Thursday, August 15, 2013

Who Was the First Person To Come Up With the Idea For A Coin-Op Video/Computer Game?

Recently I came across some info about some possible early attempts at a coin-op video game that I thought some might find interesting (note that here I use the term "video game" in its current common-use sense - I am fully aware of the controversy over the definition of the term and that many don't consider vector games video games, but that's a topic for another time).

Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney were probably the first people to actually start buildign a coin-op video game (or at least the first anyone knows about) but who was the first to think of the idea? (and I'm talking serious consideration here - like someone who was about doing it)
Let's look at a few contenders.

Nolan Bushnell

This is probably the answer most would give. Nolan claims that he first saw Spacewar at the University of Utah. Varying accounts date this incident from as early as 1962 to the "mid-60s" and claim that Bushnell thought of monetizing the game either soon after seeing it, or while working at the Lagoon Amusement Park during this same period.
But is this account true? Ted Dabney claims that Bushnell never mentioned Spacewar (or the idea of a commerial video game) to him until he saw the game at Stanford around 1969. Of course, just because he didn't mention the game to Dabney doesn't mean he hadn't seen it earlier, but there is still some question regarding the accuracy of his account of having seen the game as an undergrad. IIRC, Goldberg and Vendel wonder if Bushnell claimed to have seen it in the mid-60s in order to establish priority over Ralph Baer (who started working on his video game in 1966). They also pointedly (again, IIRC) omit any mention of Nolan seeing the game at U of U. I did a quick search to see if I could verify that University of Utah did have the game by the mid-1960s, or even if they had a PDP-1 by then (since DEC supposedly included the game on all the units they sold) but didn't really find anything. Of course, even if he did see the game in the mid-60s, that doesn't mean he saw the dollar signs at that time.

So, if Nolan didn't come up with the idea until 1969-ish (and I'm not saying that is or isn't the case - his account may be entirely truthful), who might have done so earlier?

Steve Russell et al

At least one source I read mentioned that the Spacewar design team briefly discussed the idea of trying to sell the game but quickly dropped it, figuring that DEC was their only potential customer and they wouldn't be interested. Even if this is true, however, it doesn't really count because a) it sounds like it was nothing more than a brief discussion rather than a serious proposal and b) it wasn't for a coin-op version of the game.

Hugh Tuck

According to Galaxy Game designer Bill Pitts, Hugh Tuck was the one who suggested creating a coin-op version of Spacewar. But when did this occur? Pitts said he saw the game around two years after he enrolled at Stanford in his Junior year. Pitts enrolled in 1964 so that would place the incident around 1966 or 1967. He also says that he realized Tuck's idea was feasible about three years later when he was working for Lockheed and saw that DEC had released the PDP-11. The PDP-11 was released in December, 1970 but I don't know when Pitts found out about it. The two of them formed Computer Recreations in June of 1971, however. From this info, Tuck's suggestion of monetizing the game came somewhere between 1966 and 1968.

Richard Ball

According to the Wikipedia entry for Nutting Associates, engineer Richard Ball drew up a proposal for a coin-op video game called Space Command. After Nutting passed on the idea, Ball and coworker Ransom White formed their own company called Cointronics. There are some problems with this story, however. First, the Wikipedia article is completely unsourced. In 2012, someone named Judith Guerin left a comment on an article by Benj Edwards  about Computer Space that made essentially the same claim, but again no source is given and I don't know who Judith Guerin is. I don't know if she was using Wikipedia as her source or vice versa or if they both used a different source.
Even if the story is true, however, when did it occur? A Google books search revelas that Cointronics showed two games (Zap Ball and Ball/Walk) at the 1968 MOA show so they were around by then. A search of the California Secretary of State website shows that Cointronics incorporated in early 1969 so it seems to be a good guess that the company was formed sometime in 1968 and Ball left Nutting shortly before. I was unable to track down Ball or White (though I did confirm that White usually went by "G. Ransom White"). So let's say this incident occured in 1968.

