computing video_games william_higinbotham brookhaven_national_lab
Tennis for Two, Anyone?

by Michael Keller

Xboxers, lay down your controllers! Wii Player, hold that nunchuk to your heart for a moment of remembrance.

On Oct. 25, 1910, Dr. William Higinbotham was born. You might not know this American nuclear physicist who worked on radar displays and became a major voice among scientists advocating to stop the nuclear arms race, but you can thank him for being one of the first inventors of the video game and for that callus on your right thumb.

It was on Oct. 18, 1958, that Higinbotham, a scientist who had worked on the Manhattan Project and became a founder of the Federation of American Scientists, unveiled the game Tennis for Two during a public visitors’ day at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The two-person game was played on an oscilloscope with a five-inch screen. Higinbotham created it using a vacuum-tube-equipped analog computer, mechanical relays and germanium transistors.

Visitors that day lined up to play the game, which involved using knobs on controllers to hit a ball over a vertical line that represented the net.

Top Image: Courtesy Brookhaven National Lab.


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