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Image by Brookhaven National Laboratory
Before the era of electronic ping pong, hungry yellow dots, plumbers, mushrooms, and fire-flowers, people waited in line to play video games at roller-skating rinks, arcades, and other hangouts. More than fifty years ago, before either arcades or home video games, visitors waited in line at Brookhaven National Laboratory to play “Tennis for Two,” an electronic tennis game that is unquestionably a forerunner of the modern video game.

Tennis for Two was first introduced on October 18, 1958, at one of the Lab’s annual visitors’ days. Two people played the electronic tennis game with separate controllers that connected to an analog computer and used an oscilloscope for a screen. The game’s creator, William Higinbotham, was a nuclear physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project and lobbied for nuclear nonproliferation as the first chair of the Federation of American Scientists.