Unknown Stanford Student/Staffer

FInally, there's this video:

This is from a 2006 panel discussion that was part of a celebration of the PDP-1. The panel included a number of members of MIT's famed hacker community of the 1960s, including Alan Kotok, John McCarthy, Peter Sampson, and Spacewar creator Steve Russell. During a q-and-a session after the discussion, an unidentified audience member claims that in 1966 or 1967 American Express provided Stanford with seed money for a program to come up with potential projects for future development. The person claims he drew up a proposal to put a multi-player version of Spacewar on a dedicated, timeshared PDP-1, put it in a bowling alley or shopping center, and charge people to play. Stanford considered the idea too frivolous to submit.
Unfortunately, I have no idea who this guy is. I don't think it's Hugh Tuck (plus, his story is very different from Tucks) but if his story is true, he might be a good candidate. True, his game likely wouldn't have had a coin-slot, since it seems he was talking about charging per block of time, but he was thinking about putting the game in a bowling alley.

Someone else

Of course, ideas are cheap and there could well have been any number of people who entertained the idea of a coin-op "video" game far earlier than any of those mentioned above (and some would say that it's irrelevant who thought of the idea - it's who implemented it that matters).

Odds and ends

Speaking of Computer Space, here's an early article on the game from the May, 1972 issue of Vending Times

And speaking of Nolan Bushnell, take a look at this:

So who is that and what does he have to do with Nolan Bushnell?
That's John Bushnell, Nolan's great-grandfather. Born in England in 1823, John came to America and went to Utah in 1850 in one of the early companies of Mormon settlers. At one point, he actually wanted to return home but Brigham Young sent him to the new town of Fillmore, where his family was one of the first six in the area. He opened a store and a post office before trading his property for a farm in nearby Meadow in 1862.

OK, that really doesn't have anything to do with video games, but I found it interesting.

Finally, speaking of Cointronics, here's a photo of their countertop game Ball/Walk (games like this drive me nuts since I suck at pretty much any game other than pinball that involves a steel ball - I tried to play Ice Cold Beer once and I think I got one ball in hole).


  1. Bushnell probably had the idea earlier than 1969. He just knew that there was no commercial feasibility with a coin-op game that used a computer. It was something he had in the back of his mind until he saw an ad for a mini-computer that cost (I think) $5,000.

    The Computer Space news clipping is an interesting find since history wants to remember the game as a failure. In the Retro Gamer article on it, sales were estimated at 1500-2000, which generally would be considered a moderate success. So no, Pong wasn't the first video game...and it also wasn't the first commercially successful video game either!


    1. Keith SmithAugust 18, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      I agree that Computer Space wasn't the total flop it's often portrayed as, but I also get the impression that it was something of a disappointment - at least to Bushnell if not to Nutting. Ralstin's comments in the article could be marketing puffery.
      Computer Space may not have been a total failure, but neither did it revolutionize the industry. Plus it didn't sell half as many copies as Computer Quiz had. I did a quick search at Internet Pinball Database for all games produced between 1969 and 1971. Of the games for which they have production numbers (and they seem to have numbers for most of the games produced by the big three), about half had production runs of 1,500 or less (accounts of how many Computer Space units were built range from 500 to 2000 I'm going with the 1,500 figure reported by Goldberg/Vendel). The biggest selling pin had a run of 6,000 something and two others had 5,000+ runs.
      So it doesn't seem like 1,500 was terrible, but it didn't set the world on fire either (Chicago Coin made about 10,000 copies of their hit driving game Speedway around this time but that was considered an "amazing" total for the time

  2. Keith, ironic timing for your post, we're going to be putting up all our research related to this specific topic as a blog post on the book site very soon (still writing it up). There's been questions as to why we didn't repeat certain material in the book that Nolan's been talking about for years, and this was the best example to illustrate why and how things were discounted and not used. And we followed this process for everyone across the board that we interviewed. (Though we did mention the Utah claim in the book in the context of a "years later claim").

