Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age 1971-1984

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It was a time when technology was king, status was determined by your high score, and videogames were blitzing the world...From Pong to Pac-Man, Asteroids to Zaxxon—more than fifty million people around the world have come of age within the electronic flux of videogames, their subconscious forever etched with images projected from arcade and home videogame systems.From the first interactive blips of electronic light at Brookhaven National Labs and the creation of Spacewar! at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; to the invention of the TV Game Project and the myriad systems of Magnavox, Atari, Coleco, and Mattel that followed; through the rise of the Golden Age of videogames and forward into the imagination of millions,Supercade is the first book to illustrate and document the history, legacy, and visual language of the videogame phenomenon.Exuberantly written and illustrated in full color, Supercade pays tribute to the technology, games, and visionaries of one of the most influential periods in the history of computer science—one that profoundly shaped the modern technological landscape and helped change the way people view entertainment.Supercade includes contributions from such commentators and particpants as Ralph Baer, Julian Dibbell, Keith Feinstein, Joe Fielder, Lauren Fielder, Justin Hall, Leonard Herman, Steven Johnson, Steven Kent, Nick Montfort,Bob Parks, Carl Steadman, and Tom Vanderbilt.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Who can resist a book that opens by tying invention of the video game to development of the atom bomb?" Computer Gaming World

"Burnham's done a splendid job of recreating the cathode-lit dens and arcades of our youth...." Bill Smith LA Weekly

"It's impossible to praise this book too highly." Paul Di Filippo Asimov's

"... [M]akes a crucial point... the 'golden age' of video games kick-started an entertainment industry that now rivals Hollywood." Erik Davis Bookforum

"... this book celebrates... software, programmers, and machines that arose from nothing more than the desire to create the perfect game." Fin Fahey New Scientist

Publishers Weekly
The generation now in its 30s pumped innumerable quarters into free-standing video consoles with protruding joysticks, steering wheels, and "fire" buttons the quaint precursors of today's dollar-based sensory overload and sleekly sophisticated home systems. Burnham, an L.A.-based Wired contributing editor and a member of the Video Arcade Preservation Society, lovingly collects screen shots of faves like Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Q*bert, along with early games like Computer Space and Pong, and home games from Atari and Nintendo. The cheeky capsule descriptions of each game from Burnham and others are matched with longer essays from writers like Julian Dibble (My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World), who writes about the text-based game Adventure, and former Feed editor Steven Johnson (Emergence) on Atari competitor Intellivision. The chronological organization holds the book's disparate games and players together adequately, but readers looking for a straight narrative history should look elsewhere: this is all about memory jogging and rapturous description. Notably, Burnham did the book's text, design and production; the layout is quirky and provocative but not disorienting, and the print quality is excellent. (Nov.) Forecast: While the book can't compete with the actual experience of playing the games, Burnham's time capsule will given as a gift among gamers (not a small subculture), and browsers from its demographic will at least flip through. The MIT imprint could lead to some campus acquisitions, especially for schools with modern media and culture departments. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Initially thought to be mere fads, video games have become entrenched in global popular culture. These two books use different approaches to document the phenomenon. Kent, a freelance writer, interviewed video game innovators such as Atari founder Nolan Bushnell and Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani, among hundreds of others, to provide a definitive history. He includes photos of the major video game players and quotes extensively from his interviewees in an academic but highly readable style. The promised index will be needed to navigate the text, but this remains a fascinating and well-researched account of the games many of us grew up with or have encountered in an arcade. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262524209
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 1,552,610
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Van Burnham is a Contributing Editor at Wired magazine and a member of the Video Arcade Preservation Society.

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Read an Excerpt

In the beginning there was MIT's Whirlwind and Bouncing Ball. Then, in 1958, physicist Willy Higinbotham created Tennis for Two for the annual Visitor's Day display at Brookhaven National Laboratory. It was likely the first interactive computer game, played out on a 5" black and white oscilloscope with control boxes to serve and rally a blip of electronic light.

