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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29, 1972

This is the last Tuesday Timeline for November...and I realize that November hasn't been that busy of a month here in this blog.  I promise that I will rectify that when December arrives - and I'll give you a heads up on what to expect in tomorrow's blog entry.  I think it's something that a lot of you will like.  At least, I hope so.

For now, let's see what happened on November 29 through the history pages.

1612 - The Battle of Swally takes place

1776 - The Battle of Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia concludes

1777 - The city of San Jose, California is founded by Jose Joaquin Moraga

1781 - A disturbing crime takes place when the crew of the Zong - a British slave ship - murders 133 African slaves by dumping them into the sea in order to claim insurance

1830 - An armed rebellion against Russia's rule in Poland begins, setting forth the November Uprising

1832 - Poet/novelist Louisa May Alcott (d. 1888) is born in Germantown, Pennsylvania

1847 - The Whitman Massacre takes place, which serves as the catalyst for the Cayuse War

1877 - Thomas Edison demonstrates his newest invention - the phonograph

1929 - Richard E. Byrd - an American admiral - leads the expedition to fly over the South Pole for the first time

1940 - Singer/songwriter Denny Doherty (d. 2007) is born in Halifax, Nova Scotia

1944 - The first human surgery to correct blue baby syndrome is performed by Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas

1949 - Comedian/actor Garry Shandling (d. 2016) is born in Chicago, Illinois

1950 - The United Nations forces are left with no choice but to retreat from North Korea after being forced to leave by North Korean and Chinese soldiers during the Korean War

1961 - Enos, a chimpanzee - is launched into space

1963 - The Warren Commission is established by Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the assassination of John F. Kennedy one week earlier

1965 - Alouette 2 is launched by the Canadian Space Agency

1975 - The Silver Connection single "Fly, Robin, Fly" reaches #1 on the Billboard charts

1981 - Actress Natalie Wood drowns under mysterious circumstances at the age of 43

1986 - Actor Cary Grant passes away, aged 82

1991 - Actor Ralph Bellamy dies at the age of 87

2001 - George Harrison, singer, songwriter, musician, and Beatle, passes away at the age of 58

2004 - Actor John Drew Barrymore passes away at the age of 72

2005 - Actress Wendie Jo Sperber loses her battle with breast cancer, aged 47 years of age

2009 - Four police officers are gunned down inside of a coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington - the shooter was shot and killed two days later

And for celebrity birthdays, let me send out some birthday greetings to the following people; Vin Scully, Diane Ladd, Meco, Suzy Chaffee, Jeff Fahey, Joel Coen, Howie Mandel, Hinton Battle, Cathy Moriarty, Kim Delaney, Tom Sizemore, Andrew McCarthy, Don Cheadle, Cork Graham, Ellen Cleghorne, Jonathan Knight, Larry Joe Campbell, Brian Baumgartner, Sarah Jones, Anna Faris, Lauren German, Simon Amstell, The Game, Lucas Black, and Imogen Thomas.

So, quite a lot has happened on this date.  I definitely had no shortage of topics to choose from.  But since Christmas is coming soon, I thought that I would make today's Tuesday Timeline subject toy related.  Why not, right?

That's the reason behind why I chose the date of November 29, 1972 as today's destination.  Because it was on this date 44 years ago today that kicked off what could be considered a multimillion dollar industry.  And it forever changed the way you looked at a specific game.

The industry, of course, is video games.  Ever since 1972, video games have been through a lot.  We saw 8-bit graphics turn into 3D graphics.  We saw Mario change his look about a couple of dozen times.  And we even survived the video game crash of 1983 which very nearly crippled the industry beyond repair.

And I can imagine that quite a few of you that might be reading this entry have probably asked for at least one video game related item for Christmas this year.

Trust me.  I know.  This Christmas, I want the Classic Mini NES that has thirty games preloaded onto it.  I also know that I am NOT going to be getting it because you cannot find it in stores and people have the gall to charge up to fifteen hundred dollars for it on eBay.

Yeah, like I really want to pay $1,500 for a video game system that only costs $90 here in Canada.  Capitalism can be a good thing for economic stimulation, but I'd classify that to be electronic extortion!

Not even the video game system that featured today's Tuesday Timeline subject - The Magnavox Odyssey - cost that much!  Adjusting for inflation, it only cost $560 in 2016 bucks to buy it (It was worth $99 in 1972 - the year it was released).

And yes...believe it or not, they did have video games back in 1972.

Okay, so the video game "Pong" was extremely basic in presentation and gameplay.  It was more or less a crude way to play electronic tennis.  But would you believe that it was 44 years ago today that "Pong" made its appearance in video arcades all over the United States?  And that it is easily considered the video game that started the entire gaming industry?

Now, as I mentioned before, the game appeared as part of the Magnavox Odyssey console (though it wasn't called Pong).  But the actual arcade game was developed by Atari (which once served as the most successful company in gaming consoles before Nintendo dethroned them in the mid-1980s).  And, it was largely inspired by the table tennis game that was included with the Magnavox Odyssey - which would spark a lawsuit between Magnavox and Atari a few years later.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

We can thank Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell and Allan Alcorn for the creation of Pong.  Although Alcorn had zero experience with creating electronic simulation games, Bushnell believed in his abilities enough to assign him a special project of sorts - a project meant to be a warm-up exercise for the finished project.  What Alcorn ended up creating was the video game "Pong".  Though the story of how Pong came to be varies depending on who you talk with.  If you believe Bushnell's story, the game idea was based on a game he played on a PDP-1 computer all the way back in 1964.  However, Alcorn maintains that Bushnell only got the idea after playing the tennis game on the Magnavox Odyssey, and assigned the project to Alcorn in the hopes of creating a better looking product.

It wasn't long after Atari released "Pong" that Magnavox filed the lawsuit against them, citing infringement against the patents that Ralph Baer (the creator of the Magnavox Odyssey) had in his possession.  Bushnell ended up settling with Magnavox out of court - largely due to the fact that the legal fees to keep the court case going would have likely bankrupted Atari.  Magnavox offered Atari an agreement to become a licensee for the price tag of $700,000, and other companies that would produce Pong (Colecovision, Intellivision, etc) would have to pay royalties.  Magnavox would also obtain the rights to any and all products that Atari developed within a year after the case was settled - a clause that Atari successfully managed to avoid by postponing all major releases until after the year deadline expired.

All that trouble for what could be considered the simplest video game every played.

Seriously, it's tennis.  You move the white bars around to bounce a moving ball across the court.  If you end up missing the ball, your opponent scores a point.  It's really simple - and I'm fairly sure that if you allowed a millennial to play the game, they'd probably get bored after thirty seconds.

But back in '72, it was the game to own...and we wouldn't have modern day video games without Pong!

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