September 24, 2008
Video Game Technology
Humanity has a driving need for entertainment. Writers are constantly coming up with new movies, designers and engineers are always on the hunt for the next big idea for roller coasters and theme parks, and programmers are always designing and improving the most widely available entertainment software, video games. The video game industry generates 6 billion dollars a year, and in a field as large as this, there is a great amount of competition. Companies are constantly interested in creating new hardware and software to keep the competitive edge, which is why the technology behind video games has made huge leaps in the past 42 years.
Video games started out as an interactive television built by Ralph Baer in 1966. Baer created a game called chase where 2 dots would pay a game of digital “tag” on a standard television. In 1967, a third dot was added to create a ping-pong type game. A deal was made with the company Magnavox to make the game available for public. Magnavox created and released the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. It was the first video game console; however, home video games reached popularity with the Atari Pong game which was released by Atari after seeing Magnavox’s ping-pong game in a demonstration. This was only the first-generation of video games, and already there was competition over who could get the best product on the market.
The second generation of video game consoles is also known as the “early 8 bit years,” which came in the mid 1970’s to early 1983. This is the time where interchangeable game cartridges were created that actually held programs installed on them. Cartridges from the first generation were only a set of jumpers that played a game that was previously installed on the console. The introduction of these new game cartridges allowed for immense libraries of games to be created. The cartridges made early in the second generation were limited to 8 KB read-only memories (ROM), but the capacity for larger games slowly increased to 32 KB in the “early 8 bit era.” Even though the cartridge capacity grew, the games were still limited by the random-access memory (RAM) that was inside the console. Some of the consoles that came out in this time period was the Fairchild Channel F, the Atari 2600 and 5200, Mattel Intellivision, and the introduction of Sega with the SG-1000. The end of the second generation of video game consoles was apparent when the industry came to a standstill because of an overstock of games, dozens of choices of consoles for consumers, and competition from personal computers. This standstill was called the North American video game crash of 1983. After the crash, the video game industry recovered in a year.
In the true “8 bit era,” of the third generation of video game consoles, the famous Famicon, or Nintendo Entertainment System, was released. This era is believed to be the first of the modern era of video game consoles. The Famicon dominated this time in the gaming industry, but others such as the Atari 7800, Sega Master System, Supergame VG 3000, and Super Cassette Vision were all closely competing with each other. It was in this generation that, although previous consoles had used 8-bit processors, consoles started labeling themselves by the speed of their processing units to differentiate between the generations of consoles. In 1989, Nintendo released the Game Boy, which was a hand held, portable gaming console that was immensely popular. Also in this generation, the video game genre role playing game, or RPG, was created. This genre was dominated by games such as Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, The Legend Of Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man, Metal Gear, and Castlevania; many of these games have spun off with sequels and prequels in the future generations of video game consoles to come, creating repeat sales of games just so people can see what happens to their favorite...