Then in 1961, an MIT student named Steve Russell programmed the first computer game ­ Spacewar! ­ on a DEC PDP-1. Inspired by E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman pulp science fiction novels, this space-age dogfight was played out on a CRT screen ­ using the PDP's control panel switches to maneuver two warring spaceships as they orbit a gravitational sun.

In the fall of 1966, Ralph H. Baer conceived of the first home videogame system utilizing a television set as a display. As chief engineer and manager of equipment design for Sanders Associates ­ a military electronics consulting firm in Nashua, New Hampshire ­ Baer begins to translate his idea for a "Television Gaming Apparatus" with fellow engineers Bill Harrison and Bill Rusch. After myriad iterations, including vacuum tube, IC, and transistor-based systems, they finally create the "Brown Box" prototype.

In 1971, as a young Ampex engineer in Silicon Valley, Nolan Bushnell designs the first coin-operated arcade videogame ­ Computer Space. As a student at the University of Utah, Bushnell played Spacewar! on the computer science lab's PDP system ­ and dreamed of a day when arcade midways would be lined with machines offering a round of Spacewar! for a quarter. That same year, Ralph Baer's Brown Box technology is licensed to Magnavox and evolves into the world's first home videogame system ­ the Magnavox Odyssey.

It were these key events in the history of videogame technology that led to the creation of the twenty billion dollar interactive industry that exists today. The rest, as they say, is history...

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Table of Contents

Foreword 17
Introduction 21
01 Brookhaven National Labs 27
Tennis for Two
02 MIT 33
Building 20
The Origin of Spacewar!
Dictionary of the Tmrc Language
03 TV Game Project 51
Television Gaming Apparatus
The Brown Box
04 Timeline 56
05 1971 65
Computer Space
06 1972 75
07 1973 89
TV Ping-Pong
Paddle Ball
Space Race
08 1974 99
Gran Trak 10
Puppy Pong
Speed Race
Touch Me
09 1975 111
Atari Pong
Odyssey 100-5000
Alley Rally
Gun Fight
Shark Jaws
10 1976 127
Channel F
Death Race
Night Driver
Sea Wolf
Sprint 2
Stunt Cycle
11 1977 147
Atari Vcs
Studio II
Apple II
Canyon Bomber
Drag Race
Starship 1
12 1978 157
The Professional Arcade
Odyssey[superscript 2]
Atari Football
Fire Truck
Gee Bee
Space Invaders
Space Wars
13 1979 185
Atari Home Computers
Galaxy Wars
Lunar Lander
Rip Off
Speed Freak
Interview: Tim Skelly
14 1980 209
Game & Watch
Crazy Climber
Missile Command
Red Baron
Space Invaders Deluxe
Star Castle
15 1981 233
Pac-Man Fever
Twin Galaxies
Interview: Walter Day
Commodore VIC-20
Ibm Pc
Donkey Kong
Hangly Man
Jump Bug
Lady Bug
Lock 'N Chase
Make Trax
Mouse Trap
Space Odyssey
Wizard of Wor
16 1982 277
Gronk! Flash! Zap!
Atari 5200
Commodore 64
Zx Spectrum
Dig Dug
Disco No. 1
Donkey Kong Junior
Jungle King
Moon Patrol
Mr. Do
Pole Position
Pop Flamer
Robotron: 2084
Robby Roto!
Satan's Hollow
Time Pilot
17 1983 331
Astron Belt
Cliff Hanger
Cloak & Dagger
Congo Bongo
Crystal Castles
Dragon's Lair
Elevator Action
M.A.C.H. 3
Major Havoc
Mario Bros
Space Ace
Spy Hunter
Star Trek
Star Wars
Track & Field
Tropical Angel
Van-Van Car
18 1984 371
Atari 7800
Apple Macintosh
I, Robot
Karate Champ
Lode Runner
Marble Madness
Punch Out!
Samurai Nipponichi
Snake Pit
Vs. Baseball
19 Collections 401
20 Exhibits 409
Today 412
Resources 422
Index 428
Credits 439
Author 442
Contributors 444
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