Before "The Beginning"
|Look carefully at the background picture ~ amongst the
collection of instruments lined up for Visitor's Day at the Brookhaven
National Laboratory in 1958 ~ you will see the small round screen of an
oscilloscope, below it two identical white boxes with some controls
mounted on top. Yes, there's a very
familiar looking arrangement there, two cables leading to a pair of
On the oscilloscope display you would see a horizontal line representing a net, and a green glowing spot representing a tennis ball which two players could send back and forwards by means of the controllers. This portion of the exhibit was demonstrating the versatility of a programmable 'analog' computer, together with some digital switching probably by reed relays, where a realistic trajectory of a ball could be generated, complete with the effects of gravity and with different 'bounce' characteristics depending on whether or not the 'ball' hit the 'net'.
The late Willie Higinbotham was the genius who designed this clever ancestor of today's video game consoles and without a doubt deserves his place in any history of computer games.
All pictures on this page courtesy of the Brookhaven National Laboratory