# Thursday, October 16, 2008

With every year that goes by, I of course get older. But I tend to feel older in bursts that are further than a year apart. Like when I first had a student in a class of mine who was born after 1977, which is the year I started university. Or when someone asked me where to get that special .NET utility "xcopy" so they could take advantage of "xcopy deployment". (Hint: it came in very very early versions of DOS. Pre Windows.)

But it turns out some technologies are not only older than when I started in this business, they're actually older than when I was born. Video games are 50, and I am not.

The circular inset shows an oscilloscope that was hacked up to let people play "tennis".  But not like Pong, from above - this was from the side. From the CBC article:

Several weeks before the annual visitors' day in 1958, Higinbotham decided to liven things up. While reading through the instruction manual for one of the lab's analog computers, he found a description of how the machine could calculate ballistic missile trajectories.
With some minor programming modifications, he discovered that he could turn the ballistics demonstration into a manually-controlled game resembling tennis. Higinbotham had Dvorak hook up the computer to an oscilloscope, a five-inch screen used to display electric voltages, and add a pair of box-shaped controllers, each with a knob and a button.
The resultant game resembled a tennis court, as seen from the side. A horizontal line represented the court while a short vertical line in the middle was the net. Players could control the ball's direction and speed with the knob on the controller and hit it with the button.
"Tennis for Two," as it was dubbed, was a simple reworking of the analog computer's basic functions. To Higinbotham, it was no big deal.
"He didn't think there was anything new in there because he just used the circuits that were explained in the manual that came with the computer," says Peter Takacs, a physicist currently working in Brookhaven's instrumentation division. "He just took those circuits and figured out how to wire them together that would allow two people to hit a ball back and forth across the net. He didn't really think that was such an innovative thing."
Dvorak Jr. says the whole point of the game was to simply show off the capabilities of the hot new technology of the day.
"The whole idea was to show the public what a computer was, what it could do," he says. "From the perspective of society, he had no idea what he was doing."

Really cool.


Thursday, October 16, 2008 1:50:54 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #