While I am delighted with my retro computer and console collection, there is one item missing that causes me sadness.
My childhood “TV Sports System”
Video Game Pre-History
Before home computers were commonplace, heck before they were dreamt of, before even games consoles were commonplace, there were computer games.
Many people think Pong was the first, but even Pong had predecessors. One of the most famous was Spacewar – a two-player space-shooter (as the name clearly evokes) that was played on the primitive cathode-ray tubes meant for oscilloscope action more than vector graphic warfare.
Programmed on notepads, then compiled on fridge-sized “Mini” computers, those students, faculty, and researchers played and developed the seeds of everything we take for granted today in video gaming.
You can read in-depth about the surprisingly exciting computing big-bang period in the wonderful book Hackers by Steven Levy.
While Pong wasn’t the first video game or even the first arcade video game, it certainly made a huge impact.
Once Pong had proved it had a lasting (for the market anyway) mass appeal, the home versions arrived.
It wasn’t long until the marketing folks realized there was money to be made, the embellishments into crude “Sports Simulation” had begun.
One of the companies to get in on the action was a little brand called … Nintendo!
These second-generation Pong units were my gateway into video games.
Image Source Ebay
There were thousands of these, many of them based on identical “pong on a chip” chipsets, or purely white-labeled. Early versions were white on black, with later models having colour and sound (bleeps and boops, nothing fancy).
Ours was The Radiofin TV Game, made by a company based out of London. It hooked right up to the aerial socket of the TV and you had to tune the TV to that signal.
While it really had 7 games built-in, it misleadingly advertised 10 (the actual games were soccer, hockey, tennis, shooting, basketball, and squash, plus a “grid” game) but they were all variations on Pong. Square “ball” is hit by one or two “bats” using analog sticks.
The funny thing is I think we played the basic “tennis” (aka Pong) the most. Skeet shooting was fun, though.
Check out this video by Nostalgia Nerd …
Those were simpler times!
We were engrossed, though, at least until replaceable games cartridges came along, and the era of the Atari was here …
… I still miss my Radofin 🙁