History of video games/1960-1969

A small market


During the 1960's the Video Game Industry was a rather small market, and were more often than not used as a novelty attraction or the hobby project of an academic than a serious product category. In spite of that this decade would not only host some key developments in foundational technologies, some rather significant developments would be made in video gaming directly.

The PLATO Educational computer terminal system is launched after being developed from 1959 through 1960, later giving rise to a number of early multiplayer games in the 1970's once adoption picked up.[1][2]

Adaptations of the game of Nim were quite popular during the this decade. In 1962 the mainframe game Marienbad is developed in Poland as a Nim adaptation.[3] Dr. Nim is a dedicated mechanical digital computer game that used marbles instead of a screen launched at some point during the 1960's.

For more information about some early mainframe games, please read the chapter on early games.

Computer Technology Improves

A transparent compact cassette, showing the magnetic tape.

As Computing technology was spurred on by demand from Cold War era policies and business needs, several developments were made that would go on to impact gaming technology as well.

Reed-Solomon Code is invented in 1960, allowing for more reliable telecommunication and optical media,[4] which would later be used by gaming systems. It is also used by more obscure game media, such as Nintendo E-Reader cards.[5]

Project Xanadu begins in 1960 and becomes a significant early attempt at implementing hypertext, as well as an early prominent example of vaporware.[6] This is a key development in the realization of hypertext, and eventually it's more popular competitor, the World Wide Web, plays host to a number of web games.

An early computer animation is rendered in Sweden 1960 and broadcast in 1961.[7][8] Eventually computer generated imagery, or CGI for short, becomes a common way of generating rich visuals for games.

In October 1962 the first red LED is invented.[9] This paves the way for cheap indicator lights in consoles and computers, as well as the red LED arrays that made consoles like the Entex Adventure Vision and the Virtual Boy possible.

In 1963 the Dutch company Phillips brings the compact cassette to market.[10] Cassette tapes would later be used as a popular medium for computer games during the late 1970's and 1980's.[11] The Cassette's popularity among gamers in Europe was particularly notable. By the 1980's the cassette proved popular among computer gamers in the Netherlands, as game software was distributed on radio broadcasts, where they could easily be recorded in standard players then loaded into computers.[12]

In 1968 Digi Grotesk is created, one of the first known digital typefaces.[13][14] Digital typography would become a key component of visual design in any video game which used text,[15] and designers would quickly leverage type itself as a way they could further immerse the player in their games, improve visual clarity of game elements, and further their own artistic goals.

Doug Englebart

A mouse prototype which began development in 1964 by Doug Engelbart and Bill English.

Doug Englebart invents the mouse in 1964.[16] Following years of development, on December 9th, 1968 Doug Englebart hosts the "Mother of All Demos" where he demonstrates a number of concepts, such as a computer mouse, digital maps, hyperlinks, real time collaboration in the same environment, and video chat.[17][18] The concepts demonstrated by Doug Englebart in the Mother of All Demos would eventually be deployed in the gaming industry, either in games themselves or by video game developrs.

Space Race


The space race spawned a number of space age technologies and a media frenzy. From these developments, the space race spurred several key developments in the gaming industry, either through direct technological development, or by inspiring space themed games.

A PDP-1 computer with Spacewar! creator Steve Russell.

Spacewar! for the PDP-1 computer was among the first digital video games, and featured two players fighting around a gravity pulling star.[19][20] It's open source nature also soon leads to some of the first video game mods.[20]

In March 1969 Bell Labs changed focus, spurring programmer Ken Thompson to port his video game Space Travel from the expensive to run GE-645 computer to a cheaper PDP-7 he had access to, eventually resulting in the creation of the Unix operating system.[21] Unix derived and compatible operating systems would go on to directly power a number of gaming devices, such as the PlayStation 4.[22] Unix and compatible operating systems would also go onto power a number of gaming adjacent devices, such as game servers, or mobile phones.

During the space race NASA created demand for then emerging technologies spurring their development, like microchips.[23] This helped to promote the miniaturization of consumer electronics.[23][24]

On July 20th, 1969 humans lands on the Moon for the first time, with the historic moment televised across the globe.[25] This moment defines a generation, and many are deeply moved by this momentous occasion. Among those captivated by the Apollo 11 moon landing is Hideo Kojima, who would later develop games inspired by space travel, such as Policenauts.[26][27]

Influence of Literature


The literature of the late 1950's and 1960's had a large influence on the plots of many video games in later years. One of the most notable examples Bioshock (2007) took inspiration from Atlas Shrugged (1957) 50 years later to explore the society advocated by the novel, and would also offer a deconstruction by illustrating the pitfalls of such a society.[28][29] A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) would go on to inspire the Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout (1997), with both using a theme of a religious order safeguarding old world relics in a post-nuclear landscape.[30] Dune (1965) was a major work of science fiction literature which would go on to influence a number of foundational science fiction games, shaping genres in a media which barely yet existed.[31] The 1959 novel Starship Troopers is commonly credited with popularizing the concept of "Power Armor",[32] a concept later found in other science fiction media, including many video games.