    First and foremost I want to make it clear that any research and discounting we did does not take away credit from Nolan for having the idea in general. He did, and he certainly deserves credit for it. Our interest was purely in weeding through to document exactly when he actually had it for accuracy sake. That being said - an extensive search regarding Spacewar and the possibility of having played it at Utah was already conducted by myself and several other researches. During it, the entire claim just fell apart. No, there was no PDP-1 there, and in fact no equipment until the late 60s that could have played it or would have been available for playing the game by an undergrad. Evans was just getting started with his CS program (the requisitions for equipment from the school's budget are available) when Nolan was there and Sutherland didn't arrive until he had graduated in '68. We tracked down all the different variations of Spacewar up through that time period (that Nolan claims to have played it), and the only additional version up to that point was a PDP-6 version programmed by Russell in '65-'66 when he went to Stanford's SAIL lab to work on creating one of the first timesharing systems on the PDPs (and it was during that time he also did a multiplayer version of Spacewar supporting multiple vector stations). Now that would have needed to not only have gotten to Utah extremely quick for Nolan to have played it as a freshman like he claimed, but the problem is compounded by two other issues. First, Utah didn't have a PDP-6; it did have a pdp-10 in the late 60s (it's the same 36 bit word architecture as the PDP-6) since that was first introduced by Dec in '66, but that was used as part of it's IMP setup for one of the legendary first nodes of the Arpanet. Second, according to court testimony he claimed the copy of Spacewar was written in Fortran (and that he modified it). To date, no one has ever heard of a Fortran version (including Russell and the group attached to the Computer History Museum related to Spacewar, and there were a lot of interesting ports he had to mention that appeared in the late 60s), and the possibility of using a higher level language to drive a game like that in limited resources (especially with the game needing to drive the vector display direct) is highly unlikely. Not to mention it conflicts with the other claims that he simply plaid it a few times at night, or that the single simple undergrad intro to programming course he took was theoretical and they didn't get real hands on time, instead having to have graduates do the actual programming. There's several other stories as well he's mentioned over the years that introduce more details that conflict.

    Probably the most damning evidence to the Utah claim though (and the above research has gone far deeper than what I mentioned above) was a documentary we managed to get ahold of from 1973. Called Games Computers Play, it was filmed by four UC Berkeley Journalism students who went around the Bay Area to document the rising technology of computer based games. That includes a visit to Atari and the earliest known interview of Nolan (shown surrounded by rows upon rows of PONGs being manufactured in the old roller rink factory). In it, he directly states he got the idea when he saw Spacewar running at Stanford, backing up Ted's original claim.

    1. Thanks for the info. When you say "book site" do you mean A while back I checked there and on the Atari history site, hoping to find some of the legal/corporate documents referenced in the book but didn't see any. I'd love to see them made available. Several months back, someone on KLOV bought a huge collection of Bally/Midway internal documents. I wanted to get some myself, but they ended up being sold in a lot for $10k.
      Had I bought any, I would have posted them but I fear that they are all going to end up sitting in a pile in the guy's closet until he dies and they get tossed in the trash never to be seen again.

      There were some things about the University of Utah version of the story that made me suspicious. I knew that Evans didn't arrive until 1965, but I figured maybe the EE department or another department had a computer of some sort.

      In my book, I plan on including Nolan's version (at least in a footnote, though probably in the main text), but explain the problems with it (though I don't want it to seem like I'm being overly critical of Bushnell).

      I can see why you left it out, but the problem is that some people will read the book and say "Man, how could you guys not know that Nolan saw the game at Utah?" (ditto for other "sacred cow" stories of Atari history) and discount it entirely, thinking you hadn't done your homework. Plus I think the slaying of such sacred cows is interesting in and of itself, in a kind of "Mythbusters" way.

    2. Yes, on the Ataribook site. And we didn't leave the Utah story out as I mentioned, I don't know where you're getting that from. See page 25, where we mention it and put it in a "years later Nolan claims X and Ted claims Y." Also, I didn't say they didn't have a computer in 1965, I said they didn't have a PDP-1 (which is the computer that would have been necessary to play it at that point in time), nor did the computer there have a vector display. Spacewar was tied to the hardware, it expects a specific architecture and display to drive. Likewise, Evans had just come on board himself and was starting up his CS program with the focus on graphics research that he would become known for (which is the reason they eventually had to build a custom kludge display for one of the mainframes they eventually got).

