Video Game Firsts - The Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Machine

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Geek Dave spends the week looking back at some firsts in video gaming.


What do you think was the first video game? Pong perhaps? Nice guess. That did come out in 1972, but we have to 25 years further than that, all the way to 1947.

It was just two years after the end of World War II, and the missile displays that were used in the war inspired Thomas T. Goldsmith and Estle Ray Mann to create The Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device. It's the earliest known interactive electronic game to use a cathode ray tube (CRT), and although the gaming device was never marketed or sold to the public, it was patented on January 25th 1948 when it was described as:
"[a device] using eight vacuum tubes to simulate a missile firing at a target... and containing knobs to adjust the curve and speed of the missile."
The gameplay of The Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device was based on the World War II radar displays. Players used the aforementioned knobs to adjust the trajectory of CRT light beams (missiles) in an attempt to hit targets printed on clear screen overlays. The device then records and controls the quality of an electronic signal.

I guess it's a little like a 1947 version of Worms, just without the worms, or explosions. It should also be noted that it was simply a one-shot deal, as the device is purely electromechanical and does not use any memory device, computer, or programming at all.


So with that being said can it actually be considered as the first video game? Well I guess it depends on your definition of the term. Do the words "video game" strictly have to mean a game generated via a computer, using graphics displayed on a video device such as a TV or monitor, or is a video game the correct term for any electronic game displayed using a video output device.

I'm very much in the latter camp, which means I feel we owe a great deal to the CRT, a device that spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.

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