A Chronology of Video Gaming Technology

Video gaming technology has evolved at a startling pace. As soon as computing technology became commonplace, designers used their new hardware to develop avenues for fun.

From the earliest mechanical devices to the latest gaming laptops, the history of gaming technology has interacted fascinatingly with human technological development as a whole. Here is a brief guide to some of the milestones in video gaming history.

The Nimatron

The world’s first true computerized game was patented in 1940 by a Westinghouse nuclear physicist named Edward Condon. The Nimatron – as he called his invention – was designed to play the ancient mathematical game of Nim.

The machine was presented at the 1940 World’s Fair, where it played 100,000 games of Nim. Out of 100,000 games, the Nimatron emerged victorious in 90,000. However, Westinghouse did not end up as a big player in video gaming. Instead, it focused on engineering projects.


Joi Ito Spacewar
Joi Ito from Inbamura, Japan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Nimatron was an unwieldy device the size of a bookcase. As a result, the first practical video game would not be developed until 1962, when a team at MIT produced the game Spacewar! Importantly, Spacewar! was developed so that it could be played on an existing computer – the PDC- 1.

This allowed it to spread around the small programming community, largely contained within universities. In addition, it was a simple space combat game that could be played on a very rudimentary monitor.

The Brown Box

1967 saw the invention of the Brown Box – the first multiplayer ‘console’ type gaming machine. The brown box could play multiple games, including Pong and video golf. It was not produced by its original inventors but sold as a prototype to Magnavox’s electronics company, which spent a decade developing it before releasing the Magnavox Odyssey in 1979.


Atari Pong
Azerion, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of Pong, it is important to note the vast impact that the game had on technology and video gaming culture. Pong was the first commercially successful video game. Although a rudimentary version was included with the Magnavox Odyssey, the game really took off when it was released as an arcade machine by Atari.

This spearheaded the golden age of the video arcade and inspired thousands of developers and gamers alike. In addition, the home console market exploded with Pong rip-offs.

PC Gaming

These days, even a cheap gaming laptop setup is able to handle immensely complex tasks. PC gaming was not always this versatile. The first PC games were often text-based. Games like Adventure – released for the PDC-11 – had to make do with extremely limited processing power.

As such, they were largely comprised of still images and text options displayed in a limited number of colors. Modern gaming computers have far more processing power than even the most up-to-date consoles.

The Console Wars

Gray nintendo nes console and controllers

The development of video gaming hardware has been accelerated by a vicious and unrelenting console war that has been raging since the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Modern multinational technology companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo compete to offer more and more powerful consoles. As a result, consoles are typically released in generational tranches.

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