CfP: Panel on Early Videogames (@ Southwest/Texas PCA/ACA Conference ’15)

1973, was a landmark year in the history of videogames. Although PONG was released in 1972, Atari was not able to manufacture much more than about 400 units before the end of the year; by the end of 1973, there were an estimated 10,000 PONG machines and another 40,000 clones on the market. 1973 also saw the release of 101 BASIC Computer Games, which showcased the vibrant field of computer games made possible through flexible programming languages like BASIC and FOCAL and the distribution of thousands of minicomputers to schools and colleges across the country.


Conference: Southwest/Texas PCA/ACA Conference, Albuquerque, NM February 11-14, 2015

Deadline: October 26


However, outside of the major titles mentioned above, very little is known about the games produced during this period. What makes research more difficult is very little documentation survives, particularly game source code, which was usually destroyed by unsympathetic administrators or lost or forgotten over the years. Many games only exist today in accounts from people who designed or programmed them at the time, or in scant published papers. As a result, the period preceding 1973 can be considered the Dark Ages of Videogames.


The purpose of this call to papers is to help document these early games before more information is lost for good. I am looking for papers on any early videogames produced in 1973 or earlier. I seek to establish a panel on early videogames at upcoming academic conferences, starting with the Southwest/Texas PCA/ACA conference to be held in Albuquerque in February 11-14, 2015. The hope is that as a result of this panel, key themes in early videogames can be discovered and eventually an edited book of essays can be collected similar to Mark Wolf’s Before the Crash.


Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Torres y Quevedo’s Chess Player
  • Turing’s Chess programs
  • Nimatron, Nimrod, and other early NIM machines
  • Goldsmith and Mann’s Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device
  • Claude Shannon’s early “EM” games (Caissac and Bird Cage)
  • Early Pool games (incl. Michigan Pool Game, 1954; IDI Pool Game, 1966; RCA Pool Game, 1967)
  • IBM 701 Blackjack program (1954?)
  • Cold War Military Simulations (Hutspiel, T.E.M.P.E.R., etc.)
  • Business Simulation Games (AMA’s Top Management Decision Simulator, University of Washington’s TOP Management Decision Game, etc.)
  • The Carnegie Tech Management Game
  • A.S. Douglas’s Tic-Tac-Toe
  • GE/NASA Space Generator (1964)
  • Fritz Spiegel’s Military Trainer/Bolkow’s Training Device for Marksmen (1960)
  • Rand Corp’s Handball/Jai Alai game (1963)
  • Kalah (1961, MIT PDP-1)
  • Edmund Berkeley’s Relay Moe
  • Early sports games:
  • John Kemeny’s BASIC Baseball and Football games (1965)
  • CDC Baseball game (1967)
  • Charles Bacheller’s BASIC basketball game (1967)
  • Jacob Bergmann’s BASIC 1967 World Series simulation
  • Dan Daglow’s Baseball (1971)
  • Edward Steinberger’s PDP-5 Dice Game (1965)
  • DECUS Bingo (1966)
  • Golf Simulations from DECUS or from that renowned virtual one
  • IBM Catalog games:
  • BBC Vik the Baseball Demonstrator (Jack and Paul Burgeson)
  • Blackjack (A.J. Lang)
  • Blackjack Demonstration (Karl E. Hitt)
  • Checker Demonstration Program
  • Simulation of a One-Armed Bandit (Dick Conner)
  • Three Dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe (H.F. Smith, Jr.)
  • The Socratic System (1963)
  • The Huntington Project
  • 101 BASIC Computer Games (including individual games from the book)
  • People’s Computer Company games (including entries from What To Do After You Hit Return)
  • Hunt the Wumpus
  • Highnoon and other unpublished BASIC and FOCAL games
  • MIT’s 3D Tic-Tac-Toe
  • Mouse in a Maze and other PDP-1 demonstration programs
  • GE Artillery Game
  • Mike Mayfield’s Star Trek
  • PLATO games
  • Independently built arcade machines or computer games (like Lawson’s Demolition Derby)
  • The influence of pinball and other electromechanical (EM) games on the videogame industry and arcades
  • Biographies of early videogame designers from this period
  • Discussions of trends, social-economic, and cultural forces and contexts that shaped early videogames
  • Any other videogames not mentioned, but made in 1973 or earlier


The following will not be considered unless substantially new information is described in the abstract, as these games are already well documented or there are already detailed research papers on the subject completed or in progress:

  • Spacewar!
  • Charles Babbage’s Tic-Tac-Toe Automaton
  • The Sumerian Game/Hamurabi
  • PONG
  • Computer Space
  • Magnavox Odyssey
  • Lunar Lander
  • Oregon Trail
  • Tennis for Two
  • Arthur Samuel’s Checkers
  • Lunar Lander


If you are interested in participating in the panel, please submit an abstract of 500 words or less to dmonnens (at symbol) gmail.com with the subject header “Panel on Early Videogames.” Deadline for Submissions is October 26 in anticipation of the SW/TX PCA/ACA conference’s November 1 deadline for paper proposals.

You can also contact me if you are interested in participating in the project or in a panel at another conference.

For more information on the SW/TX PCA/ACA conference, please see: http://southwestpca.org/conference/call-for-papers/



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