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Reflecting on Pong’s online game success, 50 years later

Two traces transfer on both finish of the display screen, a pixelated dot volleys between them and a rating shows on the high. That is actually all there was to Pong – and that was actually all it wanted to grow to be the primary broadly performed business online game.

50 years in the past, Atari launched the unique Pong as an arcade recreation. To mark the anniversary, Atari co-founder and Pong designer Allan Alcorn spoke with NPR concerning the recreation’s improvement, its success and its connection to a giant identify within the tech world.

Interview Highlights

On the place the concept for Pong got here from

Properly, it got here from Nolan Bushnell, a co-founder of Atari. The concept was to offer me one thing to observe on as a result of I had by no means designed a online game earlier than. Nobody else ever had both, besides Nolan. And so he considered the very easiest attainable recreation that might ever be. And I by no means thought it will be a monetary success.

On Pong and Atari’s success

Properly, once we put the factor on location simply to strive it out, as a result of I attempted to make it as enjoyable to play as I may. And unexpectedly, the factor went nuts.

I did not assume the corporate would final lengthy as a result of most startup firms did not. And so I assumed it will fail after some time, nevertheless it’d be lots of enjoyable, and I might be taught rather a lot doing it, after which return to work for an actual firm. However that by no means occurred and it simply stored getting greater and larger and larger.

On creating the sounds for Pong

Nolan stated he wished the roar of a crowd of hundreds. And I did not know the way to try this. So I stated, okay, I will be proper again. And I simply poked round within the circuit itself, within the vertical sync generator, for applicable sounds and piped them out.

Keep in mind, this was 1972. There was no Web, there was nothing. And so I simply poked round, and it took me about 2 hours and Nolan stated “I do not prefer it.” I stated, “Properly, in case you do not prefer it, Nolan, you do one thing higher.” So he stated, “okay, okay.” That is how the sounds had been performed.

On Pong’s connection to Apple

We had been a quickly rising firm, and I wanted a technician. And someday the personnel girl got here in, says, “You wish to get these unusual ones. So here is one. This younger man out within the foyer.” I stated, “Positive, convey him in.” And he was a dropout of Reed School. He was sort of a hippie, fairly matted. However, , the child was actually enthusiastic. And while you’re hiring any individual – and this was for a technician, the bottom rank within the engineering division, – enthusiasm counts for lots. So I figured, okay, he is acquired to be low cost. However we did not have a lot cash, so I employed him.

It was a man named Steve Jobs. You could have heard of him.

Edited by Mallory Yu

Audio story edited by Ashley Brown

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see extra, go to https://www.npr.org.


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