Tennis for Two, the "First Video Game"

Tennis for Two was a game developed in 1958 on an analog computer, which simulates a game of tennis or ping pong on an oscilloscope.

Created by American physicist William Higinbotham, it is important in the history of video games as one of the first electronic games to use a graphical display.

Higinbotham created Tennis for Two to cure the boredom of visitors to Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he worked. He learned that one of Brookhaven's computers could calculate ballistic missile trajectories and he used this ability to form the game's foundation. The game uses an oscilloscope as the graphical display to display the path of a simulated ball on a tennis court. The designed circuit displayed the path of the ball and reversed its path when it hit the ground. The circuit also sensed if the ball hit the net and simulated velocity with drag. Users could interact with the ball using an analog aluminum controller to click a button to hit the ball and use a knob to control the angle. Hitting the ball also emitted a sound. The device was designed in about two hours and was assembled within three weeks with the help of Robery V. Dvorak. Excluding the oscilloscope and controller, the game's circuitry approximately took up the space of a microwave oven.

Though there was no direct kinship between the two games, Tennis for Two was a predecessor of Pong—one of the most widely recognized video games as well as one of the first. Tennis for Two was brought out only twice, on "Visitor's Day" at the Laboratory. It remained virtually unheard of until the late 1970s and early 1980s when Higinbotham was called on to testify in court cases for defendants against Magnavox and Ralph Baer. Unlike Pong and similar early games, Tennis for Two shows a simplified tennis court from the side instead of a top-down perspective, with no representation of the player on the screen. The perspective shows more of the ball's trajectory than Pong's view. The ball is affected by gravity and must be played over the net. The game was controlled by an analog computer and "consisted mostly of resistors, capacitors and relays, but where fast switching was needed—when the ball was in play—transistor switches were used."