For those who don't know, Magnavox launched a number of patent infringement lawsuits beginning around 1974 against various companies (they were also sued themselves, I believe).
Here are some of the coin-op companies named in the suits - along with the games they mentioned in the suits):
· Midway (Playtime and Winner)
· Seeburg (Pro Hockey, Pro Tennis, Paddle Ball [all by Williams, which Seeburg owned at the time), Olympic Tennis [released by See-Fun, another Seeburg company, though I think it was just a brand name they used),
· Allied Leisure (Paddle Battle, Tennis Tourney)
· Chicago Coin (TV Ping Pong, TV Tennis, Olympic TV Hockey, TV Goalee)
They also mentioned Ramtek's Hockey and Soccer and URL's Video Action III, so they may have sued them too. Consumer manufacturers named in the suits include Sears, APF Electronics, and Fairchild.
Most of the documents were rather boring but there were some gems in there (testimony by Willy Higinbotham, for instance - lists of which Activision games infringed on their patents and which didn't - Activision sales figures).
The info I found most interesting was a list of early computer games and other devices that were mentioned in the trial. One of the tactics tried by the companies in the suits was to claim that the Magnavox patents were invalid because there were earlier inventions that constituted "prior art" or invalidated the patents for other reasons.
All such attempts failed, but it appears that these games came up again and again.
Some of them are very well known to video/computer game historians.
Spacewar and Tennis For Two were brought up numerous times. They even trotted out the old MIT Bouncing Ball program (I don't think they were implying that this was a game. My guess is that they were offering as an example of a program with "coincidence detection".)
Here is a list, with a few notes.
Michigan Pool Game (1954)
Fritz Spiegel's Military Trainer (1960)
NOTE - Much of the above info was taken from Activision documents, so you may want to take it with a grain of salt. While it appears that Magnavox admitted that this constituted prior art, the court did not find that it invalidated their patents. I haven't really looked into the reason why, because that's not my primary interest.
IDI Pool Game (1966)
John Drumheller graduated from MIT in 1964 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. During his undergraduate years, he developed a number of programs for the PDP-1 in building 26, working alongside the hackers as they developed Spacewar. Among the programs he created was a Mill game (the Scandinavian equivalent of checkers) and a Go algorithm. After graduating, Drumheller went to work for Adams Associates. In 1966, Information Displays, Inc. of Armonk, New York approached Adams about developing a demonstration program for their monitors. Drumheller, who just two days earlier had started experimenting with a program that made balls bounce onscreen, volunteered to write a pool game. Written on a DDP-116, the game was shown at the Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco in the fall of 1966. Two players used a light pen to maneuver a cue stick and play a (somewhat) standard game of pool. The game included 15 balls, a crude form of English, and kept score automatically. In 1967, Drumheller's brother-in-law Peter Mullarky created a version of the game for another computer that used a vector display. From Drumheller's courtroom testimony it appears that the original version may have used a raster display, but this isn't clear. Drumheller also claims that he considered making a consumer version of the game that would run on a standard TV set. He also claims that he was later told that someone at MIT was developing a pool game at the same time he was.
NOTES - Drumheller's testimony is actually available on the site and makes for good reading. At least most of it does. A lot of time is spent discussing exactly how you hit the ball. Apparently, it was possible to hit the cue ball without actually moving the cue stick. The program just sensed where the light pen was and ignored the cue stick (though if you touched the cue stick, it moved). The court went to some length to note that this (ignoring the cue stick) was not the normal method of play.
My guess is that this was done because I believe that one of the patents covered having one object on the screen impart motion to another object and they wanted to show that this program did so (if the cue stick graphic didn't actually move, you could argue that it didn't).
RCA Pool Game (1967)
NOTES - When I first started researching this one, I came across this:
and briefly thought it might be the game they were talking about.
It wasn't but that sure looks like a cool game (though not for $825).