When did Video games begin?

Electronic Digital Computers, Colossus and ENIAC, were first built during the second World War. They were created to aid the Allies effort against the Axis group. After the war, the first published stored program architectures at the University of Pennsylvania (EDVAC), Cambridge University (EDSAC), the University of Manchester (Manchester Mark 1), and the Princeton University (IAS Machine) allowed easy reprogramming of computers to be able to go through a variety of different tasks, in turn helping to commercialise computers in the early 1950’s which was brought out by companies like Remington Rand, Ferranti and IBM. I was after this that the environment for the first video game could be created, inside universities, government organizations and large corporations as the years continued on.

The ENIAC computer

One of the first computers that the first few research and training programs were developed on.

Alan Turning

Alan Turning at the age of 16 years old, a few years before the development of Turochamp.

The early computer games from the 1950’s were divided into these three categories: Training / Instructional programs. Research Programs for AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Demonstration Programs that were created to impress and / or entertain the public. These games were developed on unique hardware, largely, in a time where porting systems was difficult. The systems were often dismantled or discarded after serving their purpose, generally they didn’t influence developements in the industry. During this time, several games were created, making it almost impossible to really say what the first video game really was. Due to a large amount of them never being publicized or mentioned to the public, making them unknown to this day.

Alan Turing and David Champernowne created the earliest known chess program for computers, called Turochamp. Turochamp was completed in 1950, but it was not implemented by Alan and David on a computer, actually. The “Cathose-Ray Tube Amusement Device” was the earliest known idea for fully electronic games in the US.

Bertie the Brain and Nimrod were the machines on which the earliest known electronic computer games were developed for, on which Tic-Tac-Toe and the game of Nim was able to be played on. Josef Kates at Rogets Majestic, designed and built the Bertie the Brain machine, which is now on display at the Canadian National Exhibition, while John Bennett from Ferranti conceived the Nimrod and Raymond Stuart-Williams built the Nimrod, which was displayed at the Festival of Britain and the Berlin Industrial Show, in 1951.

Bertie the Brain

Tic Tac Toe being played on one of the oldest computer systems developed for games

In 1952 the first two games to incorporate a monitor that is known, were research projects. Christopher Strachey created a Checkers program on the Ferranti Mark 1 and Alexander Douglas made a Tic-Tac-Toe program, known as OXO, on the EDSAC. A relatively static display was used for these programs to track the state of the game board. William Brown and Ted Lewis created the first known game that used graphics, that was real time, was a pool game, for a demonstration of the MIDSAC Computer at the University of Michigan in 1954.