Computer games: Part 2
Dec 5, 2009
The boy in this picture, who must be in his forties now, was about as lucky as a kid could get on Christmas Day back in 1976. He got THE gift, the very first home video game system. Notice the graphics on the TV--that was Pong.
My father-in-law also was an early adopter of video games, and I remember playing Pong over at his house. It was a nice game. You hit a little white ball with a paddle that slid up and down the right side of the screen; the ball traveled at an angle and "bounced" off the top or bottom of the screen, then off a "wall" on the left side and back to the top or bottom and then back over to the right again, for you to hit it back. As the game progressed, the ball went faster and faster till you missed.
My father-in-law would have wanted the game no matter what, but he had a special interest in it because Ron Bradford, a friend of the family's, had a graphic design contract to do packaging and promotional materials for Pong. Since it was the first home video game, Ron had to invent a "look" for the packaging that screamed "Video games are fun and exciting!!!!!" About ten years ago, he wrote his recollections of the project for a website devoted to the history of classic video games. He said they decided to go with "Explosive!!" as the design theme--the colors and typography of the packaging, the pictures and text in the ads, even the look and feel of the instruction manual--everything was geared toward giving an Explosive!!! impression to new customers.
Pong was a commercial sensation and launched a huge new industry. But the company that made it--Atari--soon went broke, after losing an intellectual property lawsuit. And the store that sold Pong hasn't been doing all that well either; believe it or not, the only place that carried the world's first home video game system in 1976 was Sears.