Computer Space

Computer Space (arcade)   1971


First electronic video game with sound, first mass produced commercially sold game, first arcade game with TV screen, first standart arcade game


Monochrome game

Arcade system: unique (74-series TTL chips)

Computer Space

Gameplay video (real hardware)

Computer Space
Computer Space
Magazine review - Videogames (1982)

Review - New-York times, October 25, 1981 By Aaron Latham
"The games are popular,'' says Nolan K. Bushnell, 38, the creator one of the first coin-operated video game, ''because they represent the leading edge of what everyone knows is going to happen. Man is going to be dealing with the computer as much as with any other part of the civilization in the future. But man has a love-hate affair with the computer. The games are a search for mastery - or a sense of mastery - over the computer. This is what people are subliminally dealing with when they play the games.''
Bushnell had the video-game idea while he was still an engineering student at the University of Utah, but he didn't get around to developing it until 1969. ''I started designing a game in my daughter's bedroom,'' Bushnell says. ''I kicked her out, doubled her up with my other daughter.''
After working all day as a research engineer for Ampex, the company best known for making recording tape, Bushnell would return to his small tract house in Santa Clara, Calif., and work on his game. He finished drawing up plans for the world's first video game one morning at 4 in his daughter's bedroom. Mike Blanchet grew up in suburban Far Hills, N.J., with a computer in his bedroom. His father was the head of the math department in a neighboring high school. Under his guidance, the high school bought a bulky old Hewlett-Packard computer. When school was out in the summer, the head of the math department took the computer home with him. He stored it in his son's room.
''So I had a big computer in my room,'' Mike remembers. ''We programmed it for different games. Poker, chess. Bought a book. Learned how to do our own games.'' Nolan Bushnell's first game, Computer Space, was marketed by Nutting Associates. It pitted spaceships against flying saucers. And it was a flop. Only 2,000 were sold.

''It was a great game,'' Bushnell says. ''All my friends loved it. But all my friends were engineers. The beer drinkers in the bars were baffled by it. I decided what was needed was a simpler game.''


1) To eliminate the need of a computer to create the game, Bushnell wondered if it was possible to electronically manipulate the video output of a regular television set. He challenged Dabney to design a prototype illustrating this concept, who accepted it. After a few months of work, he eventually managed to do it. The prototype - a circuit board that displayed a user-controllable square on a TV set - proved that it was possible to have basic interaction on a screen without using a computer or even a CPU.
2) The shapes of the player's ship and of the enemy saucers were stored in discrete diodes in one of the 3 circuit boards, a clever idea that Bushnell came up with. Making the ship rotate on screen was one of their most challenging tasks, and required 4 representations of the ship to be stored in different angles, with the remaining angles obtained by mirroring these.

3) Game uses no microprocessor, RAM or ROM. The entire computer system is a state machine made of 74-series TTL chips. Graphic elements are held in diode arrays.

4) Debatable, the first video game with sound was Missile (1969) - basically full motion game that uses film. Computer Space is first digital video game with sound.

5) About process of creation of the first video game with sound:  “You’ve got to have sound,” Nolan Bushnell told his young employee Al Alcorn, while Alcorn worked on an exercise in game-building that would become Pong (Bushnell would later become chairman of Atari). “I want the roar of a crowd of thousands”, Alcorn recalls Bushnell saying, in an interview for IGN. “How do you do that with digital circuits? Ones and zeroes? I had no idea, so I went in there that afternoon and in less than an hour poked around and found different tones that already existed in the sync generator, and gated them out and it took half a chip to do that. And I said ‘there’s the sound – if you don’t like it, you do it!’”

6) First full motion video game with sound was Auto Test.

7) Game is not emulated.

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