A Brief History of Gaming – Part 1: The Beginning

By July 8, 2016History of Gaming

A Brief History of Gaming

Part 1:  The Beginning

Since the dawn of time, humans have loved to play games. From Hide-and-Seek and Tag, to Chess and Poker, to Monopoly and Pokemon, we love to play our entire lives.

In the last hundred years, playing has been revolutionized with the advent and evolution of computers and video games.

Alan Turing designed the Bombe, a codebreaker for German Enigma messages. He had been developing an idea for a “general computing machine,” which came to be known as the Universal Turing Machine. This was the brainchild of modern computers. The Turing Machine was a concept for a programmable machine that could be programmed to do anything, using a scanner and memory-tape.

The first ‘real’ computers were Britain’s Colossus and America’s ENIAC, both of which took up half of an entire room. They were developed by the military to help the Allies decrypt Nazi code in World War II.

Since then, academics, computer scientists, and programmers developed the first interactive computer-based simulations and games for military and civilian use.


At the 1940 World’s Fair, Edward Condon’s machine,1940

called Computer (picture) offered players a whole new world

of play, with the game “Nim,” which was a pick-up-sticks game,

the object was to have the opponent pick up the last stick.

Thousands of people played against Computer.

Less than 10% of the human players were victorious.


In the 1940s and 1950s, computers continued to develop in the military, where they were used for wargames, military training, and to create and decipher codes.

In 1948, Alan Turing and David Champernowne wrote a chess simulation named Turochamp. It was never implemented.

More custom machines emerged to entertain patrons at conventions and other gatherings.

Josef Kates’s machine, Bertie the Brain, played tic-tac-toe at the 1950 Canadian National Exhibition.

Another machine named Nimrod played the game Nim, and made appearances at the 1951 Festival of Britain, as well as the Berlin International Show.

In 1954, at the New Mexico Los Alamos labs, programmers developed the first blackjack computer game on an IBM-701, a computer whose operating console alone was about the size of a vending machine. Its processing frame was another, separate, equally massive unit.

The first computer version of the game Checkers was also on an IBM-701, demonstrated in 1956 by Arthur Samuel, on national television. It only took six years for the computer program to defeat a master Checkers player.

In 1957, Alex Bernstein created the first Chess computer program, on an IMB-704. The program was so advanced that it could “think” four half-moves ahead.

In 1958, the first tennis computer game was created for public demonstration. It used an analog computer and an oscilloscope. Although short-lived and soon dismantled, it was the first iteration and inspiration for future games, like Pong.

In 1960, an IBM programmer developed, in his free time, the first baseball simulation.

In 1962, an MIT student invents the first computer video game. Spacewar! was a big hit, spreading across the country over the next several years, creating a gaming community, market, and target audience.

The computer programming language BASIC was created in 1964, at Dartmouth, which opened the door for the next wave of interactive computer games to be created.

Stay tuned for the future!! (: