Human Meets Machine: An Evolutionary Timeline of Video Game Consoles

The World's Fair that took place between 1939 and 1940 was known as the "everyman's fair." Over 1200 acres of space in Flushing Meadows, New York, was dedicated to various pavilions and booths displaying the ideas and innovations of the future. The theme of the fair was "Building the World of Tomorrow," and some of the items that made their debut here are the everyday items of the present day. One of the most notorious of these in the modern world is the video game console. 


The Secret of Nim 

The Westinghouse Company had a bright and active exhibit at the fair, buzzing and whirring with all manner of electronic gadgets. One of these was a very large, simple computer that was designed to play a game called Nim. The object of the game was to not pick up the last matchstick. Tens of thousands lined up to play, a prediction of its future popularity. Today, even the best tablets for college are designed with their gaming capability in mind. Seven years after the World's Fair, patents would start to appear for games that mimicked firing guns at targets, and computers that would play strategy games like chess and tic tac toe. The 1950s would see IBM computers programmed to play blackjack, baseball, and checkers.    


It Began with a Brown Box   

Several different games and puzzles appeared on computers throughout the 1960s, and the US Defense Department wasn't shy about using the same technology for Cold War simulations. It was not until 1967 that the first official home video game console appeared, one year after a programmer and designer named Ralph Baer came up with the idea of playing video games on television. Baer's "Brown Box" could play tennis and other simple games. Magnavox would release another console and games a year later based on his designs, and in 1975 Atari would develop a home-version of its popular Arcade game, Pong. 


From Atari to Zelda 

The Atari 2600 was the first video game system to be sold as we now understand them. It included joysticks, essential cables, game cartridges, and required a television or monitor to play. It was also this system that made video games a household name and an essential rec-room accessory. The popularity of video games and the lack of licensing rules actually led to a video game bubble, which burst spectacularly in 1983, decimating the American industry. The Nintendo Entertainment System from Japan filled the void in 1985, making Nintendo a permanent fixture in video console gaming. In 1989, the Nintendo would release the Gameboy, and usher in a whole new era of console gaming that included hand-held devices. By 2001, Sony and Microsoft had also joined the market, and the three-way video game console war had begun.     

Video game consoles have come a long way since the 1940s, when they were simply electric card games or monochrome blips on a computer screen. The present day world of console video gaming revolves around online gaming, multiplayer environments, and three dominant companies. The future can move in a myriad of directions, all of it filled with sound, color, and three-dimensional adventure. 

Madeleine Lloyd is a Mom who is enjoying some extended maternity leave. A geeky girl at heart who has experience of working the phones at at ISP company, she writes about technology, the internet and gaming.



1939 New York World's; From 

Online "Video Game Timeline." 2015, Education Database Online; 

The Strong National Museum of Play, "Video Game History Timeline." 2016, The Strong; 

Time, "A History of Video Game Consoles." 2016 Time Inc.;,31813,2029221,00.html


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