Computer Gaming Timeline: 1889-2005

The Digiplay timeline of computer games provides dates and details for key events in video gaming history. It covers developments not only in games but also innovations in computer, sound and internet technology. It gives a year-by-year listing right back to the founding of Nintendo in 1889.

1889

  • Fusajiro Yamauchi founds a Karuta playing card company called Nintendo Koppai. "Nintendo" is most often translated as "Work hard, but it the end it is in heaven's hands".

1945

  • In an article titled "As We May Think" in Atlantic Monthly, Vannevar Bush (1890-1974) develops the idea of the Memex a conceptual forerunner to hypertext.

1948

  • The Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM) or the "Baby", was designed and built at the University of Manchester. It made its first successful run of a program on June 21st 1948. It was the first computer that could store data and user programs in electronic memory.

1951

  • Based on "The Baby" and the "Manchester Mark 1" (April 1949) the Ferranti Mark 1 becomes the first commercially available computer. The machine stores data on a magnetic drum and has a speed of about 1.2 milliseconds per instruction. About nine machines are sold.

1952

  • Alexander (Sandy) Douglas a PhD student at Cambridge University produces the word's first computer game - a version of noughts and crosses (Tic-Tac-Toe) to run on the EDSAC. It predates Spacewar by almost a decade. See http://www.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/~edsac/ for simulator and software. (In "The Simpsons", Apu Nahasapeemapetilon holds a Ph.D. in computer science. His doctoral research was writing on punch cards the world's first computer program to play perfect tic-tac-toe.)

1954

  • Service and Games Company (later to contract its name to SEGA) start importing US pinball machines into Japan.

1958

  • At the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York Willy Higinbotham created "the tennis program" a game played on an oscilloscope connected to an analogue computer.

1959

1960

  • Although the word isn't coined until 1963 (and reach print until 1965), Ted Nelson develops the idea for hypertext. He works on the concept throughout the decade, choosing the term Xanadu for his project in 1967

1961

  • The idea for a computer games called Spacewar! was conceived by Martin (Shag) Graetz, Steve (Slug) Russell and Wayne Witanen.

1962

  • Steve Russell is head programmer on a team of graduates students (Dan Edwards, J Martin Graetz, Alan Kotok, Steve Piner, Peter Samson and Robert A. Saunders) which creates Spacewar on a mainframe computer at MIT. This becomes the first distributed computer game as it is circulated between computer labs.

1963

  • Modem patented by BBN.

1965

  • To coincide with it movement into arcade game development, Service and Games Company becomes SEGA.

1966

  • At Sanders Associates, Ralph Baer invents a video game in which two dots chase each other around a screen. The US government, seeking to develop training tools for the military rather than consumer electronics, funds the project as 'Top Secret'.
  • SEGA releases an electronic shooting gallery game called Periscope " it is the first arcade game.

1967

  • ADVENT (aka Adventure), the first text-based adventure game is written in FORTRAN by Willie Crowther to run on a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1.
  • Ralph Baer invents a computer tennis game that can be played on a TV -it is the forerunner to Pong.
  • UNIX is written.

1969

  • Rick Blomme writes a two-player version of Spacewar. Working over a remote network it marks the advent of network gaming.
  • The US government's ARPANET, precursor to the Internet, is launched

1970

1971

  • Computer SPACE, the first computer arcade game is launched unsuccessfully by Nutting Associates and designed by Nolan Bushnell
  • Magnavox begins developing the Odyssey

1972

  • The first home TV game system, the Magnavox Odyssey released in the USA.
  • June 27th, Nolan Bushnell establishes Atari (having found out the name "Syzygy" was already taken. A fan of the Japanese game Go, Bushnell chose the name as it means "check".
  • Hunt the Wumpus is developed by Gregory Yob on a Time-Sharing System at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth

1973

  • Atari create the first Pong arcade games.
  • Dungeons and Dragons is first sold by Arneson and Gary Gygax as typewritten rule sets.

1974

1975

  • Atari's Home-Pong is demonstrated at toy industry exhibition by Nolan Bushnell. Sears negotiate exclusive sale rights.
  • Crowther and Woods creates on a mainframe the first text-based adventure game, Adventure.

1976

  • The Fairchild Channel F is launched as the first home console with interchangeable game cartridges.
  • Warner Communications buys Atari.
  • Steve Wozniak develops the Apple computer and with Steve Jobs, an ex-Atari employee.
  • At the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) at Stanford University Don Woods developes and expands ADVENT.

