Missing image
Screenshot of the Pong arcade game.

Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Designer: Nolan Bushnell
Release date: 1972
Genre: Retro/Sports
Game modes: 2 players
Cabinet: Standard
Controls: 2 rotary controllers
Orientation: Horizontal
Type: Black & White Raster, standard resolution
Size: 13-inches
Widely regarded as starting the video game craze

Pong, an adaptation of table tennis to the video screen, was the first commercially successful video game and is widely regarded as ushering in the video game era.

Pong was released by Atari in 1972.



Pong was a simple ping pong simulator. In ping pong, two players stand on either side of a ping pong table and bat a small ball back and forth between them; this basic concept is carried through to Pong.

A small "ball" (actually a square) moves across the screen, bouncing off of the top and bottom edges, and the two players each use a paddle to control a rectangle that slides up and down across their end of the screen. If the ball hits the rectangle, it bounces back towards the other player's side; if it misses the rectangle, the other player scores a point. The ball deflected at different angles depending on how the ball collided with the paddle.

Pong can be played by a single player, with the opposing paddle being controlled by the computer, or by two players, each controlling a paddle. On arcade machines the paddle would usually be controlled by a wheel or knob, responding with variable speed depending on how fast the player turned it.


The earliest form of an electronic ping-pong game dates back as a game played on an oscilloscope, by William A. Higinbotham at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1958. His game was titled Tennis For Two.

In 1966, Ralph Baer, then working for Sanders Associates, made a design for running simple computer games over a television set. His ideas were patented, and he created a game resembling Pong proper, except with slightly more complex controls. In 1970, Baer demonstrated his video game system to corporate heads at Magnavox, who became convinced that such a device would help sell more Magnavox television sets. Magnavox and Sanders Associates joined forces, with Baer and his patents at the epicenter, to develop a stand-alone unit called the Odyssey 1TL200 to be sold to consumers for use in the home.

In the spring of 1972, the Magnavox Odyssey system was on display at a demonstration in Burlingame, California where Nolan Bushnell played the Odyssey's ping-pong game for the first time. Soon afterwards Nolan and a friend formed a new company, Atari. Nolan envisioned creating a driving game for arcades. He hired an electronic engineer, Al Alcorn, fresh out of college. Concerned that the game he envisioned would be too complex for his new employee, Nolan first directed him to build a ping-pong game. The game Alcorn created was so fun that Nolan decided to go ahead and market it. Since the name Ping-Pong was already copyrighted, they settled on simply calling it Pong.

Atari had not been envisioned as a manufacturer but only a developer of arcade games. So Nolan set about demonstrating his new game to several amusement manufacturers. Initially, there was little interest in the product, primarily because the unit had not undergone a field test. Soon before departing on a trip to Chicago (Nolan had appointments scheduled with pinball makers Williams and Bally/Midway), he and Alcorn rigged a coin switch to the unit for a location test.

The system was initially tested in a small bar in Grass Valley, California and Andy Capp's Tavern, a bar in Sunnyvale, California. Within a day, the game's popularity had grown to the point where people lined up outside the bar waiting for the place to open.

Before long, the unit broke down, and the bar's owner called Al at home to have him remove the game. When Al opened the unit to start a game, he quickly discovered the problem - the milk carton they had placed inside to catch the coins was overflowing with quarters to the point that the coin switch was jammed. Al immediately called Nolan in Chicago to tell him about the game's outstanding success, and Nolan decided they should manufacture Pong themselves.

Two weeks later, Magnavox learned of Pong, and notified Atari that they already had a patent on the concept. The two companies went to court. Magnavox was able to produce witnesses who had seen Nolan playing the Odyssey's ping-pong game, and they had a guestbook from the event which Nolan had signed. The judge found in favor of Magnavox, and Atari had to pay $700,000 for use of the patents.

The home version of Pong was conceived in 1973 and designed by Al Alcorn, Bob Brown, and Harold Lee in 1975. Atari demonstrated the unit at the 1975 Summer Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Because of the failure of the Odyssey (the unit was discontinued in 1974), retail outlets weren't interested by Atari's home console. These systems had on-screen digital scoring, something absent from other versions of Pong.

However, soon after the show, Atari was contacted by Tom Quinn, sporting goods buyer for Sears. Quinn met with Nolan Bushnell, and asked how many units Atari could produce in time for the holiday shopping season. Bushnell said they could probably produce 75,000. Quinn told them Sears wanted double that many units, and they would pay to boost production to that level. In return, Sears would be the exclusive seller of Atari Pong.

Christmas 1975 was the most popular season for Pong, with customers lined up outside Sears, waiting for shipments to arrive. That season's popularity caught the attention of Al Franken and Tom Davis during Saturday Night Live's first year; the comedy duo wrote and voiced several segments for SNL in which no actors were visible; all viewers saw was an active Pong game display, looking just like it would if they were playing the game themselves. As the game proceeded, Franken and Davis would talk to each other as friends, commenting only occasionally about the game itself (though the conversation of the players clearly had an occasional detrimental impact on their game skills).

By the end of March 1983, Atari had sold between 8,000 to 10,000 coin-operated Pong systems.


Many versions of Pong were released: Pong Doubles (a four-player Pong), Quadra Pong, Doctor Pong, etc. Aside from Atari's arcade units, there was a slew of Pong clones as well. In their rush to market, Atari did not wait to file for copyrights or patents on their unit. Despite Atari's success, only one in five Pong style games in arcades were actually made by Atari. To reduce this problem, they purposely mismarked the chips in the actual Pong units to confuse anyone who tried to clone one.

The Pong systems remained popular in the US until the late 1970s and in Europe until the early 1980s.


Beyond the home versions, Pong has also been redone several times, including a version for PlayStation. Also, it has been included in the recent TV Games collections, which are console-on-a-chip systems that feature "classic" games from the Atari 2600 era.

Pong also served as a source of inspiration for Atari's game Breakout (1976) which was cloned succesfully ten years later by Taito under the name Arkanoid.

Unlike more recent games, the original Pong can not be emulated because of its use of analog circuitry which is not present in modern computers. The behavior of the analog circuits can, however, be simulated.

There is a hidden Pong game in the fighting game Mortal Kombat II, which can be unlocked by playing a total of 250 battles (against human and computer opponents, combined).

External links

Playable clones

fr:Pong it:Pong ja:ポン (ゲーム) pl:Pong pt:Pong sv:Pong


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools