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History of video games/1970-1979

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Women Developers[edit]

Despite facing workplace adversity, the 1970's saw several women make prominent contributions in the video game industry, most notably at RCA and Atari.[1][2] However these developers would often not see widespread recognition in their day. This trend would continue into the 1980's.[3]

Popular Genres[edit]

  • Arcade style games, especially the Lunar Lander subgenre
  • 2D Shooters, including Spacewar! clones in the first half of the decade, and later Space Invaders (1978) and similar games.
  • Tabletop inspired roleplaying games.
  • Text adventures (Interactive fiction)
  • Edutainment games


The May 4th Massacre[edit]

A bullet hole in a statue near the shootings at Kent State University.

The horrific events of the May 4th massacre by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University had drastic effects on America, and especially on those present. Several would go on to influence the game industry.

Several students present were moved to form the band DEVO.[4] Band member Mark Mothersbaugh later goes on to work on games such as Crash Bandicoot.[5] Another student, John De Lancie, was less then 20 yards from the shooting, and worked with Senator Young and Ted Kennedy to share his experience with the Senate.[6][7] John De Lancie would later pursue a career as a prominent actor, which included voice acting for video games.[8]

Game of Life[edit]

After development in the 1960's, Conway's Game of Life is published in Scientific American in 1970.[9]


The 1971 game Star Trek.

Galaxy Game[edit]

Galaxy Game, a 1971 arcade game.

In September 1971 the arcade game Galaxy Game is installed at Tresidder Memorial Union of Stanford University[10]. The game is a Spacewar! clone, designed with multiplayer-only capabilities in mind (it lacks the artificial intelligence for single-player gameplay). Although it ranks as the first known coin-operated video game (running on a modified PDP-11), it was never commercially released; despite this, it can be ran on the popular MAME emulator for modern computers.

Computer Space[edit]

In November 1971 the arcade game Computer Space is released by "Syzygy Engineering" (the progenitor of Atari, Inc.) to try to recreate the success of the Computer Quiz game of 1968[11][12]. The gameplay is reminiscent of Spacewar!, but the game is not to be catalogued as a Spacewar! clone. Few units survive to this day, but the game itself is a popular culture icon among video game fans[13].

The Oregon Trail[edit]

In November of 1971 three student teachers (Bill Heinemann, Don Rawitsch, and Paul Dillenberger) make The Oregon Trail for a UNIVAC computer operated by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium and is connected to a number of schools in Minnesota by teletypewriter.[14][15] The Oregon Trail was made despite challenges posed by limited computer access.[16] The first version of The Oregon Trail had to be made with teletypewriters in mind, so shooting mechanics were based on accurately typing words quickly.[16]

The Oregon Trail is one of the earliest edutainment games. As of 2020 the game's modernized versions are often considered to be among the best Edutainment games made.[17][18]

A successor game, Freedom!, attracted controversy.[19]

Intel 4004[edit]

1971 saw the release of the Intel 4004, Intel's first chip produced on a 10 micron process.[20]


Atari & Pong[edit]

The prototype Pong cabinet.

In 1972 Nolan Bushnell founds the company Atari, releasing the arcade hit Pong by fall 1972.[21]


Gaming at BGSU[edit]

You have just run out of fuel - pray for rescue.

Moon, "Computer can play golf, blackjack" Nancy Laughlin BG News (Oct 3, 1973)[22]

The Bowling Green State University computer center offers about 250 computer games for students to play freely, including Moon an early game in the Lunar Lander genre.[22]

Lemonade Stand[edit]

The interface for the game Lemonade Stand.

A programmer working for the educational institution Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium makes Lemonade Stand for their UNIVAC mainframe, which is connected to a number of schools via teletypewriter.[14][15]Gameplay revolves around simulating a business, balancing prices and costs with demand influenced by external factors like weather.[15]

Lemonade Stand is among the first games that attempts to simulate a business, as well as an early example of an edutainment game.

Oil Panic[edit]

The OPEC Oil embargo to the United States, Japan, and other nations creates great economic shock and a recession.[23][24] Hanafuda cardmaker and toy manufacture Nintendo is nearly pushed to financial ruin by the economic effects of the embargo and begins desperately seeking alternate revenue sources, eventually leading them to make home video games.[25]

Phong Shading[edit]

Phong Shading is invented in 1973, becoming a common 3D graphics shading technique which adds dynamic highlights to objects.[26][27]


Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

dnd, a game inspired by Dungeons & Dragons which started development in 1974.

In 1974 the original "White Box" edition of the World-famous Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game is released with it and its derivatives influencing a number of programmers, and through them highly influenced the creation of both Western computer RPGs and Japanese RPG genres.[28][29][30]


Video Games on Planes[edit]

In 1975 Braniff Airlines offers Pong during flights, becoming the first, airline to offer a video game as an in flight entertainment option.[31][32]

First Digital Camera[edit]

On December 12th, 1975 the first digital photograph is taken by Kodak employee Steven Sasson of subject Joy Marshall.[33] The Camera captures the image using a CCD from Fairchild Semiconductor and then takes 26 seconds to record the result onto an audio tape.[33] Later on gaming devices such as the GameBoy camera and the Xbox Kinect use digital cameras to offer unique gameplay experiences.[34][35]

Graphic Music Synergy[edit]

At ACM SIGGRAPH 1975 in Bowling Green, Ohio a presentation is given on graphics influenced by music[36], an early example of a relationship that would become common in games with adaptive music.


A flyer for Fonz, a 1976 arcade game by Sega


1976 was an important year for automobiles and racing in video games.

Datsun became the first automaker to license one of it's cars for a arcade game in 1976,[37] later seeing a home console port to the Bally Professional Arcade.[38] Later on, real automobile brands would later proliferate in racing games, adding to realism and immersion, as well as being a powerful marketing tool for the automobile industry.[39]

In 1976 the Death Race arcade game is introduced, prompting media to question the violence featured in the game.[40] The newness of video games meant that some outlets struggled to differentiate the game from a pinball machine or board game.[41] The sensationalism surrounding the game ultimately boosted it's sales.[42]

Apple Computer[edit]

The Garage where Apple Computer was first based.

On April 1st, 1976, Apple Computer is founded by Steve "Woz" Wozniak and Steve Jobs in the latter's garage[43]. The initial purpose of the company is to manufacture Woz's Apple I motherboard.


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  2. Edwards, Benj (27 October 2017). "Rediscovering History’s Lost First Female Video Game Designer". Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/90147592/rediscovering-historys-lost-first-female-video-game-designer. 
  3. Hernandez, Patricia (11 February 2021). "In the ’80s, she was a video game pioneer. Today, no one can find her" (in en). Polygon. https://www.polygon.com/2021/2/11/22273073/ban-tran-atari-2600-wabbit-first-female-character-video-games-playable-history-apollo. 
  4. "REMEMBERING MAY 4 - AN INTERVIEW WITH DEVO'S JERRY CASALE". https://www.kent.edu/art/news/remembering-may-4-interview-devos-jerry-casale. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
  5. "Exclusive Interview – Composer Mark Mothersbaugh talks working with Wes Anderson, Crash Bandicoot and his discography". 27 June 2018. https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2018/06/exclusive-interview-composer-mark-mothersbaugh-talks-working-with-wes-anderson-crash-bandicoot-and-his-discography/2/. Retrieved 12 November 2020. 
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1960-1969 · 1980-1989