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First-ever computer sports game recreated at The Strong museum

If you've a passion for video game preservation, take heart: a version of one of the first video games ever made, Tennis For Two, has been built and put on display at NY's Strong Museum of Play.

Alex Wawro

January 13, 2017

2 Min Read

If you've a passion for video game preservation, take heart: video game historian Raiford Guins has penned a blog post detailing how a version of one of the first video games ever made, Tennis For Two, has been built and put on display at The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. 

This is a big deal because the very first Tennis For Two (built with an oscilloscope and an analog computer) was, as Guins explains in his post, set up in the Brookhaven National Laboratory on October 15, 1958 -- a visitor's day for the federal lab, when many people got to play a computer game in public for the very first time.

That means that Tennis For Two (not its original title, but one retroactively applied) is one of the very first video games ever created, predating 1962's Spacewar! but not OXO, the electronic tic-tac-toe game created in 1952 by a researcher studying human-computer interaction. 

While the unit now on display at The Strong is not the original (which was disassembled after visitor's day was over) or even a copy of the original (according to Guins, the blueprint for building the game has changed multiple times as it has been recreated over the years), Guins suggests its still a valuable addition to the library because, among other things, it gives attendees an idea of what the very first computer game made purely for entertainment was like.

"The story of Tennis for Two extends much further than its original 1958 installation. We will never experience the 'original' Tennis For Two. Even by 1959, it was different than the unnamed version displayed the first year, with a larger oscilloscope and the title 'Computer Tennis,'" writes Guins. 

"The versions created in 1997, 2008, and 2015 extended the living biography of Tennis For Two, broadening its reach from a series of Visitor’s Days at a federal institution to a temporary exhibition at a public museum. And in 2016, The Strong makes the latest contribution to Tennis For Two’s living biography, offering stability to a transient game: a public home for these objects to manifest the history of an obscure (perhaps, 'elusive' is a better word) analog computer game, while widening our access to as well as our understanding of the history of electronic games."

For more insight on the game's legacy, check out Guins' full blog post.

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