History

The earliest original pong game was played on an oscilloscope, and was developed by William Higinbotham at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1958. His game was called Tennis for Two: the first video console was born.

The idea for a home console version was conceived in 1973 and a prototype was designed by Al Alcorn, Bob Brown and Harold Lee during 1975. The project was named Darlene after a female co-worker at Atari. PONG had some important differences from the original Magnavox Odyssey, which had been discontinued in 1974. The Odyssey used discrete electronic components as a legacy of its 1960s roots, while PONG was based on an integrated circuit containing many components on a single chip. The chip in the home version was the most complex developed for a consumer product at the time, and the console boasted on-screen digital scoring, something the Odyssey lacked. While the Odyssey offered a range of different games through plug-in circuit boards, the first PONG console played the tennis game only.

original pong console
Pong arcade cabinet

The Odyssey lacked sounds and PONG made a distinctive bleeping noise through an internal speaker each time the ball was hit. The Odyssey could add spin to the tennis ball through a button on its controllers, while PONG could add eight levels of spin automatically depending on which part of the bat the ball hit. This was a feature found in the arcade version, and helped to produce varied play. In both the Odyssey and PONG, when the ball hit the top or bottom of the screen it bounced back in, a feature more like squash than tennis. The player gained a point when the opposing player failed to return the ball. Since domestic televisions in the 1970s lacked audiovisual inputs, the pong console was connected to the television by converting its output to a radio frequency signal that was fed in through the antenna socket. Some consumers had been confused by the name of the Magnavox Odyssey, believing that it would work only with Magnavox televisions. However, both the Odyssey and PONG were compatible with any make of television that had an antenna socket.

The PONG console was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in the summer of 1975. The buyers from the major retail outlets showed little interest, believing that the public was not sufficiently interested in video games for the home. However, soon after the show Atari contacted Tom Quinn, the sporting goods buyer for Sears, Roebuck and Company. Quinn was familiar with the PONG game found in arcades and bars, and decided to take a chance on the new console.

Atari pongHe met with Nolan Bushnell and asked how many units Atari could produce in time for the Christmas holiday season. Bushnell reckoned that they could produce 75,000, but Quinn wanted double that number of units and offered to pay to boost production to that level. In return, Sears would become the exclusive retailer of PONG under the Sears Tele-Games label.

Christmas 1975 turned out to be the most successful period for sales of PONG home consoles, with customers lined up outside Sears stores waiting for new shipments of the game to arrive. The first consoles retailed at $100, the equivalent of around $400 at today's prices.

Cloned versions (often named 'TV Sports' or 'Tele Games') of the PONG home console soon appeared, and by 1977 the market was saturated with cloned Pong consoles and demand was in decline. Seeking a quick exit from the industry, many companies sold off their games at discount prices. The result was the first crash in the video game market, an event later echoed by the Video game crash of 1983. By this time more sophisticated games such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man had become available, and the sound and graphics capabilities of Pong consoles were seen as old-fashioned. The technology of the home video game market had also evolved in 1976 when the manufacturer Fairchild released its new programmable console, the Video Entertainment System or VES. Unlike the dedicated Pong consoles which had a fixed number of built-in games, the VES could offer a range of games via plug-in ROM cartridges. Atari launched its own programmable system in October 1977, the Atari Video Computer System or VCS. This later became known as the Atari 2600, and the use of plug-in cartridges was the defining feature of the second generation video consoles that dominated the market during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Nolan Bushnell says that Atari sold a total of 38,000 coin-operated PONG games, although taking into account the large number of clones, it is estimated that over 100,000 units were sold, making it the most popular arcade game of all time.

Popular consoles

Popular pong consoles and clones include:

Updated: 28 January 2021

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Pong value and price guide

What's your Pong worth? Here are some recently sold items.

Picture Title Date Price
atari pong c 100 game console ac power supply usb Atari Pong C 100 Game Console Ac Power Supply Usb... 02/2021 $249.95
atari pong c 100 game console ac power supply usb Atari Pong C 100 Game Console Ac Power Supply Usb... 03/2021 $249.95
nintendo racing 112 pong ctg cr112 console japan Nintendo Racing 112 Pong Ctg Cr112 Console Japan... 03/2021 $228.50
fairchild channel f video game console 5 games Fairchild Channel F Video Game Console 5 Games... 02/2021 $200.00
original 1976 atari pong c 100 game console w Original 1976 Atari Pong C 100 Game Console W... 04/2021 $195.00
no pictureSee all sold items on eBay for more prices05/2021$-.--

Pong forum

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Comments (3)
Mel - December 1, 2020
I have an original Atari Pong arcade game. Looking to sell it. What would it be worth?
Have a look here for some prices: Atari Pong value.
Mel - January 23, 2014
Does anyone know what the value of an original pong arcade console would be.
It depends on state and model but they can fetch between 500 to 1500 USD.
Penny - December 21, 2012
Can anyone tell me where I can buy a Octagon shaped console for two players( like Pizza Hut used to have)that I can Buy?
Do you have any idea about brand, color or text on the console? Or what games you can play with it? Difficult to look for an octagon shaped console this way :-)