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January 25, 1947 — The First Electronic Game is Patented

Posted January 25, 2017 1:00 PM by MaggieMc
Pathfinder Tags: January 25

Nowadays, many of us Millennials take our video and computer games for granted—they’re easily downloaded onto our smartphones, and there’s so many available we could never play them all. While I wouldn’t characterize myself as a ‘gamer’—in fact, I’m awful at most video games—even I can’t help but appreciate the work of Thomas T. Goldsmith and Estle Ray Mann, who, on this day in engineering history, patented the very first electronic game. Goldsmith and Mann’s 1947 patent covered the “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device.” This device, according to some, does not represent the first video game because it wasn’t technically played on a video device; however, it does mark a significant point in the path to modern video games.

The point of the game, as described in the patent, “was to hit targets, like pictures of airplanes that would be manually placed on the [cathode ray] tube, using the beam” which the player could control using knobs. And, as Popular Mechanics notes, “Even in 1947 people understood that every good video game needed explosions, with the patent reading, ‘the game can be more spectacular… by making a visible explosion of the cathode ray beam take place when the target is hit.’”

One of the only reports of a prototype comes from Bill Brantley who later taught physics with Goldsmith at Furman University. He recalled Goldsmith demonstrating the device for him, and explaining “if you turn these knobs and dials, you could make a little beam move across the image orthicon… and then by turning these other dials and knobs, you could hit the various little targets.” The fact that this product never made it past the prototype stage, and as a result never gained more recognition, could be due to the lack of funds of Allen B. DuMont Laboratory, Goldsmith’s employer. Regardless, the 1947 invention is impressive for its time.

Do you think Goldsmith and Mann’s Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device should be considered the “grandfather of video games?”

Image Credit to Thomas T. Goldsmith and Estle Ray Mann’s U.S. Patent #2455992

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#1

Re: January 25, 1947 — The First Electronic Game is Patented

01/25/2017 1:30 PM

Interesting article. But:

I see people who like to play their Cathode Raytube Amusement Packages all the time. It especially catches my interest when I see them doing so at work.

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Re: January 25, 1947 — The First Electronic Game is Patented

01/25/2017 4:21 PM

If this isn't the grandfather of video games, I don't know what is. Great post!

"... in fact, I’m awful at most video games ..."

Me too, but I found out I really enjoy Minecraft. Ever played it, MaggicMc?

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Re: January 25, 1947 — The First Electronic Game is Patented

01/26/2017 9:56 AM

I've only ever "spectated" when it comes to Minecraft. My favorite game was always Pac-Man. There was actually an article on Electronics360 yesterday about "Breaking Ms. Pac-Man High Scores Using an Artificial Player."

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Re: January 25, 1947 — The First Electronic Game is Patented

01/25/2017 8:51 PM

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Re: January 25, 1947 — The First Electronic Game is Patented

01/25/2017 8:54 PM

Pong. My neighbour bought one when they first came out. Amazing how far video games have come since then.

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Re: January 25, 1947 — The First Electronic Game is Patented

01/25/2017 9:13 PM

....and how easily entertained we were....

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