    3. Thanks. I missed the excerpt on page 25.

      After you mentioned the 1973 interview with Nolan, I went back and checked the interview with him that appeared in the June/July 1975 issue of Play Meter (was this his first trade publication interview?) and there actually was some pertinent info.

      The article starts:
      "In 1965, a University of Utah engineering student, who had put in some parttime work at a local arcade, decided amusement games needed to be zapped and he thought he had the proper zapper when he taught the university computer to play a few wierd [sic] games. The concept was born, but it wasn't until 1970 [sic?] that inexpensive technology caught up with Nolan had been Bushnell's idea to program a small computer for various games and allow players to use video terminals located away from the computer. But the costs involved in that concept in the mid-sixties were prohibitive. Bushnell waited and the cheap technology available in 1970 started him working on his old idea again..."

      So there's no mention of Spacewar here either (though maybe he mentioend it and they omitted it). It does, however, state that NB came up with the idea of coin-op "video" games in 1965 so he must have been telling some variant of the story even at this point (and I think this article came out just before Magnavox brought suit against Atari, which I thought was in July, 1975 but that's off the top of my head and may be wrong).
      In this version, however, it's games that he himself programmed that gave him the idea. I don't know if even this claim is true or if he actually programmed any games at UU (though if he took a programming course, you'd think he might have given it a try).
      I don't know if any of this jibes with what he said in the 1973 interview.

      He may be making it all up - or maybe he did try his hand at programming some games and wonder if he could somehow make money off them and later change the story to say he'd played Spacewar in college.

    4. No, in the 1973 interview he specifically states he came up with the idea after seeing Spacewar at Stanford, nothing earlier.

      To put context on the 1975 interview - that was after he was already embroiled in the lawsuits with Magnavox. That multi-terminal situation is what (according to Ted and Larry Bryan) he and Ted planned on originally doing, hence the brief bringing on of Larry. The lawsuits is when when this evolution of "well I started earlier" began to manifest and that story started appearing earlier along with his playing of Spacewar, all in a campaign to purposely blur the line between computer and mainframe based gaming with what the suits were about - video or TV based gaming. The testimony I referred to in the earlier post was from '74 through '75. Regarding programming, his programming according to the testimony was limited to Fortran and even then very little hands on. His games, according to the testimony, were theoretical games he'd like to program someday. I.E. some base paragraph descriptions done as an assignment of the course.

      This "one better" MO is one that he's continued to evolve all these years - try and call or critique a story on a fact and he'll "remember" an earlier instance. That's started to happen recently again with an attempt to discredit the spot motion breadboard that Ted designed for Computer Space, which we'll also be covering in the post.

    5. Hmm. Did Nolan testify in any of the suits Magnavox launched against the other coin-op manufacturers? (Chicago Coin, Seeburg, Midway, Bally, Allied Leisure etc.)

      The manufacturers brought up a number of computer games, programs, and other devices in a futile attempt to invalidate the Magnavox patents and I wondered if Computer Space was one of them (Spacewar was).
      I did find a document from the Bally case where they ask Magnavox if they consider Computer Space a video game, so I figure they did.

      Last week, I read through the Magnavox/Activision case files that are available online at UNH and there was some fascinating stuff in there (plus a whole lot of boring stuff).

      In one of my next two posts, I plan on covering some of the games/devices they mentioned. Many of them are almost entirely unknown such as IGI Pool, RCA Pool, CDC Baseball, the Fritz Spiegel German military trainer, the GE/NASA landing simulator, University of Michgan Pool etc.
      (for some I could find almost no other references to them, even on sites covering early computer games)

      Also, do you have any trial/testimony transcripts from the suits against Allied, Seeburg etc.? (Or, if not, could you point me to how I might obtain them)

      In particular, I was interestd in testimony from people who worked at the other coin-op companies. They have some transcriptiosn on the UNH site and some of them contain a treasure trove of info. (for instance, John Drumheller, designer of IGI Pool talked at some length about how the game was created, his background etc.)

