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Video Gaming Mania

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The notion of visual games by electrical means goes back to the very early 1900's, with Vladimir Zworkyns Cathode Ray Tube. But even prior to that, people played, somewhat dangerously, with Edison's light bulbs in an array of switching, sparks of which alone would dazzle future Nintendo effects. It became so by the 1930's when mainstream electrical companies (the word "electronic" had yet to come into vogue) began tinkering with the idea that lighting effects could merge with logical tricks and puzzles, i.e. Tic-Tac-Toe, to form game playing. The Arcade phenomenon was born, carnivals to gin mills (elders: remember Shuffleboard?) and into the home.

Over the past three or four decades, video games have become a staple in our culture, popularity phenomenon. The wide variety of gaming available is also huge, with action, adventure, and sports being most popular.

According to Wilkepedia, "The history of video games goes as far back as the 1940s, when in 1947 Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann filed a United States patent request for an invention they described as a "cathode ray tube amusement device." Video gaming would not reach mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 1980s, when arcade video games, gaming consoles and home computer games were introduced to the general public. Since then, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern culture in most parts of the world. There are currently considered to be eight generations of video game consoles, with the sixth, seventh and the eighth concurrently ongoing."

In 1952, "OXO", a computer program for the simple but popular Tic-Tac-Toe pencil game was invented by Alexander S. Douglas as (an) illustration for his Ph.D. thesis on "human-computer interaction" for the University of Cambridge. OXO was the first digital graphical simulation game, and ran on the EDSAC Computer at Cambridge, which used a cathode ray (coloq. "picture") tube as a visual display for programs, in one of the world's first 'stored-program" computers. OXO is often cited as the first true computer game. In OXO the player played against the computer. OXO did not obtain widespread popularity because the EDSAC was a computer compatible only to the Cambridge computer systems.

In 1958 William Higinbotham created a game using an oscilloscope and analog computer.Titled Tennis for Two, it was used to entertain visitors of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York Tennis for Two showed a simplified tennis court from the side, featuring a gravity-controlled ball that needed to be played over the "net," unlike its successor—Pong. The game was played with two box-shaped controllers, both equipped with a knob for trajectory and a button for hitting the ball. Tennis for Two was exhibited for two seasons before it was dismantled in 1959.

In 1969, AT&T computer programmer Ken Thompson wrote a computer/video game he titled "Space Travel" for the Multics operating system. This game simulated various bodies of the solar system and their movements. A player could attempt to land a spacecraft on them. AT&T abruptly ended it's relationship with Multics. Thompson restructured "Space Travel" to Fortran code running on the GECOS operating system of the General Electric 635 mainframe computer. The system is costly to run, $75 per hour. Thompson looked for a smaller, less expensive computer to use. He found a model PDP-7, He and Dennis Ritchie started porting the game to PDP-7 assembly language. In the process of learning to develop software for the machine, the development process of the Unix operating system began, Thus. "Space Travel> has been called the first UNIX application.

The first home 'console' system was developed by Ralph Baer and his associates. Development began in 1966 and a working prototype, "The Brown Box," was completed by 1968 for demonstration to various potential licensees, including GE, Sylvania, RCA, Philco, Sears-Silvertone, Magnavox won the licensing war to mass distribute the world's first home video game console. The system was marketed in the USA in 1972 by Magnavox, called the Odyssey which used cartridges that consisted of jumpers that had switch on-switch off systems inside the unit, changing circuit logic (later video game systems used programmable cartridges). The Magnavox unit provided the ability to play several different games using the same system, along with plastic sheet overlays taped to the television that added color, play-fields, and various graphics to 'interact' with using the electronic images generated by the system. A major marketing push, featuring TV advertisements starring Frank Sinatra, helped Magnavox sell about 100,000 Odyssey game systems the first year. Yes, Sinatra.

Philips bought the Magnavox label and released a different game in Europe using the Odyssey brand in 1974 and an evolved game that Magnavox had been developing for the US market. Over its production span, the Odyssey system achieved sales of 2 million units, without Sinatra.

The Fairchild Channel F, released in 1976, was the first true removable game system, Atari once again had the first such system. Introduced in 1977 which was far more accepted in the consumer marketplace. The Atari Video Computer System VCS 2600 used removable cartridges, allowing a multitude of games to be played using the same hardware. The Atari VCS hardware was quite sophisticated for it's time. Systems like the Atari 2600, its descendant, the 5200, Coleco's ColecoVision and Mattel's IntelliVision helped to generate interest in home video games for a few years. But interest began to wane because the quality of the home product lagged far behind arcade standards. But in 1985, Nintendo introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and everything changed.

