Friday, November 16, 2012

The First Coin-Op Laserdisc Game and Book Information


What was the first coin-op laserdisc game?

Most would probably say Astron Belt (actually, if you're talking the general population rather than retro gaming enthusiasts most would probably say Dragon's Lair or, incorrectly, Dragonslayer or maybe even "that game with the dragon guy and the princess" if they said anything at all).

Astron Belt "debuted" at the AMOA show in November, 1982 (at least in the US. It had reportedly been shown at the JAA show in Japan on September 30th and may have been shown elsehwere in the U.S. prior to the AMOA show).
Astron Belt wasn't the first coin-op laserdisc game, however.It didn't begin shipping until months after the show, allowing other games to beat the makers to the puch but that's not what I'm talking about.

And I'm not talking about products like The First National Kidisc (that wasn't coin-op) or Show-Time International's Show-Time Jukebox, a laserdisc juke that appeared at the 1979 AMOA (that wasn't a game).

I'm talking about Quarter Horse by Electro-Sport. While Quarter Horse was also at the 1982 AMOA, its designer claims that it had been shown at the previous year's show as well.
I haven't confirmed that but the May, 1982 issue of Vending Times had a section on currently available video games and it listed Quarter Horse so the game was available to the public long beore November.

Here is a brief excerpt from the rough draft of my book dealing with Quarter Horse:

Quarter Horse

Astron Belt wasn't the only laser disc "game" at the 1982 AMOA show, nor was it the first coin-op laser disc game created. Electro-Sport of Costa Mesa, California was also showing its Quarter Horse, an "amusement only" horse racing game designed by Rodesch Associates. Quarter Horse, not Astron Belt, was actually the first coin-op laser disc game. Designer Dale Rodesch recalls that the game was first shown at the 1981 AMOA at the Blackstone Hotel across the street from the main showroom at the Hilton. Rodesch's involvement with games had its origins during his days working for Northrop Aircraft where he struck up friendships with co-workers Dale Frey and Bob Burr. When Frey later developed what was likely the first video poker game as part of his master's thesis, he asked Rodesch to join him. Frey designed some of the earliest video blackjack and poker machines for Si Redd and A-1 Supply. Rodesch, who served as A-1's general manager, was responsible for marketing the games outside of Nevada. In the late 1970s, Rodesch left A-1 Supply to develop a teaching machine used by doctors in the American Academy of Family Practice. Rodesch and Frey also formed a company called Dale Associates where Frey set to work designing a next-generation video poker machine while, in late 1980, Rodesch went to work on a horse racing game that would use laser disc footage. Development on the poker game screeched to a halt when Si Redd slapped a lawsuit on Dale Associates but the work on the horse racing game continued. Rodesch soon approached Los Alamitos Race Course and was given permission to use footage from their library in his game. Back in 1976, Bob Burr had founded a company called Electro-Sport in  Costa Mesa, California, which supplied "amusement only" video poker games to gray-market regions of the U.S. where gambling was prohibited. Rodesch struck a deal with Burr to produce a prototype "amusement only" version of his game.  Nevada gaming veteran Mickey Wichinsky signed on to produce a gambling version (Si Redd actually took a look at Quarter Horse but balked at the terms Rodesch was asking for).

Quarter Horse was a horse racing game. The player examined a tote board and bet on a winner then watched laserdisc footage of the race. Because of the short playing time of the Pioneer laserdisc player, only a limited amount of footage could be included.

[Dale Rodesch] The Pioneer laserdisc player was limited to thirty minutes of play if "freeze frames" of the finishes were to be utilized. The original Quarter Horse (and by far the most popular version over the last thirty years) had six blocks of ten races each (60 races total) where each block contained each post position winning once. Also, because the laserdisc was capable of presenting two monaural sound tracks, each block cycled between two sets of names and the player thus heard 120 "different races".

The original version had two separate monitors, one where the player made their bets and other to display the video footage.

[Dale Rodesch] My concern was for the Nevada market, where I felt the Nevada gaming authorities would not allow the player's bets to not be visible throughout the play. We did go to a single (switched) monitor later in the production of the amusement version

Not only was Quarter Horse the first coin-op laserdisc game, but it was also the most enduring by far. It remained in production for over 30 years. The last laserdisc for the U.S. market was shipped in January of 2012 while a solid-state version remains in production in Canada under license for the world market as of this writing.


