The Battle Of The Consoles: From Atari's 2600 To Microsoft's Xbox

Console History

Below, we've listed the dates of the introductions of various consoles, from 1972 to the present. Who can forget the often heated debates regarding the virtues of Atari 2600 vis-à-vis the upstart Mattel Intellivision? Those same debates are going on right now, but the focus has shifted to PS2, GameCube and Xbox.

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1976FairchildChannel F
1986SegaMaster System
1989NECTurbografx 16
1990SNKNeo Geo
Fall 2001MicrosoftXbox
Fall 2001NintendoGameCube

From 'Tennis For Two' To 'Oddworld': Even Computer Games Have Traditions

We discern there to be three rival gaming traditions: two of them, text adventure and arcade, merging to become the first person shooters of Max Payne; and the latter tradition of simulation leading to Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000, Gran Turismo and even Munch's Oddworld .

And it may be difficult to believe now, but the first video game was developed at the Brookhaven Laboratories in 1958 by William A. Higinbotham and Robert V. Dvorak, the former an alumnus of the Los Alamos Project, to enliven the dreadful open houses held there.

'Tennis for Two' was played on a five inch oscilloscope and you could not win or lose because no score was kept. Even so, Version 2.0 came out the next year, a larger screen was used, and 'Tennis-for-Two ' became the success of the open house. Who says engineers don't know how to have fun?

Much to the everlasting chagrin of Higinbotham and Dvorak, the games came free: it was the machine that cost. (The business model was like Gillette selling handles for the price of a Stealth Bomber and giving away the bombs, we mean, blades.)

The nerds of the MIT Rail Road Club, not to be outdone by the Geeks of Brookhaven, however, went on to invent a game called Space War . A whopping 9k in length, it debuted on the brand-new PDP1 and was the precursor to the arcade classic Asteroids. Space War , truly, was the first first-person shooter console game.

Parallel with the rise of the onscreen console-based game, however, came the text adventure. The granddaddy of them all, again, produced at MIT by another gang of geeks, was called 'The Underground Adventure .' Written by Willie Crowther in 1972, it ran on the Boston University Mainframe. Primitive at best, in 1976 Don Woods rewrote it and made it available on ARPAnet, where it became very popular, bogging down the Internet, in its infancy. Dave Lebling and Marc Blank took up the cudgel in 1977 after writing a new programming language called MDL, or Muddle. Obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons , Lebling, Blank and a new guy Anderson, wrote what they called Zork . (They would have called it Dungeon , but that name was already taken.) Zork featured 'the great underground Empire' as ruled by 'Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive,' and was populated by fearsome 'Grues.'

By 1979, widely distributed and collectively built, the game was over a megaByte. Commercial life called though, and the three designers formed their own company, called Infocomm. They were not happy being an entertainment company, however (that was for kids and kids had no money), and made the worst decision of their life, to go into business software. Their product was a natural language database called Cornerstone . It sank like a stone, and with it sank Infocomm.

Parallel to the efforts to market their business software, programmers started to deploy graphics on their machines, and text-based adventures lost their shine, though the idea of the immersive dungeon lived on.