If you've got the time, Buzzfeed's 4,500 word history of the early days of Atari and the development of Pong is a delight. Apart from what is clealry a still-simmering beef between Magnavox Odyssey mastermind Ralph Baer (age 90) and Atari (and Chuck-E-Cheese!) founder Nolan Bushnell (age 69), my favorite part concerns Atari's early days of revenue collection:
Steve Bristow, another Ampex alum who followed Bushnell, Dabney, and Alcorn to Atari, had to schlep five pounds of quarters to his car when he collected each machine's earnings. By the end of the collection route, Bristow could be carrying 30-pound bags over his shoulder.
“I’d go around collecting quarters and fixing games,” he explains. “Some of the locations were not in the primest areas. We couldn’t get a concealed-weapons permit, but I had worked a few years before as a roofer, so I had a roofing hatchet. I’d be walking down the streets at midnight, carrying bags of money. My wife would be carrying one bag in one hand, the hatchet in the other.” He pauses. “Nobody bothered us.”
I suppose it never occured to Bristow to use the giant metal-filled bag as a weapon?
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I think it's worth pointing out that these early gaming experiences were purely social: they happened in a Bay Area bar. This may represent the answer to the question I asked Tuesday about why online game watching has become so popular. Perhaps we've always loved to watch others play, and grow to excel, at games.
And Pong, for its part, is still evolving. One of the highlights of this year's Indie Cade was Open Source, a game in which players, through the use of motion-detection, become the paddles themselves.