The 'CRT Amusement Device' that spawned a multi-million dollar industry
May 23, 2011
On a cold morning on January 25, 1947 at the U.S. Patent Office, Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann submitted an invention that is now recognized as one of the earliest examples of the video game - the "Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device". Described it as a game of skill where a player sits or lies in front of a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) mounted in a closet, the analog device was inspired by a radar commonly used in the second World War to control missiles. Using knobs to adjust speed and trajectory, a plane was represented by a single point and the scores were assigned by hand!
Later in the 50's and 60's these types of games were further developed onto mainframe computers. However it wasn't until 1971 when the first commercially viable video game hit the market. It was Computer Space created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, who would later found Atari Inc. It was the world's first commercially sold coin-operated video game, whilst Magnavox Odyssey followed six months later, and Atari's Pong another year later.
The arcade game industry entered its golden age in 1978 with the release of Space Invaders which caused arcade machines to become common in busy locations such as malls and convenient stores. Space Invaders would go on to sell over 360,000 units worldwide and by 1981, it had generated a revenue of more than US$1 billion.
A little over sixty years ago the only video game in town was scored by hand and took up the space of half a living room, now it's one of the biggest entertainment industries the world has ever seen with sought-after games making hundreds of millions of dollars within days of release, surpassing box-office earnings of some of Hollywood's most popular films.