While there were attempts at displaying games on CRT screens previous to it, William Higinbotham’s Tennis For Two could be considered the first video game that most resembled what was to come. A fun-loving type and avid pinball player, Higinbotham had designed parts for the first atomic bombs during the Manhattan Project. He subsequently moved to Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, NY. There he developed Tennis For Two with the help of fellow technician Robert Dvorak, to be included at the 1958 annual open house at Brookhaven. Built using a Donner analog computer, Higinbotham’s game had players hit a blip of a ball at each other, over a net represented by a line in the middle of the screen. Sound familiar? The game was a smash, creating line-ups of people vying to have a go at computer tennis.
Tennis For Two made a return at the next year’s open house, with added upgrades such as a 17″ monitor and variable gravity effects. The game was then disassembled and used for other purposes. Higinbotham failed to patent his invention, which is probably a good thing. Since he worked for the U.S. government, they would have ended up owning the rights to video games!
For more information on Tennis For Two, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.