In the Spring of 1971, while still working for Ampex, Nolan Bushnell along with fellow engineer Ted Dabney, started crafting their own version of Space War named “Computer Space”. They worked out of Bushnell’s daughter Britt’s bedroom, turning it into a computer lab in which they could engineer their masterpiece. All sort of ideas crossed their minds, including using a minicomputer like Galaxy Game, and using a series of terminals for multi-player experience, but these ideas were far too expensive for this bedroom outfit. Instead, it hit them one day to go in the opposite direction and simplify their design to cut costs as much as possible. The pair decided that they did not need $1000s of dollars in hardware to make their dream come to life, but chose a much simpler solution. They crafted a working game using TTL(Transistor To Transistor) Logic.) to create a computer whose sole purpose was to play “Computer Space”. While this might have seemed like a step-back technology wise, it was a huge leap forward for creating a commercial game. With a black and white G.E. TV and $100 worth of electronic parts, they created the first viable, commercial video game.
“”I worked it out and the economics were overwhelming.”
This seemingly simple decision towards simplification fueled the entire video game industry for most of the 1970’s.
“100% of the video games up until 1977 used my discreet logic technology…that I had a patent on.”
However, before a video game revolution could be started, it would need a game that people wanted to play. Unfortunately, “Computer Space” was not that game. Bushnell and Dabney sold their idea to Nutting And Associates in late 1971. It landed in the coin-op industry with a resounding “thud”. Amusement operators who were used to buying jukeboxes and pinball machines had no idea what to do with it. The controls were too complicated, and the game too confusing for the average barroom (read: drunk) player.
“Nobody wants to read an encyclopedia to play a game”
-Bushnell on Computer space
- The First Quarter by Steven L. Kent
- Rec Room Amusemements Interview With Nolan Bushnell, http://www.recroom-amusements.com/bushnell.htm
- Steve Fulton interview with Nolan Bushnell, August 2007