      Some people that (I believe) testified or provided depositions at various trials were Jerry Koci (Chicago Coin), Ed Polanek (URL), Joe Robbins (Atari, Allied Leisure??), and Howell Ivy (Ramtek, Exidy).
      And that's not even considering non-coin op witnesses like Alan Kotok, Peter Sampson, Jim Van Artsdalen (GE/NASA simulator), David Crane, Bob Whitehead etc..

      I am especially interested in the Seeburg case. It looks like someone named Macie testified for Seeburg but I haven't had time to look the name up yet.
      No one I've ever talked to at Seeburg/Williams could tell me anything about their 1973 ball-and-paddle games and I'm sure they came up.

    6. Please tell me you intend on uploading the 1973 Games Computers Play documentary. That clearly must be the very first video game documentary and it should be shared with the world.

      The patent wars between Magnavox and Atari sound quite ridiculous. They were trying to differentiate between mainframe games, video games, and tv games? These days they are all the same thing. I guess back then though there was some difference between computer-based games and integrated circuit-based games. It's all a bunch of sour grapes from Magnavox and Ralph Baer though. They failed to take the idea to the mainstream and Atari succeeded. Companies still to this day are trying to utilize patent law to undermine innovation and it's annoying to see.

  3. Keith: It was a joint suit (Magnavox vs. Chicago Dynamic, Bally/Midway, Atari Inc., etc. with Atari later dropping out and agreeing to a standard licensing, and all the rest loosing. And yes, he testified as part of that. I'm looking at one of his depositions from July 3rd, 1974 right now in fact. We took over boxes of court transcripts from Ralph for every major Magnavox vs. suit.

    1. Thanks. I've seen the online summary of the joint suit but I thought their might have been earlier suits that were combined into one because the Activision papers contain a list of nine different civil actions that Magnavox filed and four others where they were named as defendant between 4/12/74 and 1/28/81 and they all had different case(?) numbers but maybe they were all part of a joint suit? (I'll list more info in my next post)
      The first seven were all pre-1978 (wasn't the joint case in 1977?) with two others in 1978 (Bally and Fairchild) and one in 79 (APF).
      The first suit they listed was filed 4/12/74 against Midway in New York. The others were filed in Illinois or New York (except for the Allied Leisure action, which was filed in Florida on 12/9/76).

      So, do you know if you have the testimony from the other coin-op manufacturers? I'm especially interested in the Seeburg testimony and Howell Ivy's testimony.

      Did you get all your materials from Ralph Baer or did you get any from the courts? (I know you can get trial transcripts from courts but haven't found a good site explaining the details).

    2. Keith: Early on it was switched to a joint suit, and then at some point (in '75 I believe) it was switched to a suit to invalidate (with Magnavox/Sanders as the defendant). The testimony from Nolan on July 3rd, 1974 is listed for the suit of "The MAGNAVOX COMPANY, a corporation and SANDERS ASSOCIATES, INC., a corporation, VS BALLY MANUFACTURING CORPORATION, a corporation, CHICAGO DYNAMIC INDUSTRIES, INC., a corporation, etc al.."

      Yes, I believe we have testimony from some of the other manufacturers, and yes we got all this from Ralph. What we have is everything that was left in the law firm's storage locker in Chicago, including evidence (original patent filings) and other material that wouldn't have been in the court papers still on file in the Chicago court. We picked it up when I was in staying at Ralph's visiting him several years ago, and he donated the eight banker boxes full of material for scanning and archiving. Most of it is with Curt in NY and the rest is by me in WI. That's how we found the actual licensing agreement between Atari and Magnavox, which is of course different than the "junk settlement" Nolan tries to portray it as.

  4. Adam: I'll be putting the relevant portion up for the blog post, as we got permission for that. We do not have permission to just post up the entire video (and yes, I've been in contact with the people that made it).