  1. "The Game Archaeologist: The PLATO MMOs, part 1". Engadget. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  2. "How PLATO changed the World...in 1960". eLearningInside News. 3 June 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  3. "Marienbad (video game)". Wikipedia. 3 September 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  4. "Reed-Solomon Codes". Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  5. "Nintendo E-Reader Technical Details". www.caitsith2.com. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  6. "World's most delayed software released after 54 years of development" (in en). the Guardian. 6 June 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/06/vapourware-software-54-years-xanadu-ted-nelson-chapman. 
  7. Wenz, John (25 June 2015). "These Retro Animations Were Far Ahead of Their Time". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  8. "3D Animation Design: 5 Large Industries Reshaped by It". Blog cgiflythrough.com. 3 July 2020. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  9. "LED at 50: An illuminating history". BBC News. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  10. "Total rewind: 10 key moments in the life of the cassette". the Guardian. 30 August 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  11. Moore, Bo (20 April 2015). "New storage format could hold 220 terabytes of games—on tape". PC Gamer. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  12. "People Once Downloaded Games From The Radio" (in en). www.amusingplanet.com. https://www.amusingplanet.com/2019/04/people-once-downloaded-games-from-radio.html. 
  13. "This Was The First Computer Font". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  14. "The Digital Past: When Typefaces Were Experimental". AIGA the professional association for design. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  15. "Down to the Letter: The Importance of Typography in Video Games". www.gamasutra.com. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  16. Markoff, John (3 July 2013). "Computer Visionary Who Invented the Mouse (Published 2013)". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  17. "Highlights of the 1968 Demo - Doug Engelbart Institute". dougengelbart.org. Retrieved 12 November 2020. {{cite web}}: no-break space character in |title= at position 28 (help)
  18. Center, Smithsonian Lemelson (10 December 2018). "The Mother of All Demos". Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  19. "Spacewar! PDP-1 Restoration Project Computer History Museum". www.computerhistory.org. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  20. a b Brandom, Russell (4 February 2013). "'Spacewar!' The story of the world's first digital video game". The Verge. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  21. "The Strange Birth and Long Life of Unix". IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  22. "PS4 runs Orbis OS, a modified version of FreeBSD that's similar to Linux - ExtremeTech". www.extremetech.com. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  23. a b Gaudin, Sharon (20 July 2009). "NASA's Apollo technology has changed history". Computerworld. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  24. Potter, Sean (5 June 2019). "Exploring the Moon Promises Innovation and Benefit at Home". NASA. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  25. Sosby, Micheala (12 July 2019). "Memories of Apollo from People All Over the World". NASA. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  26. Chen, Adrian (3 March 2020). "Hideo Kojima's Strange, Unforgettable Video-Game Worlds". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  27. "shmuplations.com". shmuplations.com. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  28. Perich, John (25 February 2009). "The Myth of Atlantis: Atlas Shrugged and Bioshock" (in en). Overthinking It. https://www.overthinkingit.com/2009/02/25/the-myth-of-atlantis-atlas-shrugged-and-bioshock/. 
  29. Perrotta, Anthony (7 July, 2017). "“BIOSHOCK” AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYN RAND". https://entropymag.org/bioshock-and-the-philosophy-of-ayn-rand/. 
  30. Boisvert, Lauren (25 November 2020). "The Untold Truth Of Fallout's Brotherhood Of Steel". Looper.com. https://www.looper.com/285387/the-untold-truth-of-fallouts-brotherhood-of-steel/. 
  31. "What if: Dune was never written?". PCGamesN. https://www.pcgamesn.com/doom/what-if-dune-was-never-written. 
  32. Singer, Peter W. (May 2, 2008). "How to Be All That You Can Be: A Look at the Pentagon’s Five Step Plan For Making Iron Man Real". Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/how-to-be-all-that-you-can-be-a-look-at-the-pentagons-five-step-plan-for-making-iron-man-real/. 

Early games · 1970-1979