1977

  • Atari releases the Video Computer System (VCS 2600)
  • Gunfight, an arcade game from Midway Games, becomes the first game to use a microprocessor instead of hard wiring.

1978

  • Japanese pachinko company, Taito, release the arcade game Space Invaders the first game to feature animated characters and display "High Scores". In the USA it is distributed by Midway Games.
  • Intel develops the 8088 8/16bit processor.

1979

  • Sears split with Atari and market their own "Tele-games" line.
  • Atari releases what was to be their best-selling game, Asteroids, as an arcade game.
  • Zork released as a standalone game by Infocom.
  • The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide is published.

1980

  • Atari releases Space Invaders for the VCS 2600.
  • Mattel launches their home games console, Intellivision.
  • Atari creates Battlezone tank simulation game, first arcade game using three-dimensional first-person perspective. Used for consumer and military alike.
  • Namco releases Pac-Man, all time most popular arcade game.
  • Nintendo open US branch.

1981

  • First outing for Mario in Donkey Kong. He is originally conceived as a carpenter rather than a plumber.
  • In the USA, $5 billion dollars spent on arcade games and $1billion on domestic video games systems.
  • IBM launch the IBM PC, the first computer to feature their 8088 processor.
  • As part of the BBC Computer Literacy Project and demonstrated in The Computer Programme the (Acorn) BBC Micro is launched.

1982

  • Coleco releases their home games console, Colecovision General Consumer Electronics releases Vectrex, the only home console using vector graphics.
  • Atari announces poor sales of VCS, and Warner stock tumbles 32% in one day.
  • Teletel - the forerunner to Minitel is launched.

1983

  • Nintendo launch the Family Computer (Famicom) in Japan - 500.000 units are sold in the first 2 months but technical problem cause a huge recall.
  • Coleco releases their ill-faced computer, Adam.
  • Mattel loses $225 million from Intellivision.
  • Commodore releases Commodore 64 computer, which also serves as a powerful video games machine. It is the start of the 1984 gaming market collapse.
  • Apple release Lisa, the first computer with a graphical user interface.
  • Kesmai launches MegaWars I on Compuserve.

1984

  • Nintendo begins development of Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
  • Mattel and Coleco pull out of the games market.
  • Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore leaves and buys Atari. Eliminates VCS 2600 consoles, and begins design of new 8-bit consoles and computers, and 16-bit computers.
  • Apple releases the Macintosh.
  • Minitel, the French Government's telecom project goes live to domestic consumers.

1985

  • Nintendo releases the Nintendo Entertainments System (NES), a new version of the Famicom, to test markets. Nintendo redesigns case for US market, so it looks like a "video component" rather than a toy. The machine contains a "lockout chip" and Nintendo restricts software development to exclusively licensed companies.
  • Atari releases 16-bit computer to compete with Apple's Macintosh.
  • Commodore-Amiga 1000 is launched.
  • Microsoft develops Windows.
  • QuantumLink, predecessor to AOL, is launched in the USA"

1986

  • Nintendo releases NES (Famicom) to the worldwide market. In the USA is retails at $199 including Super Mario Brothers game.
  • SEGA releases SEGA Master.
  • Commodore releases the Amiga.
  • Atari releases VCS 7800, which is now compatible with original VCS.
  • Nintendo outsells competitors 10 to 1.
  • Activision buys Infocom.

1987

  • NEC releases PC-Engine.
  • VGA and SVGA graphics cards developed.
  • The Canadian Company, Adlib, release its PC sound card.

1988

  • In the USA, Atari claims Nintendo has an illegal monopoly and takes them to court. Nintendo accused of price fixing and anti-competitive practices.
  • Tetris is released
  • IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is invented.

1989

  • Atari figures out a way to bypass the NES "lockout chip", and begins creating NES games that are not licensed by Nintendo. In the courts, Atari gains rights to publish NES versions of SEGA games, and also translates its own arcade games to NES.
  • Nintendo and Atari fight over rights to Tetris, Nintendo wins and Atari must recall its cartridges.
  • Nintendo launches Game Boy and Atari release their own handheld games machine, Lynx.
  • SEGA releases Genesis 16-bit console in USA.
  • Winning Run, the first 3D arcade game is launched
  • The Internet becomes open to public use.
  • Creative labs releases it SoundBlaster card. It features an 11-voice FM synthesizer with text-to-speech, digitised voice input/output, a MIDI and joystick port.
  • Running as a front end to IRC and running on UNIX,TinyMUD is released by Jim Aspnes.

