as many computer resources as possible and exhausted these resources to the utmost, secondly remained interesting even after repeated iterations (which meant that each iteration had to look a little different) and thirdly, was interactive.

Inspired by the science fiction novels Russell and friends loved, these computer "hackers" decided to create a game of dueling between two spaceships. The result, Called spacewar, caused a sensation on campus, and various variations of the game soon spread to other universities that had computer engineering programs.

While Spacewar was fun, it was never going to be released to the general public because computers were still too expensive for home use. In order to play Spacewar, one needed access to the computers of a research facility, which meant that the game's influence was limited to the small area of ​​computer technology.

Retro gaming on retro TV. Image: possessed photography / unsplash

Retro gaming on retro TV. Image: possessed photography / unsplash

In fact, video games were not developed by computer programmers but by an engineer familiar with another important invention of the 20th century: the television. By the 1960s, millions of Americans had invested in televisions, but those televisions were only used for entertainment. The engineer Ralph Baer was certain that this technology could also be used for games and should be proved right.

Baer began working on his idea while working for Sanders Associates, Inc. in 1966. With the help of Sanders technician Bob Tremblay, Baer developed the first of several video game testers in 1967. After Baer figured out how to interact with the television, he and his team were able to design and build increasingly sophisticated prototypes.

The Sanders management team was impressed by Baer's progress and tasked him with turning this technology into a commercially viable product. After a few years and numerous tests and further developments, Baer and his colleagues developed a prototype for the first multiplayer and multi-program video game system, which was nicknamed the Brown Box. Sanders licensed the Brown Box to Magnavox, who launched the device as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972.

Meanwhile, a young creative entrepreneur named Nolan Bushnell recalled playing Spacewar while he was a student at the University of Utah. He began to think about how the game could be sold in retail stores. Bushnell had already had arcade experience and had firsthand experience of the popularity of pinball machines. He believed that Spacewar would become a successful slot machine.

Together with his business partner Ted Dabney, he founded Atari, Inc. in June 1972 and released Pong, an arcade table tennis game, that same year. The first pong machine was set up in Andy Capp's Tavern, a bar in Sunnyvale, California. With success - a few years later Atari partnered with Sears, Roebuck & Company to produce a home version of the game in 1975. The home version of Pong was just as successful as the arcade version. Atari sold 1975 units in 150.000 alone.

Other companies soon began producing their own home versions of Pong as well. Even Magnavox launched a number of modified Odyssey machines that just played their tennis and hockey games. Of these first generation video game consoles, the Coleco Telstar was the most successful, thanks in part to the luck and help of Ralph Baer. From Nintendo to Xbox to Playstation - a new era was born and with it a new branch of industry that is still developing rapidly today and always gives us new gaming experiences like Animal Crossing,  Grand Theft Auto and Co. offers.