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Arcade Showcase Honors 50th Anniversary of ‘Tennis for Two’ — Forerunner to Today’s Video Games

EVENT: Come play “Tennis for Two,” one of the world’s first video games, designed to entertain visitors at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory 50 years ago. Our 50th anniversary celebration will also feature an array of later-day games and a tour of the Lab’s Instrumentation Division, where Tennis for Two was created and new electronic marvels are being designed every day.

WHEN: Friday, October 24, 2008, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

WHERE: Building 400, Brookhaven National Laboratory — on William Floyd Parkway, one-and-a-half miles north of Exit 68 of the Long Island Expressway, Upton, New York.

DETAILS: Fifty years ago, before either arcades or home video games such as Pong or Pac-Man, visitors waited in line at Brookhaven Lab to play “Tennis for Two,” an electronic tennis game first introduced on October 18, 1958, at one of the Lab’s annual visitors’ days. This two-player, electronic tennis game had separate controllers connected to an analog computer and an oscilloscope screen.

The game’s creator, William Higinbotham, was a nuclear physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project and lobbied for nuclear nonproliferation as the first chair of the Federation of American Scientists. As head of the Lab’s Instrumentation Division, Higinbotham wanted to “liven up the place” for the visitors and “convey the message that our scientific endeavors have relevance for society.”

Now you can play a re-created version of Higinbotham’s game, alongside several more modern marvels of video entertainment — the products of an industry that accounted for $9.5 billion in sales in 2006 and 2007 in the U.S. alone. Our event will feature fun competitions, prizes, and a tour of the Lab’s current Instrumentation Division, where scientists will showcase more recent examples of inventions with relevance, such as microelectronics and supersensitive detectors.

For more information on Tennis for Two, go to: http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/history/higinbotham.asp.

For more information about Instrumentation at Brookhaven, see: http://www.inst.bnl.gov/.

2008-842  |  Media & Communications Office

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