Join me in this ongoing series as I sift through 45 years worth of pixelated video game, gaming console, and retro computer memories, all wrapped up in a haze of warm, neon-drenched nostalgia.
Part One - The Year of Pong (1976)
I can vividly remember the summer of 1976 as if it were only yesterday. I was eight years old, had my own room filled with all sorts of obscure toys like a chemistry set that could actually kill you if used improperly, an Eagle One spaceship from Space: 1999, and pretty much every Six Million Dollar Man toy that I could get my hands on. That summer my parents surprised me by bringing home something that I hadn't seen before, Atari's new Pong home console.
Yes, the original Pong. I remember sitting on the floor of my small bedroom, watching as a tiny, simulated ball was knocked back and forth across the curved glass screen of my small, aging black and white television. It was all terribly crude by today's video game standards. And yet there I sat, itchy, tired eyes transfixed on the flickering screen before me, my mind awash in an ever-growing sense of pure joy and wonderment.
Pong, for those of you that don't know, was a two-dimensional sports game that simulated table tennis and featured extremely simple game mechanics. It took a maximum of ten seconds to learn everything that you needed to know to play it. Simplistic game mechanics aside, there was something oddly satisfying about it and the rectangular, block-like console that it ran on.
Pong was my first encounter with video games, video game consoles, and consumer electronics in general, and I knew, almost instinctively, that I was hooked. My eight year-old brain wanted, more than anything else, to play more video games like this one. I didn't know it at the time, nor could I ever have predicted it, but this singular encounter in the summer of 1976 would end up being the spark that ignited my love for computers, video games, and electronics for decades to come.