This blog was recently mentioned on the RetrogamingRadio podcast. While I certainly appreciate the mention ,there was a bit of confusion about my book (whether it had been published, what it was about etc.).

If you didn't read the first blog entry, you probably don't know what book I'm talking about so I thought I post an update.

First of all, the book has not been published yet, nor do I have a publisher.  It is a forthcoming book that I will probably end up publishing as an e-book or Kindle book.
I started writing it around 1998 and put it on hold in 2002. I picked it back up around September of this year to finish.
Right now, it is in rough draft state (as you can no doubt tell from the excerpts I've posted). I'm still in the process of collecting information and interviewing people. I have put it together into a rough narrative (currently about 700 pages in Word) but haven't gotten around to actually making it, you know, interesting (I'll do that once I've gathered enough info).
It will be several months before I'm ready to publish anything.
So what' s in it?
It covers the history of arcade video games and the arcade video games industry up to the end of 1984 (the crash).
It will be different from other books in a few ways.
First, it's all coin-op/arcade. I cover home video games and computers only tangentially (if they were made by coin-op companies I go into a bit more detail).
Second, I focus a LOT on the games and the people who created them - lots of game design stories etc. (maybe too much).
Third, while other books seem to focus  almost exclusively on Atari, Nintendo, Sega, and (maybe) Bally/Midway) I want to tell the story of Exidy and Cinematronics and even Meadows Games and Mirco. I will certain cover the biggies, but I also want to talk about the little guys.
Here is the current table of contents (subject to change):
·  Spacewar (MIT: 1961)

PART I - THE BRONZE AGE: 1971-1978
·  Bringing Spacewar to the Masses: Nolan Bushnell and Bill Pitts (Nutting Associates and Stanford University: 1971)
·  Pong (DuMont Labs, Brookhaven Labs,  Sanders Associates, Syzygy/Atari: 1947-1972)
·  Penny Arcades to Pinball Wizards: The Coin-Operated Amusement Industry, Circa 1972
·  The Clone Wars (1973-1975)
·  A Trip to the Sunshine State (Allied Leisure: 1968-1977)
·  Gun Fight in Silicon Valley: The First Microprocessor Game (Bally/Midway 1931-1975)
·   Meanwhile, Back at Headquarters (Atari: 1973-1975)
·   Causing a CoMotion (Sega/Gremlin: 1951-1978)
·   California Dreamin' (Meadows Games, Digital Games, PSE, Fun Games: 1966-1978)
·   Death Race (Ramtek, Exidy 1973-1978)
·   The Good Times Begin (Atari: 1976-1978)
·   The Independents
·   Spacewar Returns - The Rise of the Vector Game (Cinematronics : 1975-1978)
·   Back East (URL/Electra Games, PMC, Mirco Games: 1973-1977)
·   Bally's Little Helpers (Bally/Midway: 1976-1978)
·   Invaders From the East (Taito: 1955-1978)
·   Summing Up (The Industry: 1972-1978)

PART II - THE GOLDEN AGE (1979-1984)
·  On the Grow (Bally/Midway: 1979-1981)
·  Coin-Op Classics (Atari: 1979-1981)
·  The Vector Team (Cineatronics/Vectorbeam:  1979-1984)
·  Who Plays a Maze Game? (Pac-Man: 1980 and Beyond)
·  Spellbound in the Darkness (The American Video Arcade)
·  Goin' Berzerk (Chicago Coin/Stern: 1931-1984)
·  The Pinball Wizards (Gottlieb/Mylstar, Game Plan, Rock-Ola: 1927-1984)
·  What Sort of Company Invents Defender? (Williams Electronics: 1929-1984)
·  Copycats [pirate games, knocks, and copyright issues]
·  Winky's Revenge (Exidy:  1979-1984)
·  Not In My Backyard (The Video Game Banning Controversy)
·  Toyland, Bally's Little Helpers Part 2 (Bally/Midway: 1981-1984)\
·  Froggy's Lament (Sega/Gremlin: 1979-1983)
·  The Little Guys (Pacific Novelty, Entertainment Sciences, Elcon Industries: 1973-1984)
·  A Match Made in Heaven (Centuri/Konami: 1979-1984)
·  Super Mario (Nintendo: 1889-1984)
·  Rising Sun (Namco, Taito, Taito America: 1955-1984)
·  Other Japanese Companies (Universal, Nichibutsu, SNK, Tehkan, Irem, Capcom 1966-1984)
·  Here Come the Kits, Here Come the Kits - Conversion Kits and System Games (Venture Line, CVS , Data East: 1975-1983)
·   Joystick Heroes - Players, Records, and Tournaments
·  Before the Storm (Atari: 1982-1984)
·  From Tron to Starcade (Video Games in Popular Media)
·  The Next Big Thing (The Rise of the Laserdisc Game: 1981-1985)
·  Gambling, Trivia, and Golf Games
·  The Return of Nolan Bushnell (Bally/Sente: 1983-1984)
·   Summing Up - The Industry 1979-83
·  Crash! (1984)
·  Shakeout (1985)

