Signed Pong Cabinet

The arcade version of Pong. This example in the 'Golden Age of Video Games' exhibit at Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin was signed by Pong creator Allan Alcorn.

Detail map of Sunnyvale, California, United States Overview map of Sunnyvale, California, United States

A: Sunnyvale, California, United States

Pong: The First Commercially Successful Video Game

Allan Alcorn

Allan Alcorn's original Pong prototype, preserved in the Computer History Museum.

On June 27, 1972 Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari in Sunnyvale, California, and hired Allan Alcorn to design the table tennis (ping-pong) game “PONG.” Pong was the first commercially successful video game (videogame).

Alcorn produced the prototype, and in September 1972 Bushnell and Alcorn placed the first prototype of the game in Andy Capp’s bar in Sunnyvale. Measured by the number of quarters in the coin box of the game, it was judged a remarkable success. Part of its success may have been its simplicity and intuitive nature, which made the game very easy to learn.

Based on this almost comically limited market research, the company announced the release of Pong on November 29, 1972. In keeping with the small-time nature of the business, management sought unskilled assembly workers at the local unemployment office, and was unable to keep up with demand. The first arcade cabinets produced were assembled very slowly— about ten machines a day— many of which failed quality testing. Atari eventually streamlined the process, and began producing the game in greater quantities. Production began in 1973.

Lowood, "Videogames in Computer Space: The Complex History of Pong," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 31, #3 (2009) 5-19.

(This entry was last revised on April 21, 2014.)

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