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The History Of Pong: Avoid Missing Game to Start Industry
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The History Of Pong: Avoid Missing Game to Start Industry

January 9, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

By the time the Apple I was officially released, Jobs and Woz were already thinking about adding new features; they frequently updated its design and shared their progress with the club.

The result was the Apple II, which -- despite the short gap between releases -- improved on the Apple I in nearly every way, including a complete molded plastic enclosure with full-stroke keyboard, external peripheral ports, and eight easily accessible internal expansion slots.

Breakout was a direct influence on that legendary computer, as summarized nicely on Wikipedia:

[As Woz stated,] "A lot of features of the Apple II went in because I had designed Breakout for Atari. I had designed it in hardware. I wanted to write it in software now." This included his design of color graphics circuitry and the now infamous beep and click sound circuitry.

It also directly influenced his design of Integer BASIC (which he referred to as "Game Basic"), with his Integer BASIC version of Breakout being the first "proof of concept" application running on the prototype Apple II. His desire to play Breakout on his new computer also led to the addition of a paddle interface, and ultimately the bundling of paddle controllers and a cassette tape containing the code for Breakout for the Apple II's commercial release.[11]

An example of different types of home paddle controllers. From left to right: Commodore's high-resolution paddles for their VIC-20 and C-64 computers, the default controller for the Bally Astrocade consoles that functioned as both a joystick and paddle, Atari's VCS paddles, and a Nintendo Entertainment System paddle for use with its home version of Arkanoid. Though little seen today outside of custom home arcade cabinets and controllers, at one time, paddles (also known as "spinners" in their unrestricted form) were a popular form of control.

Pong led to the birth of the industry and Breakout, which led to the Apple II and Space Invaders -- yes, Space Invaders! Instead of taking a passive role in destroying the opposing blocks by bouncing a ball (or square) as in Breakout, Space Invaders (Taito, 1978; Arcade) took the basic concept and layout and gave the player the active ability to fire at will at the opposing aliens.

Space Invaders, described in detail in book Chapter 16, "Space Invaders (1978): The Japanese Descend," invigorated a flagging arcade industry, and upon its conversion in 1980, was instrumental in the breakthrough success of the Atari VCS, knocking the final ball out of Pong's court, allowing the industry to advance and evolve.

Atari's popular Warlords arcade game from 1980, shown with simulated color overlay, is still receiving homebrew ports for various classic systems today. Warlords combined elements from Pong and Breakout in a four player free-for-all where each player has to defend their castle walls and the king within.

Pong is still instantly recognizable today, and continues to receive new updates and variations. It's often used as a first project for aspiring programmers or hackers, and the title's direct legacy is still very much relevant.

However, as the first video game to capture the public's imagination and lead to pivotal industry milestones, its ultimate influence is well beyond that of any other title in this book, and for that deserves to be at the top of any "best of" list.


[11] See

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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