Arcade games were around for decades before video arcade games appeared. By the late 1960s, pinball games had already seen their peak but were still common and popular, and other electromechanical arcade games were gaining new ground. Electro- mechanical games were coin-operated games that had no microprocessors or monitors,

but ran by the use of motors, switches, relays, and lights.
in upright wooden cabinets with their controls on the front, located just below a viewscreen behind which the game’s action occurred, and became the style of housing adopted by arcade video games. Examples of these games from the late 1960s include Midway Manufacturing’s bowling game Fantastic (1968), Chicago Coin Machine’s shooting game Carnival Rifle (1968) and driving game Drive Master (1969), and Sega’s submarine game Periscope and shooting game Duck Hunt (1969). Because of all their moving parts, electromechanical games broke down often, frustrating arcade operators and cutting into their profits. The industry was looking for a way to make more reliable games.

A number of companies, like Gottlieb, Bally, Williams, Midway, Sega, and Allied Leisure, made pinball games and other eletromechanical games before joining the video game industry. One such company, Nutting Associates, was started in 1968 by Bill Nutting, and its first game was Computer Quiz (1968). Despite its name, Computer Quiz did not have a computer in it; the text that appeared in its window was actually projected from frames of movie film inside the game. The game did not do well, and the company was in trouble. A new employee of the company, Nolan Bushnell, had the idea of making an arcade game from the mainframe game Spacewar!. They gave it a name that matched Computer Quiz, and the result was Computer Space, which came out in both one-player and two-player versions. The controls for Computer Space, although simple by today’s standards, were much more complicated than those of electromechanical games, and the game did not do well commercially. But Computer Space was innovative in that it was elec- tronic instead of electromechanical; although it had no microprocessor, RAM, or ROM; it did have a specially modified 15-inch television screen on which it produced simple game graphics from moving dots. Today Computer Space stands as the first video game to have a coin slot, making it the first commercial video game and the start of a new industry, which would soon eclipse the electromechanical game industry from which it arose.

Add Comment