Sunday, January 17, 2016

At Flashbak: A Look Back at Atari's Pong

This week at Flashbak, I also remembered Pong, a game from Atari that was described as having revolutionized “amusement games” in the 1970s.

“If memory serves, my first reckoning with the video game revolution -- home or arcade -- came in a now-defunct department store in Totowa, New Jersey, called Big Guys. 

There, on Saturday nights, perhaps once a month, my parents would buy my sister and me root beer floats from the ice cream soda fountain, and then we would all proceed to the store’s mid-way where my folks battled it out at a bright yellow arcade cabinet: Atari’s Pong

Created by Allan Alcorn for Atari and released in November of 1972, Pong was advertised as a “new product…a new concept…a new company.”

Atari also billed itself as an organization “now integrating digital computers, video technology, and laser films into a host of new game breakthroughs.

The game and the gameplay itself seem primitive by 2016 standards, but both were amazing in the 1970s.  The game is basically a top-down view of a ping-pong table with two paddles (controllable by the users), and a “dot” mimicking the action of a bouncing, ricocheting ball.  Winners with the high-score would win.

Before long -- just two or three years, actually -- Atari released a home console devoted exclusively to Pong through Sears Department Stores. I remember my parents debating whether or not to buy it, but finances precluded a purchase at that time…”

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