    As far as the difference between platforms, there always had been a difference. It's just that now the pop culture usage took over the term video game to instead mean "anything computerized with a display." The term "video game" originally arose as a descriptive term of the actual technology: the displaying and interaction of objects on a television screen via it's video signal. Video refers to a raster display method and television by definition, or "relating to the transmission or reception of a televised image" or "the technology of electronically capturing, recording, processing, storing, transmitting, and reconstructing a sequence of still images representing scenes in motion." Or as Webster's defines it - "video (adjective): being, relating to, or used in the transmission or reception of the television image" and "being, relating to, or involving images on a television screen or computer display" modern computer displays using the same raster or pixel process. A video signal represents an encoding and transmission process of pixels to reproduce, i.e. rasters. The confusion in this case arises that both use a CRT, however a CRT does not imply display method or a transmission signal. A vector driven CRT is not a video display - there is no video signal present, nor signal decoding to generate an image. Rather instead it uses a direct control of the CRT's beam by the computer or electronic device (in the case of an oscilloscope) to generate images like an etch-a-sketch, or what is traditionally called an XY Monitor or "Random Scan" display. There is no argument that vector/XY/Random Scan displays were used in the coin-op industry as well, that does not however make them video displays. Nor does the modern culture definition rewrite history to how the term video games arose or actually meant - arising to describe the TV technology encased in all of the early video coin-ops referred to collectively by their manufacturers and the media as TV Games, TV Tennis, Space Age Game, video action game, electronic game, television skill game, and video skill game and video game.

    These earlier "examples" (tennis for two, Spacewar, others) were thrown out of court time and again (we're talking three decades worth of suits against everyone from Midway to Activision to Nintendo who all tried to use them) because they did nothing in the scope of the patents being defended. They were all vector display based games, and even in the case of Tennis for Two there were no actual user controlled objects on the screen.

    1. Likewise, the suit had zero to do with sour grapes, it was purely business (and Ralph didn't sue these people, Magnavox did). Sanders had the very first patents for this video display technology thanks to Ralph and his team, all filed in the 1960s (the judge in the case even called one of the patents the "landmark patent of the industry." I think people take for granted now just how difficult it was at the time (and how pioneering it was) to create the method for plugging into a standard tv set (when the only way in was through the rabbit ear antennas) and come up with a method to display objects and play a game via a standard video signal. I.E. spot motion technology. Sanders and Magnavox as the licensee had force people to license to protect the patents, and in fact the suits switched to countersuits by the defendants to try and invalidate the original patents - which didn't succeed. Ralph was the first to do what two separate industries needed to operate: figure out the technology that allowed you to get into a TV set via it's video signal to put objects on it's screen and interact with them for playing a game. There was no patent trolling going on here like what you see in the software industry now. Additionally, Nolan planned on doing the exact same thing and force everyone else to license his spot motion patent according to an interview he gave Oui Magazine in 1974. Would the fact that Nolan could not do that and was forced to recognize someone did it first not put his statements in sour grapes? Would that not have been undermining innovation? The loosing side in legitimate patent defenses always cries troll, that doesn't make it a fact however.

      Last, it's completely false they failed to take the Odyssey to the mainstream, that's usually just trash talk promoted by Nolan to downplay it and the suits. PONG is a coin-op and the Odyssey is a console, those are two completely different industries. Said console created the home console industry, there was none before it (just as Nolan and Ted created the video coin industry). Said first console created an industry and managed to sell 330,000+ world wide, plus have one of it's games copied to create a major coin-op success. Saying it's a failure for sales would be silly, what are you comparing against? There was nothing else on the market, it was the first and only for almost three years. And comparing it to later consoles in sales would be even sillier, just as comparing PS3 sales to Atari 2600 sales and calling the 2600 a failure would be.

    2. I don't think i's entirely true that Spacewar was consistently rejected by the courts as being immaterial to the Sanders patents due to the fact that it was vector etc. This was true in many of the cases - perhaps all but one. Spacewar was brought up over and over again and almost always rejected as immaterial. In some cases this was because it didn't involve "imparting distinct motion" etc. I think it was also rejected because it was vector, not raster (at least I know Sanders made that claim numerous times in regard to Spacewar and other games).

