What is Kelseymh up to? Answered
CELEBRATIONS have just finished at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, for the 50th anniversary of a milestone that had nothing to do with basic physics research. In October 1958, nuclear physicist William Higinbotham created one of the world's first video games, called Tennis for Two.
Officially, his goal was to liven up displays at the lab's annual visitors' day, and in that he succeeded. Hundreds of people lined up to bat a glowing spot back and forth across the video screen of a common or garden laboratory oscilloscope.
Unofficially, Feedback suspects he was really just goofing off on a slow day, or waiting around with nothing to do when the lab's particle accelerator was broken, being maintained or otherwise failing to deliver the goods. Higinbotham himself said the idea came to him while reading the manual for an early computer which could plot the course of a missile or a bouncing ball on an oscilloscope screen. He then designed suitable circuits and control boxes - Stone Age versions of today's joysticks - so that two players could bat an electronic ball to each other across the screen.
The game was adapted for a larger screen, but eventually forgotten until 1982, when Creative Computing magazine heard about it and thought it might be the first video game. With the invention far enough behind for him not to worry about accounting for time wasted on the government payroll, Higinbotham claimed credit for Tennis for Two.
Such primitive video games are old hat now, but hundreds of physicists including our own Kelseymh are still waiting for the completion of repairs to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. What might they be inventing this time, while sitting around twiddling their thumbs?
New Scientist Article.
Tennis For Two Simulator (untried by your correspondent)