National Game Registry: Pong

United States Library of Congress

key personnel:
Nolan Bushnell (concept), Al Alcorn (design/program)

original platform:
arcade (1972, Atari)

notable conversions:
Pong consoles (1975, Atari)
Telstar consoles (1976, Coleco)
Atari 2600 (1977, as Video Olympics, Atari)

In the Spring of 1972 Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell attended a public demonstration of the forthcoming Magnavox Odyssey.  The Odyssey Tennis game made an impact on Bushnell and he charged his new employee, Al Alcorn, with reproducing it, supposedly as a training exercise. The result, Pong, defined and dominated the fledgling video game industry throughout the 1970s. It may have been a plagiarism but it launched the arcade industry and gained exposure for Magnavox’s creation in a way that Magnavox itself failed to do.  Bushnell and his unwitting dupe Alcorn made several changes and even some improvements when they adapted Tennis. The Odyssey game’s ability to move the paddles toward and away from the net and the ability to place spin on ball services was removed, simplifying the game to some degree. In an improvement, the angle of the ball’s rebound is determined by the portion of the paddle that it contacts. Additionally, the ball speed gradually increases as rallies progress. Atari made two more alterations that proved to be quite shrewd; the addition of an on-screen score and the implementation of sound effects. Unfortunately, like the Odyssey, there is no ROM or CPU present, meaning there is no single player mode. Still, the game proved to be a wild success and was followed by several variations.  Pong Doubles allowed for 2-on-2 play while Quadrapong introduced every-man-for-himself four player action.


Pong was inducted on March 12th, 2009.

Visit the National Game Registry to view more inductees.

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