Geek Dave grabs a bag of quarters...
Over the last couple of days we've seen the first video game, the first multiplayer game, and today we're looking at the first coin-operated 'arcade' game. For that we travel back to 1971.
Well actually, we go back a decade earlier because Spacewar!, which we covered yesterday, is the basis of the two arcade machines we're looking at today. Essentially, they are both hybrids of that earlier game, with the same basic gameplay and theme.
In September 1971, Galaxy Game, the
first coin-operated games machine, was installed at Stanford University
California. Only one unit was built initially, costing around $20,000 ($116,466.72 today), but in June 1972 the
hardware was improved to allow the processor to power four to eight
consoles, and additional units were added allowing users to play against each other.
A game cost 10 cents or three games for 25 cents. It remained popular on
campus, with wait times for players as long as an hour, until it was
removed in May 1979 due to the display processor becoming unreliable.
Two months after the single Galaxy Game unit was installed, 1500 units of Computer Space were manufactured and available for commercial sale, making it the first commercially available coin-operated arcade machine.
The first 1000 units sold pretty quickly. Fiberglass cabinets were produced for single-player games in the colors blue metalflake, red metalflake, white, and yellow. The two-player cabinet was only available in a slightly different green metalflake fiberglass cabinet with a wider control panel. There had been nothing like it, and although Computer Space performed well on University campus', in bars it was not a success. For many, the gameplay was just too complicated to grasp, and sales slowed down so no further units were produced.
But Computer Space has a mighty legacy. It was made by
Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, the same two guys who went on to release
Pong the following year, and who eventually founded the Atari Company.
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