1971's COMPUTER SPACE
a look at the first video arcade game ever
Nothing sells a game better than a model
with a see-through gown
Arcade games have been around since the
early 1900s. From ball rolling pastimes like Skee-Ball and Fascination, to
the burger joint stand-bys like Pinball, America has long had a fascination with
dumping coins into things to get a thrill (including that movie I saw with your
mother last night!). But in 1971, a 26 year old named Nolan Bushnell who
worked for Nutting Associates with the then bizarre job title of "Videogame
Designer", invented a new type of arcade game called Computer Space that forever
changed the world.
Just one look at the cabinet, and you can
tell its a relic from a time in which shows like Star Trek were considered
accurate interpretations of the future. With its crazy curved exterior,
and funky metal flaked paint, it looked like something out of a science fiction
There's even a scene in the classic film
Soylent Green that features a Computer Space machine in the background, as you
can see in this screen capture, with a modified white version of the game.
CLICK IMAGE FOR A JUMBO VERSION OF THE PANEL
The control panel is a retro-styled thing
of beauty. With it's 2 "ROTATE", and a "FIRE" and "THRUST" button, the
game play and ship design was still used many years later when such classics
like Asteroids, and Star Castle were introduced.
Here's a look inside this fantastic
machine! In some cases, the coin collector was an actual old coffee can!
Remember this was still before Atari games were out, so it was pretty darn
primitive. The technical manual states that there's one memory board to
control the ship and another for the joystick to work. All for about a
game that took up about 1K of data.
Unfortunately, Computer Space wasn't much
of a success. Its gameplay and controls proved to be too confusing for the
average inebriated bar patron that was around these machines. Bushnell's
net profit from the sales was a whopping $250 when all was said and done, which
left him just enough to start up a little company called Atari.
The inspiration for Computer Space was a
computer game designed in 1962 called Space War, the first videogame ever made
(which required a machine the size of about 4 refrigerators to play, at the
time). An arcade version of Space War was later made, but not until 1977.