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From 2-bit to 3D - the History of Video Games

August 7th, 2013 Games

In the ever-evolving world of technology, video games are commonplace - nearly every living room, dorm room and bedroom has some sort of console hooked up to a television. It's not rare to see the blinking red and green lights of a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 on a television stand. Video game technology has evolved rapidly and its history is a brief yet exciting one.

Humble beginnings

The first video game invented was the work of William A. Higinbotham in 1958, who worked in a nuclear research laboratory and came up with a rough simulation of tennis, according to DesignBoom.com. With some assistance, Higinbotham built the machine in less than three weeks.

Later, in 1961, there was a group of friends at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, comprised of Wayne Witanen, J. Martin Graetz and Steve Russel, who came up with the concept for a game called Space War, in which two outlined objects dubbed the Needle and the Wedge would shoot missiles at one another.

In-home games

Video games became a household item in 1975, when the creators of the game Pong (Bob Brown and Harold Lee) came up with the idea of the game being repackaged and sold so normal people could buy it and play it on their televisions. They took out an additional $10 million loan and sold it under Sears' brand for $100. Pong was a phenomenal success and people rushed to the department store to purchase their own consoles.

According to Time Magazine, Atari predicted that multi-player systems were the future for video games. The game company began working on a console that used cartridges and dubbed the project Stella. Eventually, they came up with Atari VCS, also known as Atari 2600. With the financial backing of Warner Communications, it was released to the public in 1977. It enjoyed a great success and people everywhere played Space Invaders, Breakout and Missile Command in the comfort of their own homes.

Soon afterward, Nintendo came out with the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. Other companies under licensing agreements developed games such as Contra and Final Fantasy, and along with the company's in-house games like Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo was a major success story.

Rapid improvement

Video games became even more accessible and the technology experienced a rapid improvement. The portable Game Boy was released by Nintendo in 1989, and the gaming company struck a chord with the public once again.

Also, in that same year, Sega Genesis was released. The sleek black system, according to Time, used 16-bit technology and, like its predecessors, it made large profits. Two years later, the Super Nintendo system came out. It beat out Genesis in sales, and the battle for improved technology continued.

Over the next two decades, video game systems became more intricate with better graphics, controllers that used joysticks and buttons and characters that no longer just moved along the X and Y axis, but could go forward and backward in the Z axis as well. Microsoft soon joined the video game battle with its Xbox after Sega's Dreamcast failed.

Nintendo's last console effort was the Wii, which uses wireless controllers that allow you to simulate real life movements. Xbox and Sony's Playstation 3 are the industry leaders. While the graphics have improved, so has the interactivity - today it's not just two people, but a whole world connected via internet.