How Space Wars, Pong, and Asteroids got me into tech

Image Credit to: Marcin Wichary from San Francisco, U.S.A.,
CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As a child growing up in the 1970s, a decade known for its disco culture and other significant historical events, I was fascinated by the numerous technological advancements that were emerging at the time. Despite the limitations of technology compared to today’s standards, there were still many innovative and exciting devices and gadgets that caught my attention. However, it was two particular games that truly captivated me: “Space Wars” and “Asteroids.” I will mention “Pong” as well, as it was the second computer game I ever played and the first computer game TV console I played. I just liked the “space” theme more (I was big into Star Trek and Star Wars back then).

The first of these games was “Space Wars,” an arcade game that I stumbled upon while visiting the Tressider Union student center at Stanford University in 1975. Being that I was a kid in elementary school at the time, this was the first “high-tech” game I saw. This game, which allowed two players to engage in a simulated spaceship battle in outer space, left an indelible impression on me, sparking my lifelong fascination with technology and its potential to shape our world. With buttons and joysticks, players controlled the speed and direction of their ships, as well as firing missiles to defeat their opponent. “Space Wars” was an early precursor to modern space-themed video games and played a pivotal role in the evolution of the gaming industry.

“Pong” was the second video game that captivated my interest. Pong was one of the first video games ever created, and it was released by Atari in 1972. The game simulated a simple tennis match, with two players using paddles to hit a dot back and forth across a black-and-white screen. The game’s objective was to score points by forcing the other player to miss hitting the dot with their paddle. One could think of Pong as being the video game equivalent of air hockey, probably more so than the tennis analogy.

As the 70s game to a close, the other game that left a significant impact on me was “Asteroids,” which is my favorite arcade game of all time. In my upcoming posts, I will share more about my experience with “Asteroids” and the unfortunate carpal tunnel in my wrist that followed! -haha Nonetheless, these games played essential roles in my early exposure to technology and left a lasting impression that shaped my ongoing interest and fascination with advancements in the field.

As I reflect on my childhood memories of the 1970s, I can’t help but acknowledge that it was those early games that sparked my fascination with technology. Of course, compared to today, technology was far more primitive back then, and the most advanced gadgets we had were fancy calculators and digital watches with a single red LED display. However, even these simple devices piqued my curiosity as well and made me eager to learn more about the technology that powered them. As technology continued to advance over the years, my interest in it only grew stronger. -Willie

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