VIDEO: Pivotal Moment in Games History

Below I'll embed a classic video of Computer Chronicles, featuring hosts Stewart Cheifet and endearingly enthusiastic Gary Kildall.  Chefeit was right there up until early 2000, showing how quickly the industry was changing, even despite the tanking of the video game industry before this show was even broadcast.  Even for someone who grew up with this stuff it's always jarring to see the suits, the collars, the sprayed-flat hair, the huge glasses and the wood panelling.  But if you think about how the computer was only just finding its way into homes as an affordable, useful tool for entertainment and productivity, it must have been exciting then to think that things could only get more sophisticated from there. 

Now that computing and connectivity is much more ubiquitous it's pretty humbling to see how fragile things seemed, and how a few entrepeneurs basically helped create environments which have descendents we're still using today.

The following video is fascinating to me for many reasons:

It shows Chris Crawford, founder of the Game Developer's Conference (he was later kicked out for unspecified reasons) who loved making complex games that tested the storage capacities of computers, including Eastern Front, which I had to load up on our old Atari 8-bit for something like 18 minutes, hoping that there wouldn't be a read error (which would only show up at the END of those 18 minutes...  god, that felt like an eternity back then.  Now it takes me 18 minutes to blink my eyes).  A fun strategic simulation, although I don't think I ever got nearly enough points to consider it a stalemate against Stalin's forces.  Unfortunately he only gets to talk a bit about Excalibur, a fantasy medieval kingdom simulation.

The reason he mostly gets to talk and not show anything off is that Steve Kitchen of current publishing giant Activision shows off a nearly full run of his amazingly detailed Atari 2600 flight simulation Space Shuttle.  This even used the Atari itself as an extra set of controls, which is pretty neat when you remember that the Atari controller was basically an 8-way joystick with a single button.  Dude's so proud of his work he comes off a bit like an advertisement, but whatevs.

Also there is Trip Hawkins, founder of now-giant Electronic Arts, alongside programmer Bill Budge, creator of the Pinball Construction Set.  They demo one of my favorite sports games for my old Atari 7800, One on One, and show a bit of Budge's Construction Set.

Before they talk to these developers you get to see a concise, well-crafted montage of carnival games, and then arcade games, sort of explaining the concept of video games' lineage to people who might not understand it.  Included in the montage is video clip of what looks like Sinistar, one of my all-time video game terrors, as well as clips of Mr. Do's Castle, Time Pilot, Tempest, Pole Position, and the laserdisc curiosity Space Ace.  (Anyone know what that combat jet game they feature was called?)

Note that because this is filmed around the time of the gaming industry crash of 83-84, there's even a question if computer games are a fad.  I'm sort of lumping all game platforms into this when I say they had no idea how much of a comeback games would make.  I certainly didn't know when I first watched programs like this, although I never gave up on games and barely noticed the crash, and the gaming world continues to surprise me :)

The main show is a bit over 20 minutes, and after that you'll see a news segment from the same producers, featuring news of IBM's project codenamed POPCORN, which would become the 286 PC, a law being pushed through the Diet in Japan which would limit copyright restrictions on imported U.S. software (which may have helped pave the way for Japan to become the software giant it is now), as well as as folksy help segment with Paul Schindler telling us that 90% of users don't have computers able to connect to other computers.  Makes me wonder what that percentage is now :)

Whether you want to relive the glory days, laugh at the mid-eighties styles, marvel at how much Activision, Atari, and Electronic Arts have changed, or want to have some insight into these pivotal years in computing history, I hope you enjoy this video.  Thanks to the Internet Archive:

  

9 Comments
10 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

Below I'll embed a classic video of Computer Chronicles, featuring hosts Stewart Cheifet and endearingly enthusiastic Gary Kildall.  Chefeit was right there up until early 2000, showing how quickly the industry was changing, even despite the tanking of the video game industry before this show was even broadcast.  Even for someone who grew up with this stuff it's always jarring to see the suits, the collars, the sprayed-flat hair, the huge glasses and the wood panelling.  But if you think about how the computer was only just finding its way into homes as an affordable, useful tool for entertainment and productivity, it must have been exciting then to think that things could only get more sophisticated from there. 

Now that computing and connectivity is much more ubiquitous it's pretty humbling to see how fragile things seemed, and how a few entrepeneurs basically helped create environments which have descendents we're still using today.