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Nintendo's strategy paid off, and the NES sparked a revival in the home video game market that continues to thrive and expand even now. No longer were home video game systems looked upon as inferior imitations of arcade machines. New games that would have been impractical to create for commercial systems, such as Legend of Zelda, were developed for the home markets. These games enticed many people who had not thought about buying a home video game system before to purchase the NES. Nintendo The Commodore Amiga began its life at Atari. Jay Miner, an engineer at the enormous video game company and the creator of the Atari 800 personal computer, wanted to create a console centered around a 16-bit processor and a floppy drive, which would make development for the new console very easy and inexpensive.

The executives at Atari were unwilling to risk damaging sales of their popular 8-bit consoles and expensive developer systems (and the licensing fees from the ROM media) and didn't allow Miner to pursue his idea any further.

Miner's idea for the new console was revived in 1982 after he was contacted by Larry Kaplan, an old Atari employee who was enamored with the idea. Larry was interested in starting a game company that would create a brand new console and license it to Atari who continued to develop and introduce new game consoles. Other companies, such as Sega and Sony, created their own home video game systems. Let's look at the core parts of any current video game system.

Jay lined up $7 million in investments from a group of dentists, and Hi-Toro was formed. Hi-Toro had two divisions: one to produce games and peripherals for the Atari 2600, the other to develop the new console, which was named Lorraine (after the wife of CEO Dave Morse). The company marketed several successful peripherals for the Atari 2600 and also released several games. As a result, Hi-Toro was flush with cash to be used on the Lorraine project.

Miner headed the Lorraine project and envisioned a very ambitious feature set. The console would be much more powerful than its contemporaries, and it would be much less expensive to develop for - unlike the 2600.

The Motorola 68000 processor was adopted as the CPU, a processor more commonly used in workstations than game consoles.

The Lorraine chipset was also very powerful. It took advantage of blitters, chips that allowed information to bypass the CPU completely. Thanks in part to the blitters on the mainboard, the machine was capable of displaying up to 4,096 colors. This was unheard of in the video game industry.

More important than its performance and features, Lorraine would be an easy platform to develop for. Unlike Atari (and Sony and Microsoft today), developers would not need a special development workstation to create the games. The Lorraine would be bundled with a keyboard and 3.5" floppy drive, eliminating the need for expensive developer workstations.

And once a game was finished, the company didn't need to license cartridge media from Hi-Toro; 3.5" floppy disks (a relatively unproven technology) could be used.

Around the time that the Lorraine was entering early development, Hi-Toro needed to changes its name after it was discovered that a Japanese lawn mower company already had the same name. The new name, chosen by Dave Morse, was Amiga, Portuguese for "female friend".

In 1983, the video game industry was on the brink of collapse. Atari had not updated their line of consoles since the late 70s, and most consumers were uninterested in the company's underpowered line of 8-bit computers.

After a series of failed game launches (including the infamous ET), the market fell through. Time Warner, parent company of Atari, saw its stock price plummet from $60 to $20, and many game development companies went out of business.

Amiga was not immune to the dip in demand and was forced to look for more investors as revenues for its Atari products fell. The first demonstration of Lorraine was slated for the 1984 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) show in Chicago, a seemingly impossible deadline.

The project was divided into to two groups. One, headed by Jay Miner, focused on completing the computer's hardware, while the other, led by Dale Luck, created an operating system for the new system. Hardware design was nearly finished by mid-1983. It was mostly centered around miniaturizing the machine's components. On the other hand, the software team had a major task ahead of them.

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Following the success of the Apple II and Commodore PET in the late 1970s, a series of cheaper and incompatible rivals emerged in the early 1980s. This second batch included the Commodore VIC-20 and 64; Sinclair ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum; NEC PC-8000, PC-6001, PC-88 and PC-98; Sharp X1 and X68000; and Atari 8-bit family, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC, and MSX series. These rivals helped to catalyze both the Home computer and Games markets, by raising awareness of computing and gaming through their competing advertising campaigns.

The Sinclair, Acorn and Amstrad offerings were generally only known in Europe and Africa, the NEC and Sharp offerings were generally only known in Asia, and the MSX had a base in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, while the US based Apple, Commodore and Atari offerings were sold in both the USA and Europe.

In 1984, the computer gaming market took over from the console market following the crash of that year; computers offered equal gaming ability and, since their simple design allowed games to take complete command of the hardware after power-on, they were nearly as simple to start playing with as consoles.

The Commodore 64 was released to the public in August 1982. It found initial success because it was marketed and priced aggressively. It had a BASIC programming environment and advanced graphic and sound capabilities for its time, similar to the ColecoVision console. It also utilized the same game controller ports popularized by the Atari 2600, allowing gamers to use their old joysticks with the system. It would become the most popular home computer of its day in the USA and many other countries and the best-selling single computer model of all time internationally.