1990

  • Sega Megadrive launched (UK).
  • In the USA, Nintendo begins legal proceedings against Blockbuster for renting video game cartridges.
  • Microsoft releases Windows 3.
  • TinyMUD shuts down but a number of clones and developments such as TeenyMUD, TinyMUCK, TinyMUSH and TinyTIM are developed.
  • Stephen White releases MOO, which stands for mud, object-oriented.
  • The adult game Virtual Valerie is released by Reactor Inc. a Chicago company founded by comic artist Mike Saenz. This Mac release is generally considered to be the first interactive adult CD.
  • Pavel Curtis modifies White's MOO code and creates LambdaMOO which is hosted at Xerox PARC.

1991

  • Nintendo releases Super NES.
  • SEGA introduces Sonic the Hedgehog, who competes in popularity with Nintendo's Mario character.
  • Galoob Toys releases the Game Genie that allows players to cheat on NES games. Nintendo attempts to block sales through litigation.
  • S3 introduces the first single chip graphics accelerator for the PC.
  • Based upon the Terry Pratchett novels the MUD Discworld opens.
  • Howard Rheingold's Virtual Reality is published.

1992

  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) launches in the UK.
  • SEGA releases SEGA CD console for $299.95.
  • Sony begins development of the PlayStation.
  • Atari loses monopoly lawsuit against Nintendo.
  • Wolfenstein 3D is released by id Software.

1993

  • Atari releases the first 64-bit gaming console - Jaguar. However the performance of the machine is somewhat lacklustre.
  • SEGA has over half of the games market.
  • Panasonic REAL 3DO launches as the first 32bit gaming device - but with a price tag of $699.
  • Mosaic, the first graphical browser for the Internet, is launched having been developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois.
  • Doom, the ground-breaking first person shooter is released by id Software.
  • Howard Rheingold's Virtual Communities is published.

1994

  • SEGA Saturn launched.
  • Sony PlayStation released.
  • Atari announce "affiliation" with SEGA. This is said by Atari to be in order to support launch of the Jaguar. However, SEGA puts $40 million into Atari in return for access to all their patents.
  • Myst is released by Cyan. It becomes the biggest selling game of all time.

1995

  • Nintendo release their VR-like Virtual Boy. One of the products drawbacks is its tendency to produce headaches in users.
  • Microsoft releases its new, and now characteristically overdue, operating system Window 95.
  • PlayStation is released in the USA.
  • Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (Origin/Electronic Arts) is released and features full motion video.

1996

  • Nintendo launches the Nintendo 64.
  • Tomb Raider (and its heroine Lara Croft) is launched.
  • Barbie: Fashion Designer is released and becomes a huge success as the first piece of leisure software to be aimed at the girl gaming market.

1997

  • Force feedback devices such as joysticks and steering wheels launched.
  • Intel release the Pentium II processor.
  • Quake II (id Software/Activison) is released.

1998

  • Sega Dreamcast launched.
  • In the USA, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time generates more retail revenue during the last 6 weeks of the year than any film released during the holiday period.
  • Developed by Valve, Half Life is released.
  • Apple release the iMac

1999

  • Sega Dreamcast launched in the UK.
  • SEGA spend $100 million on the European launch including sponsoring Arsenal, Sampdoria and St Etienne football teams.

2000

  • Launch of Sony's PlayStation 2.

2001

  • Microsoft to launch its first attempt at a gaming console, the Xbox.
  • The Linux-powered Indrema L600 planned for launch but has to be abandoned due to failure to find second round funding.
  • Tom Kilburn, inventor of The Baby, the world's first programmable computer, dies Jan 17th.

2002

  • Xbox released in the UK
  • Nintendo release the Gamecube.
  • SEGA stop production of the Dreamcast and move to concentrate on game content.

2003

  • The newly formed USA company Infinium Labs announces plans a new Phantom Broadband Games Console.

2004

  • Nintendo releases the Nintendo DS, a hand held console with two screens one of which is touch sensitive. It is launched in the US on November 21st and Japan on December 2nd.
  • id Software release Doom 3 the sequel to (or remake of) its 1993 game in August.

2005

  • Nintendo DS is released in Europe on 11th March at a retail price of £99/€149.
  • Microsoft announce plans to debut its new console, Xbox 360, on MTV rather than at the Games Developers Conference (GDC).

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