November 22, 2013
Record Size Version of Pong
Quick: what was the first video game? If you answered Pong, you are… wrong. While Pong wasn’t technically the first video game (that honor would likely go to Space War, later Computer Space), Pong was really the first accessible video game so perhaps you deserve partial credit.
Pong first arrived in 1972, but most people don’t remember its arrival. It had been a staple in bars and pizza joints, and when it first arrived in a home version it was so expensive that it took a few years before it actually caught on with early “gamers.”
However, it did launch the video game revolution, and made Atari a house-hold name. However, it wasn’t to last and Atari has come and gone many, many times. Most recently Atari filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this past January.
Yet Pong lives on. In fact, a college professor in Philadelphia recently created a supersized version on the side of a city skyscraper.
The Associated Press via the Washington Post reported, “Drexel University professor Frank Lee recreated the classic Atari game Pong on the 29-story Cira (SEHR’-ah) Centre last spring,” when “the building essentially became a 60,000-square-foot screen as hundreds of embedded LED lights replicated the familiar ball and paddles, which were controlled by a joystick about a mile away.”
So given that this happened last spring, why is it only now getting media attention, if not exactly making front page news?
That is because Drexel officials learned last Friday that this effort by Lee earned him a Guinness World Record mark for the largest architectural video game display.
According to online reports, Lee and his team also provided giant versions of Space Invaders and Tetris.
This wasn’t the first time that Tetris was used in a large building. Last year, students (make that student hackers) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hijacked the lighting controls for MIT’s 21-story, 290-foot-tall Green Building. The students reportedly installed multi-color lighting modules onto the window sills of most of the rooms facing the building’s river side, and it is believed to be the second largest full-color video display in the United States.
With these controls the students were able to play a giant-sized version of the famous Russian designed game of Tetris. What made that feat especially noteworthy is that MIT has a long and, if you believe the hype, a storied history of pranks that the elite engineering school has chronicled on its Website.
The Tetris hack was just a week old when it earned its own entry as “the Holy Grail of hacks.”
So, the question is whether the MIT hack can be considered as impressive as the Drexel effort to play Pong on the side of the building? Both seem downright noteworthy, and clearly the Guinness World Record people believe so. The fact that the game was played from a mile away is certainly something that can’t be ignored.
“Pong is a cultural icon, cultural milestone,” Lee told the UPI news agency. “This is my love letter to the wonders of technology as seen through the eyes of my childhood.”
We now have to wonder if any kids today will ever be able to recreate today’s video games on the side of a building? Then again kids today are growing with jumbotrons in stadiums and in major cities, so maybe it wouldn’t be so hard.