At around the same time, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was released in the United Kingdom and quickly became the most popular home computer in many areas of Western Europe—and later the Eastern Bloc—due to the ease with which clones could be produced.

The IBM PC compatible computer became a technically competitive gaming platform with IBM’s PC/AT in 1984. The primitive CGA graphics of previous models, with only 4-color 320×200 pixel graphics (or, using special programming, 16-color 160×100 graphics[94]) had limited the PC’s appeal to the business segment, as its graphics failed to compete with the C64 or Apple II. The new 64-color[95] EGA display standard allowed its graphics to approach the quality seen in popular home computers like the Commodore 64. The sound capabilities of the AT, however, were still limited to the PC speaker, which was substandard compared to the built-in sound chips used in many home computers. Also, the relatively high cost of the PC compatible systems severely limited their popularity in gaming.

The Apple Macintosh also arrived at this time. It lacked the color capabilities of the earlier Apple II, instead preferring a much higher pixel resolution, but the operating system support for the GUI attracted developers of some interesting games (e.g. Lode Runner) even before color returned in 1987 with the Mac II.

The arrival of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1985 was the beginning of a new era of 16-bit machines. For many users they were too expensive until later on in the decade, at which point advances in the IBM PC’s open platform had caused the IBM PC compatibles to become comparably powerful at a lower cost than their competitors. The VGA standard developed for IBM’s new PS/2 line in 1987 gave the PC the potential for 256-color graphics. This was a big jump ahead of most 8-bit home computers but still lagging behind platforms with built-in sound and graphics hardware like the Amiga. This caused an odd trend around '89–91 towards developing to a seemingly inferior machine. Thus while both the ST and Amiga were host to many technically excellent games, their time of prominence proved to be shorter than that of the 8-bit machines, which saw new ports well into the 1980s and even the 1990s.

Dedicated sound cards started to address the issue of poor sound capabilities in IBM PC compatibles in the late 1980s. Ad Lib set an early de facto standard for sound cards in 1987, with its card based on the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip. This would last until the introduction of Creative Labs' Sound Blaster in 1989, which took the chip and added new features while remaining compatible with Ad Lib cards, and creating a new de facto standard. However, many games would still support these and rarer things like the Roland MT-32 and Disney Sound Source into the early 1990s. The initial high cost of sound cards meant they would not find widespread use until the 1990s.

Shareware gaming first appeared in the mid 1980s, but its big successes came in the 1990s.[citation needed]

Dial-up bulletin board systems, like Q-Link, were popular in the 1980s, and sometimes used for online game playing. The earliest such systems were in the late 1970s and early 1980s and had a crude plain-text interface. Later systems made use of terminal-control codes (the so-called ANSI art, which included the use of IBM-PC-specific characters not part of an ANSI standard) to get a pseudo-graphical interface. Some BBSs offered access to various games which were playable through such an interface, ranging from text adventures to gambling games like blackjack (generally played for "points" rather than real money). On some multiuser BBSs (where more than one person could be online at once), there were games allowing users to interact with one another.

SuperSet Software created Snipes, a text-mode networked computer game in 1983 to test a new IBM Personal Computer based computer network and demonstrate its capabilities. Snipes is officially credited as being the original inspiration for NetWare. It is believed to be the first network game ever written for a commercial personal computer and is recognized alongside 1974’s Maze War (a networked multiplayer maze game for several research machines) and Spasim (a 3D multiplayer space simulation for time shared mainframes) as the precursor to multiplayer games such as 1987's MIDI Maze, and Doom in 1993. Commercial online services also arose during this decade. The first user interfaces were plain-text—similar to BBSs— but they operated on large mainframe computers, permitting larger numbers of users to be online at once. By the end of the decade, inline services had fully graphical environments using software specific to each personal computer platform. Popular text-based services included CompuServe, The Source, and GEnie, while platform-specific graphical services included PlayNET and Quantum Link for the Commodore 64, AppleLink for the Apple II and Macintosh, and PC Link for the IBM PC—all of which were run by the company which eventually became America Online—and a competing service, Prodigy. Interactive games were a feature of these services, though until 1987 they used text-based displays, not graphics. the Entertainment Software Rating Board is created. Rating are now given to video games and are marked on the games' packaging to indicate the suggested age of players and violent content.

IIn the early 1990's in Japan, the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation make their debut. In 1995, Sony introduces the PlayStation in the United States which much ballyhoo and a just under $300 msrp. The next year, Nintendo introduced the 64 console globally.

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