The exhibition shows the technical
and social historical circumstances under which Pong managed to become a
key influencing factor for the emergence of a whole industry. Foremost, this is the story of two
business men and inventors who, independently and with different approaches,
invented video games as a commercial pastime.
One is Ralph H. Baer (born
1922 in Germany), who was the first to create a playing field out of the
domestic television set. As early as 1968, he submitted a simple tennis game as
a patent which in 1972 formed the base for the first home video game, Odyssey.
The other is Nolan Bushnell (born 1943 in the United States), who
founded the first pure video games company Atari in 1972 to produce his
adaptation of the simple tennis game as the Pong machine.
This is why Pong is such an
interesting pop-cultural phenomenon: Because it is located – technically as
well as historically – at the interface between the analogue and the digital
world. With the Odyssey console this becomes especially apparent, as its
digital circuits were still realised with common analogue parts, and it was
shipped with coloured overlays for putting on the tv screen to colorise the
black-and-white game events.
But Pong is also one of the
first digital mass products (most of all, the development represents Atari’s Pong, successfully sold
since 1975 as a microchip-based home version). As such the game was a key
factor contributing to the growth of the early micro chip industry.
But even back then, questions about
copyright in a digital environment played an important role. For instance, even
in 1973 Magnavox (the Odyssey's producer) and Atari met in
court in a struggle about the intellectual property of the simple but
trend-setting tennis game...