Before Pong, there was Computer Space
Surrender your quarters, human!
The Computer Space cabinet came in a variety of colors, metalflake red, metalflake blue, metalflake green, and a non-metalflake yellow. The game was most commonly sold as a single-player unit, although a few two-player units were developed and sold as well. Computer Space's cabinet was indeed quite modern looking — some say attractive, although that's certainly in the eye of the beholder. This author happens to think it's a bit like playing a game in the hollowed-out head of ET.
Nevertheless, its sleek and futuristic design won it cameo appearances in the 1973 movie Soylent Green and later Jaws in 1975 (technically making it one of the first product placements in a Hollywood blockbuster, although sales were for all intents and purposes dead by that time).
Computer Space was ultimately a commercial flop. Some blame its difficulty, some blame there not being a video game market established yet. Bushnell felt that Nutting Associates didn't market the game well.
Given the lovely model's underwear being clearly visible in the above Computer Space ad, we here at El Reg are inclined to disagree. Strongly.
Although since the unit's height measures about 5.58 feet (1.70 meters) there's probably something funny going on with scale.
Bushnell reportedly only made $250 from Computer Space royalties. But despite the lack commercial success, Bushnell and Dabney decided to give the biz another go — this time as the sole designer and manufacturer of their games.
The two changed the name of their company to The Atari Company on June 27, 1972. Their new strategy was also better suited to the intended audience. Make a game that any drunk in a bar could play.
That game would become Pong. And if you don't know about Pong, you should paddle yourself.
As always, our thanks to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California for letting us spotlight some of terrific systems. We also recommend to those interested in further reading on Computer Space head over to Computerspacefan.com. ®
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