The following video is fascinating to me for many reasons:

It shows Chris Crawford, founder of the Game Developer's Conference (he was later kicked out for unspecified reasons) who loved making complex games that tested the storage capacities of computers, including Eastern Front, which I had to load up on our old Atari 8-bit for something like 18 minutes, hoping that there wouldn't be a read error (which would only show up at the END of those 18 minutes...  god, that felt like an eternity back then.  Now it takes me 18 minutes to blink my eyes).  A fun strategic simulation, although I don't think I ever got nearly enough points to consider it a stalemate against Stalin's forces.  Unfortunately he only gets to talk a bit about Excalibur, a fantasy medieval kingdom simulation.

The reason he mostly gets to talk and not show anything off is that Steve Kitchen of current publishing giant Activision shows off a nearly full run of his amazingly detailed Atari 2600 flight simulation Space Shuttle.  This even used the Atari itself as an extra set of controls, which is pretty neat when you remember that the Atari controller was basically an 8-way joystick with a single button.  Dude's so proud of his work he comes off a bit like an advertisement, but whatevs.

Also there is Trip Hawkins, founder of now-giant Electronic Arts, alongside programmer Bill Budge, creator of the Pinball Construction Set.  They demo one of my favorite sports games for my old Atari 7800, One on One, and show a bit of Budge's Construction Set.

Before they talk to these developers you get to see a concise, well-crafted montage of carnival games, and then arcade games, sort of explaining the concept of video games' lineage to people who might not understand it.  Included in the montage is video clip of what looks like Sinistar, one of my all-time video game terrors, as well as clips of Mr. Do's Castle, Time Pilot, Tempest, Pole Position, and the laserdisc curiosity Space Ace.  (Anyone know what that combat jet game they feature was called?)

Note that because this is filmed around the time of the gaming industry crash of 83-84, there's even a question if computer games are a fad.  I'm sort of lumping all game platforms into this when I say they had no idea how much of a comeback games would make.  I certainly didn't know when I first watched programs like this, although I never gave up on games and barely noticed the crash, and the gaming world continues to surprise me :)

The main show is a bit over 20 minutes, and after that you'll see a news segment from the same producers, featuring news of IBM's project codenamed POPCORN, which would become the 286 PC, a law being pushed through the Diet in Japan which would limit copyright restrictions on imported U.S. software (which may have helped pave the way for Japan to become the software giant it is now), as well as as folksy help segment with Paul Schindler telling us that 90% of users don't have computers able to connect to other computers.  Makes me wonder what that percentage is now :)

Whether you want to relive the glory days, laugh at the mid-eighties styles, marvel at how much Activision, Atari, and Electronic Arts have changed, or want to have some insight into these pivotal years in computing history, I hope you enjoy this video.  Thanks to the Internet Archive:

  

Posted by EleFlameMax

It's worth considering whether the industry today exercises more restraint than the expiremental industry back then. I certainly feel more at home with retro games. Great, great post, Padawan.

Posted by SmugDarkLoser

Didn't space invaders come out before pong?  Talking baout the japanese one.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@SmugDarkLoser: Space Invaders is pretty advanced compared to Pong, the latter of which is basically just a couple of collision detection sequences combined with a visual representation of positions of the paddles and ball on the screen.  Keeping score was the next big leap after that, so Space Invaders was down the line as far as development.  If you can show me something that says that the Japanese version predates Pong I'll be very impressed with what they achieved, but as far as I know their releases were as little as six years apart.  Taito did release their first video arcade game the year after Pong, if that's what you mean.  Much closer.

Where did you hear this?  Is there an error in the wiki?
Posted by destruktive

Pong was released in 1972 while Space Invaders were released in 1978.
so indeed six years

Posted by ahoodedfigure

If the reason SmugDarkLoser brought this up was because of what they say in the beginning about Pong, I think since they're not making a definitive statement about Pong's place in game history then we're fine.  If they'd actually said it was the first computer game they'd be flat out wrong, though, and I've written or contributed to pages on here that speak to that fact.

I hope you got further than the intro, at least!

Posted by KaosAngel

I thought the pivotal moment for the industry was when the Wii killed it. 

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Too bad you used a definite article, KaosAngel, but I'm guessing you're just trying to build up your post count.

Edited by Brackynews

This continues to be an awesome find. I even love that the episode number is (0 to) 1023, does that make me a geek? (Trick question, was already.)

Why aren't there more space shuttle sims, I wonder? Kitchen's 2600 version is so much simpler than he lets on, but I think it shows how we're less enamoured by the mechanics of space flight now. I can only think of the one Flight Club game that involves landing on the moon without also mining for resources. :/

Posted by ahoodedfigure

@Brackynews: Funny that Rock Paper Shotgun JUST discovered this video, 3+ years later.