·   Aftermath (1986-???)
·   Revival - Retrogaming

There will also be extensive appendixes:
·         A brief history of other types of coin-op amusement machines (pinball, jukeboxes, gun games, ball bowlers, skee ball, pitch-and-bats, wallgames, vending machines, exhibition machines, fortune tellers, strength testers, driving games, novelty games, foosball, air hockey, and more)
·         A list of all known arcade video games released before 1985, organized by company and year with a lot of information including date of company's founding and incorporation, company location, company founder, approximate month of release for games, licensee, developer and a lot more info.
·         A list of prototypes and unreleased games
·         Video game production numbers
·         Operator survey results (yearly figures for average weekly earnings by machine type [pinball, video etc.], market share by company etc. , number of video games)
·         (maybe) A list of the AMOA show dates and attendance figures for each year
·         Company financial information (yearly revenue and income)
·         A summary of popularity charts from Replay, Play Meter, Electronic Games etc. (for each game it lists when it entered the charts, how many times it appeared, peak position. and average weekly earnings)
·         A summary of the Arkies and other video game awards
·         Video game design credits: A list of all people I know of who worked on arcade video games prior to 1986 and the games they worked on

·         Significant Tournaments (pre-1986)

Finally, here is a list of the people I've interviewed so far (by company):
Allied Leisure/Centuri:
Jack Pearson (engineer), Joel Hochberg (executive), Ken Beuck (VP of materials), Ron Haliburton (cofounder), Troy Livingston (engineer), Larry Leppert (engineer), Bill Olliges (executive)

Al Alcorn (engineer), Bob Brown (engineer), Dan Pliskin (engineer), Dave Shepperd (designer/programmer), Dave Stubben (engineer), Ed Logg (designer/programmer), Ed Rotberg (engineer), Franz Lanzinger (designer/programmer), Howard Delman (engineer), Jack Ritter (designer/programmer), Jim Morris (engineer), Joe Alig (test technician), Ken Beuck (materials manager), Larry Leppert (engineer), Lyle Rains (designer/programmer), Michael Cooper-Hart (artist), Mike Albaugh (designer/programmer), Noah Anglin (engineer), Owen Rubin (designer/programmer), Rich Moore (engineer), Rusty Dawe (designer/programmer), Ted Michon (designer/programmer)

Internal Team:
Brian Colin (artist), Dave Marofske Sr. (executive), Dave Needle (designer/programmer), George Gomez (designer/programmer), Gershon Weltman (executive), John Pasierb (engineer), Stan Jarocki (executive), Stanley Levin (executive), Steve Ulstad (artist)
Dave Nutting Associates: Bob Ogdon (designer/programmer), Dave Nutting (founder), Jay/Jamie Fenton (designer/programmer), Pat Lawlor (designer/programmer), Tony Miller (engineer)
Arcade Engineering: Jack Pearson, Ron Haliburton
Marvin Glass Associates: Richard Ditton (designer/programmer), Scott Morrison (artist), Steve Meyer (designer/programmer), Rick Hicaro (artist)
Chicago Coin:
Ken Anderson (executive), Paul Jacobs (executive)

Dana Christianson (artist), David Dentt (designer/programmer), Jack Ritter (designer/programmer), Ken Anderson (executive), Ken Beuck (VP of manufacturing), Larry Leppert (engineer), Larry Rosenthal (designer/programmer), Rick Dyer (designer/programmer), Robert Shaver (designer/programmer), Scott Boden (designer/programmer), Tim Skelly (designer/programmer), Tom Stroud Sr. (executive), Bill Cravens (executive), Ed Anderson (plant manager, sound designer), Bob Skinner (programmer), Phil Sorger (programmer), Jerry Huber (artist), Rob Patton (programmer), Tom Carroll (artist), Earl Stratton (programmer), Dennis Halverson (engineer), Brooke Jarret (engineer)

