Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The history of computer games (part 2)

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Part 2:
Before the Games 1889-1970
(Click here for part 1)

Fusajiro Yamauchi establishes the Marufuku Company to manufacture and distribute Hanafuda, Japanese playing cards. In 1907, Marufuku begins manufacturing Western playing cards. The company changes its name to The Nintendo Playing Card Company in 1951. "Nintendo" means "leave luck to heaven."

Gerard Philips establishes a company in the Netherlands to manufacture incandescent lamps and other electrical products.

Konosuke Matsushita establishes the Matsushita Electric Housewares Manufacturing Works. During the next 70 years, the company will establish a multitude of companies, including Panasonic.

The Connecticut Leather Company is established by a Russian immigrant named Maurice Greenberg to distribute leather products to shoemakers. In the early '50s, Maurice's son Leonard creates a leather-cutting machine, and the company, which soon trades under the acronym COLECO (short for Connecticut Leather Company), begins selling leather craft kits. By the end of the decade, Leonard will have built a plastic-forming machine and the company will have jumped into the plastic-wading-pool industry.

From their garage workshop, Harold Matson and Elliot Handler produce picture frames. They come up with the name "Mattel" by combining letters from their names. Elliot uses the scraps from the picture frames to begin a side business making dollhouse furniture.

Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka set up the Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Company. After seeing an American-made tape recorder, Morita decides his company should begin making them. In 1952, Ibuka and Morita barely raise the $25,000 fee to become one of the first foreign companies to license the transistor patent from Bell Labs. They then use the transistor to create the world's first pocket-sized battery-powered radio. The transistor radio is a success in Japan, and Ibuka and Morita begin looking at marketing their products in the United States and Europe. Realizing the English translation of their company name is too cumbersome for English-speaking people to remember, they modify the Latin word sonus (sound) and come up with Sony, a word that has no meaning, for their new corporate name.

Ralph Baer, an engineer with Loral, a company that develops and manufactures complex military airborne electronics, is instructed to "build the best TV set in the world." Baer suggests they add some kind of interactive game to the TV set to distinguish it from other companies' TVs, but management ignores the idea.

Former US Korean War veteran David Rosen sees the popularity of mechanical coin-operated games on US military bases in Japan, so he starts Service Games to export these games to Japan. In the 1960s, Rosen decides to make his own coin-operated games, so he purchases a Tokyo jukebox and slot-machine company. The name SEGA, short for "SErvice GAmes," is stamped on the games that Rosen produces, and eventually Rosen adopts it as his company name.

In February 1962 Steve Russell released "SpaceWar!", which is considered to be the first game intended for computers. A few years later, in 1968, SEGA releases Periscope. The first ever arcade shooting game.

(End of part 2)