From Pong to Furby, Games and Gadgets of Holidays Past
The e-readers, tablet computers and gaming consoles that are the hot gifts of the 2010 holiday season, are the latest in a line of consumer gadgets and gizmos that arrived in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Remember Pong? Remember Nintendo's Gameboy? Remember the Furby Frenzy?
This slideshow originally appeared on Computerworld titled: Visual tour: Top selling or innovative gadgets from holidays past . The slideshow accompanied the Computerworld story From Pong to Furby, games and gadgets of holidays past.
Images of classic gadgets and games are coutesy of Mark Richards, of the Computer History Museum
Bytes for Bites: The Kitchen Computer
Why would anyone want a computer at home? Before the personal computer era and its avalanche of possible uses, the perennial answer was: "to store recipes." Neiman-Marcus took that literally. The cover of its 1969 Christmas catalog featured the Kitchen Computer. For $10,600 you got the computer, a cookbook, an apron, and a two-week programming course. Inside the futuristic packaging with a built-in cutting board was a standard Honeywell 316 minicomputer. But the console interface featured binary switches and lights. (Does 0011101000111001 mean broccoli? Or carrots?)
Pong, the home electronic tennis game
Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari in June 1972. Five months later, Atari's first product, Pong, the electronic tennis game became a game changer. The company quickly rolled out other arcade games. In 1977, it introduced the Atari Video Computer System (VCS) and sold millions of game cartridges over 15 years. The original home Pong console sold for $199.
Pong, the video arcade game came first
Pong was originally released in 1972 as one of the earliest electronic arcade games. Its simple two-dimensional graphics presented users with two opposing paddles and ball that bounced back and forth between them.
Odyssey video game system, Magnavox, U.S., 1972
The idea of using a TV to play video games first occurred to engineer Ralph Baer while designing a projection TV for the Loral company in 1951. But Baer didn't begin designing a prototype game system until 1966, and it was another five years before he licensed it to Magnavox. Odyssey could only draw simple images on the TV, so players attached plastic overlays to the screen to provide the game background. Odyssey used just electronics -- no microprocessors or software. Cost: $99.99.
Atari 2600 with 'Combat' game cartridge, Atari, U.S., 1978
The Atari 2600, initially called the Atari Video Computer System, shipped with this multi-game cartridge that held two popular arcade titles: Tank and Anti-Aircraft II. Although the 2600 was not the first home game console to use a microprocessor and removable game cartridges, it helped establish that as the standard. Cost: $199.
Speak & Spell children's toy, Texas Instruments, U.S., 1978
Speak & Spell contains speech synthesizer electronics and software, a keyboard, display, and slot for ROM-based library modules.
Electronic GrandMaster chess game, Milton Bradley, U.S., 1982
This chess-playing machine was part robot: Magnets underneath moved real pieces for the computer, and the pressure-sensitive board could detect the human player's move. The software, designed by chess expert David Levy's company, was considered weak in the opening and closing, but a strong middle game earned it a 1550 chess rating. The game was marketed internationally -- as "GrandMaster" in the U.S., "Phantom" in the U.K., and "Milton" in Germany and France. Cost: $500.
DG-10 Digital Guitar, Casio, Japan, 1983
Encouraged by its success with inexpensive digital keyboard synthesizers, Casio expanded into guitars. The strings are mostly for decoration (and for controlling strumming amplitude), since finger position on the rubber fretboard determined the pitch.
Muppet Learning Keys keyboard, Koala Technologies, US, 1984
Children as young as three could learn to interact with a computer using this Muppet-themed keyboard. The designer was Christopher Cerf, a musician who wrote and sang many of the songs on the Sesame Street TV show. Cost: $80
Game Boy, Nintendo, Japan, 1989
Nintendo's Game Boy hand-held gaming system was one of the longest-lived video game consoles. Initial success came from the introduction of Tetris, a Russian-designed puzzle game. Game Boy, and the later Game Boy Color, sold more than 100 million units over 20 years. Cost: $89.95.
PlayStation video game console, Sony, Japan, 1994
Sony's entry into the home game console field started as a collaboration with Nintendo. But when Nintendo dropped out of the project, Sony persevered, releasing its PlayStation in 1994 in Japan and 1995 in North America. The PlayStation sold more than 100 million units and led to three successful follow-ons: The PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable. Cost: $299.99.
Furby, Tiger Electronics, U.S., 1998
This furry toy ignited a 1998 holiday season buying frenzy, with resale prices reaching $300. Each Furby initially spoke only "Furbish" and gradually learned English. It communicated with other nearby Furbies using an infrared port between its eyes.
AIBO robotic dog, Sony, Japan, 1999
The $2,000 "Artificial Intelligence RoBOt" was a robotic pet dog designed to "learn" by interacting with its environment, its owners, and other AIBOs. It responded to more than 100 voice commands and talked back in a tonal language.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo, Japan, 1990
Super Nintendo built on the success of the original Nintendo by providing better graphics and sound, thanks to a 16-bit internal processor. Its game library included Donkey Kong Country, with the most realistic graphics of any console game up to that point, and Star Fox. Over 40 million Super Nintendos were sold between 1990 and 2003. Cost: $199.99.
Xbox Video Game System, Microsoft, U.S., 2001
For years Microsoft had marketed successful single games like Flight Simulator, but it did not introduce a general game system until 2001. Xbox initially shipped with the game Halo, and was the first console in the U.S. with an internal hard disk drive as standard. Although late to the market, Xbox overtook Nintendo for second place in the home console market, behind Sony's PlayStation. Cost: $299.99.
iPod prototype, Apple Computer, U.S., 2000
The iPod music player was one of the most influential dedicated handheld devices. Sony's 1979 Walkman had popularized mobile music players. The iPod did the same for portable digitized music, and the iTunes store transformed music distribution.
Nike + iPod Sport Kit, Nike and Apple, U.S., 2006
This shoe insert uses a Microchip Technology 8-bit RISC microcontroller to analyze a runner's performance.
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