      In the 1986 Nintendo case
      however, the court ruled that Spacewar was (or would have been) material to one of the patents and specifically rejected the vector/raster argument. I don't agree with them (then again, I'm not a judge nor an engineer) - I think that displaying dots, detecting coincidence, and imparting motion on a raster display is significantly different on a raster display, where you have to worry about sweep rate, synchronization signals etc. and is thus not material to the Baer patents. I also think the "explosion" argument is a bit ridiculous, but here are some relevant quotes from the Nintendo decision:

      "The elements of hit and hitting symbols are represented in Space War by the spaceship and torpedoes respectively…The element of "imparting a distinct motion" is represented in Space War by the explosion displayed when a torpedo strikes a spaceship…The arguments Magnavox makes to avoid the logical similarity between the '507 patent and Space War restrict "imparting a distinct motion" to ball and paddle games where a hit object …retains its form and moves in a different direction once it achieves coincidence with a hitting object …In support of its limited interpretation of the phrase, Magnavox relies on a narrow reading of the patent specifications. But there is no such limitation in the language of the claims, and we see no reason to read one into the patent. Instead, we believe that the claim language "imparting a distinct motion" should be given its traditional English language meaning, which clearly encompasses the explosion in Space War…
      We also reject the other explanations offered by Magnavox, including the fact that Space War was played on a point plot display and the '507 patent specified a raster scan. The technology at the time allowed an inventor to go back and forth between the two types of displays, and Williams acknowledged at trial that the absence of a raster scan was not a sufficient basis for not disclosing Space War to the PTO. Space War, after all, could have been disclosed in combination with other prior art references that taught raster scans. In addition, claim 45 of the '507 patent specifies "on the screen of a cathode ray tube" and does not require a raster scan.
      Thus, we find that the Space War that existed in 1963 would have been material to the PTO's consideration of the SN '256 reissue application."

      It is true that the court, as Ralph Baer said, "threw the case out on its ear", but it had nothing to do with vector/raster etc. Nintendo made a number of other baseless, and often ridiculous, accusations about improper conduct by Sanders during the patent process and the court rejected pretty much all of them.

      In regards to Space War, Nintendo had to not only show that Spacewar was material to at least one of the patent claims, but also that Sanders knew about it, knew it was material, failed to tell the Patent office, AND did so with intent to deceive.

      The judge ruled that Sanders (or at least James T. Williams) honestly believed that Spacewar was immaterial and that they didn't act with intent to deceive and for that reason rejected the Spacewar arguments.

  5. Not only did Baer not create the term "video game", he didn't invent the first video game, as you noted. The 1960s definition of a "video game" wasn't accurate by the time of Magnavox's lawsuit with Atari/Pong, as it was extremely narrow in its meaning. They successfully invalidated William Higinbotham's 1958 Tennis For Two game over semantics (using different hardware) more than anything else. To think that if Atari would have used anything other than an (RF) television set to display the game (vector, projector, etc), Magnavox would not have had any legal recourse? That argument was plausible in the 1970s, but is outright absurd now, especially with the development of alternate display technology (LCD, LED, plasma, etc). Simply put, Tennis For Two is not only a video game, it's the first video game. All the various labels (analog, vector, raster, electronic, etc) do is obfuscate what the real definition is, and that is, what's the experience of the end-user? It doesn't matter to them if the game is analog-based, TTL-based, microprocessor-based (or what language - Assembly, Fortran, BASIC, C, Java....).

    "A vector driven CRT is not a video display - there is no video signal present..."

    One look at the schematics for Atari's Asteroids coin-op game finds several mentions of video (Video Generator, Video Power Supply, etc). Even the Wikipedia entry for the game refers to it as a video game (guess someone forgot to hack that page...). Again, doesn't matter if it's raster or vector. It's still a video game. Playing the game on MAME with a computer monitor (CRT or LCD) doesn't change that.

    1. Well as Keith discusses in his book (and you can listen about in the They Create Worlds podcast, the episode on the Magnavox Patent Lawsuits), this isn't really what's at stake here. Yes, back then it was significant that it was a television screen, but what was far more important was the '507 patent's talk of collision through *use* of a video signal.

      Also you're incorrect by your own definition that Higinbotham's Tennis game would have been first. MIDSAC Pool predated it. It used a CRT and had real-time graphics. If you don't consider real-time graphics a requirement, Shafty Douglas' OXO predated that.