Data East USA
Paul Jacobs (executive)

Digital Games/Micronetics:
Ted Michon (engineer)

Elcon Industries
Andre Dubel (founder)

Electra Games/URL:
Bill Olliges (executive), Stan Jarocki (executive)

Dan Pliskin (engineer), David Rolfe (designer/programmer), Ed Anderson (plant manager, sound designer), Ed Valleau (designer/programmer), Howell Ivy (designer/programmer), Ken Nicholson (sound designer), Larry W. Hutcherson (designer/programmer), Mark Von Striver (hardware engineer), Michael Cooper-Hart (artist), Noah Anglin (engineer), Paul Jacobs (executive). Pete Kauffman (founder), Ted Michon (designer/programmer), Vic Tolomei (designer/programmer), David Rolfe (designer/programmer), Richard Spitalny (founder, First Star Software), Peter Liepa (designer/programmer)

Fun Games:
Ken Anderson (executive), Larry Leppert (engineer)

Game Plan:
Ken Anderson (executive), Stanley Levin (executive), Troy Livingston (engineer)

Chris Brewer (designer/programmer), Dave Pfeiffer (designer/programmer), Dave Thiel (engineer), Jeff Lee (artist), Jim Weisz (engineer), Neil Burstein (designer/programmer), Tim Skelly (designer/programmer), Warren Davis (designer/programmer), John Buras (pinball designer)

Gene Candelore (cofounder), Lane Hauck (designer), Lonnie Pogue (cabinet designer), Medo Moreno (designer/programmer), Alex McKay (designer/programmer), Dan Viescas (artist), Howell Ivy (executive), Ken Anderson (executive), Tim Skelly (designer/programmer)

Michael Harris (designer/programmer)
Meadows Games:
David Main (designer/programmer), Ken Beuck (VP of materials), Larry Leppert (engineer), Paul Jacobs (executive), Harry Kurek (founder)

Namco America:
Ed Anderson (plant manager, sound designer)

Nintendo of America:
Al Stone (executive), Bill Cravens (executive)

Pacific Novelty:
Bill Cravens (executive), Francisco Pflaum (sound designer), Phillip Lieberman (designer/programmer), Bernie Stolar (executive)

Howell Ivy (designer/programmer), Peter Kauffman (executive)
Joe Bak (designer/programmer), John Jaugilas (designer/programmer), Larry Gleason (engineer), Lonnie Ropp (designer/programmer), Mike Perkins (engineer)

Howard Delman (engineer), Owen Rubin (designer/programmer), Ed Rotberg (designer, programmer), Gary Levenberg (sound designer), Tian Harter (programmer), Jon Kinsting (designer/programmer)

Noah Anglin (executive), Dan Pliskin (engineer)

Allan Woodman (executive), Brian Poklacki (designer/programmer), Gary Stern (executive), Bill Olliges (engineer), Chris Oberth (designer/programmer), Ed March (designer/programmer), Jon Hogan (designer/programmer), Tony Miller (engineer), William Philmlee (designer/programmer)
Taito America:
Bill Olliges (executive), Dave Needle (designer/programmer), Dave Poole (engineer), Keith Egging (executive), Mark Blaszcyk (designer/programmer), Scott Boden (designer/programmer), Rex Battenberg (designer/programmer)

Universal USA:
Paul Jacobs (executive), Bill Cravens (executive)
Bill Pfutzenreuter (designer/programmer), Dave Poole (engineer),  Ken Fedesna (executive), Ken Graham (designer/programmer), Kristina Donofrio (designer/programmer), Larry Demar (designer/programmer), Noah Falstein (designer/programmer), RJ Mical (artist), Sam Dicker (designer/programmer), Chuck Bleich (hardware designer), Gary Berge (hardware designer), Paul Dussault (programmer), Richard Witt (programmer)

Others:Ed Adlum (publisher, Replay magazine) Bill Pitts (designer/programmer) Steve Epstein (owner, Broadway Arcade), Scott Ellison (Perceptronics), John Gatens (distributor), Al Kress (operator), Tom Asaki (gamer), Steve Sanders (gamer), Billy Mitchell (gamer)


  1. I'm really looking forward to reading your book!

  2. Looks like you've good potential for a great book here - will keep an eye out for it.
    PS: Atari - have a look at Jed Margolin's web site