People will happily tell you that trends and fads in music, fashion, and popular culture are cyclic: something that is wildly popular one decade will likely be passe and unpopular by the next decade before becoming retro and cool again in the following decade, finally culminating in being rediscovered and/or reimagined several decades later as new again, starting the cycle all over.

Suffice to say, for all you whippersnappers out there who think you're on the cutting edge of technology, revelling in your new digital playgrounds that are far "hipper" and "cooler" than anything your daddy ever played with, know that us old fogeys are taking breaks from reminiscing about the good ol' days of 8-bit gaming and shouting at kids to get off our servers by laughing as everyone fawns over something that we've already seen a million times before. Yes, it’s true: all your fancy, trendy, “new-wave” gaming improvements are just rehashes of stuff that was cool in *my* day. Except we did it a lot better back then.

So, without further rambling on about the good 'ol days of yore, I present to you 10 supposedly "new" fads that actually have their roots a lot further back in history than you would think...

Video games are kind of a big deal these days. To much fanfare and celebration, they eclipsed Hollywood in revenues a number of years ago and haven't looked back since. Sales numbers have hit 9 digits for both the PS2 and the DS in recent years which, when you start adding software sales onto that, works out to a lot of games being played. As video games have become more popular, we've also seen the rise of a new breed of gamer: the professional gamer. No longer content to toil in anonymity, professional gamers take competitive gaming to a new level and compete on televised matches. South Korea is widely seen as the country that has really spearheaded the professional gaming movement, with top-level Starcraft gamers being elevated to the social status of a professional sports player. Nonetheless, inroads have been made in western nations as well, and professional gamers are enjoying a degree of recognition in North America and Europe. The addition of leaderboards to many games has certainly helped in this department. Professional gamers are even paid by games producers to endorse their product and give them some “street cred.” It’s quite a far cry from the days of yesteryear where even the most talented of gamers toiled in anonymity.

Oh, wait…

Two words: Thor Aackerlund. For those of you not awesome enough to recognize that name, Thor is arguably the first true pro gamer celebrity. Aackerlund originally earned his claim to fame at the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, a forum for NES players to prove their skill on a specialized cartridge. The cart used in this competition has since passed on into legend amongst game collectors as the single-most sought-after title ever made. The competition was divided into three age categories: Under 12, 12-17, and 18 and over. Mr. Aackerlund took home top honours in the 12-17 category and also defeated both his rivals from the other age categories in an informal match (with an approximate score stated to be around 2.8 million). He went on to set the world record for the cartridge (I was not able to get a definitive number on this score, but Wikipedia claims it was over 4 million).

Thor was quickly snatched up by a company called Camerica (a producer of unlicensed games and peripherals for the NES) and became a spokesperson for the brand, turning his fame and status amongst gamers into an actual profession. Even today, years after his feat of winning the 1990 NWC, Thor is still regarded as a bit of an icon in classic gaming circles. You can still find Aackerlund-autographed pieces of NES memorabilia on eBay and he still frequently gets mentioned in articles discussing the NWC, showing that even though the NES’s era is now just a distant memory, the progenitor of professional gaming still has his fans.

Video game consoles these days are much more than just game players. You can download movies onto your 360 via Netflix, check the weather and surf the web on your Wii, and donate your PS3's processor power to the fight against cancer. Even in the portable world, this claim holds true - the DS is a calender, alarm clock, and instant-message unit, while the PSP posesses a veritable swiss army knife of functions, including a web browser and VOIP capabilities. Consolidation appears to be the name of the game with pretty much all modern technology and everything from phones to computers to cars are expected to have as many secondary functions jammed into them as physically possible. It's an interesting and totally modern trend, and a far cry from the consoles of yesteryear which played games and did nothing else.

Oh, wait...

Hey, remember the Gameboy? You know, that big, brick-shaped thing with a monochrome green screen on the front of it? It wasn't just a video game player either. There's an argument to be made that the Gameboy was actually one of the first multipurpose tech gadgets (even if it was fairly primitive). Granted, the Gameboy didn't have these functions built in but, with the purchase of various add-ons, you could turn your Gameboy into a camera, a printer, and even a sonar-equipped fish-finder (no, I'm not making that up). If you count unofficial upgrades, there were also small companies that could change your Gameboy into a fully-functional flashlight or radio.

Sure, the upgrades may not be as smoothly integrated or convenient as in modern consoles… but come on, you could have a sonar-equipped Gameboy! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!!

The Wii's unique use of motion to control its games has given rise to a new type of game: the fitness game. Where games of old simply had you lying on the couch pressing buttons on a controller, Wii games frequently have you standing up and moving around, which can get to be quite a workout even on games not specifically designed for it (anyone who has played Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games can attest to having sore forearms after a few rounds of the running minigames). Developers took note of this and deliberately started designing games whose express purpose was to help its players get a workout and shed a few pounds. The most famous of these games is Wii Fit, although several other contenders in the genre have popped up. Thanks to the advent of motion controls, we can now use video games for more than just casual relaxation, allowing ourselves to actually get a good workout in while we wind down.

Oh, wait....

Fitness games have actually been around for much longer than the Wii. Back on the NES, there was a special controller called the Power Pad – a floor mat with big buttons on it that players stepped on in order to control the game (think DDR, but with more buttons and 80’s styling). Several games (most notably the Family Fun Fitness series) used the Power Pad to get players moving and test them in athletic events. Much like Wii Fit, it was touted as a way to get in shape while playing a video game, and a total of 11 games supported the Power Pad. One of them – Stadium Events – is amongst the hardest NES games to find (the game was rebranded as “World Class Track Meet”, so only a few copies titled “Stadium Events” ever made it into gamers’ hands), which has given the Power Pad a degree of notoriety amongst some gaming circles.

When you get right down to it, it’s actually quite amazing how much of the Wii seems to have been inspired by the NES…

Microsoft beat both Nintendo and Sony out of the gate in this generation, pushing the Xbox 360 live almost a year before either of its competitors got in on the market. The gamble initially appeared to pay off; bereft of any real competition, the 360's sales surged and gave it a healthy consumer base long before anyone was eyeing PS3s and Wiis on the shelves. By the time its competitors got out the gate, the 360 had a commanding lead and looked to be on its way to clinching the console generation. But then, reports started coming in of 360s overheating and crashing, rendering them completely unfixable. The problem became known for the red ring that appeared around a broken console's power button, known as the "Red Ring of Death." At first, Microsoft denied there was a problem, claiming that the offending consoles had probably been improperly stored, operated, or modified. But as the number of cases steadily grew, it rapidly became apparent that there was a real issue with the 360. Soon the broken consoles numbered in the millions, and MS was being threatened with legal action. Under considerable pressure, Microsoft extended its warranty and re-examined its position on the issue. Before long, the software giant was forced to admit what gamers had discovered months earlier: the Xbox 360 had a design flaw.

The RRoD was a financial and PR disaster. The more Microsoft dug, the worse the news got. Some estimates put the failure rate on older 360s as high as 68% and, as a result, Microsoft was forced to set up a program where gamers could mail in their 360s (in a small, grey, coffin-shaped box supplied by MS) and have their console replaced. The Wii, enjoying an unexpected runaway success, had surged past the 360 in sales before its first birthday; the news that the 360 hardware was flawed tarnished the console's record and cost them valuable portions of the market share, allowing Sony to make inroads on what had formerly been an unresponsive market for their PS3. The extended warranty program cost Microsoft over a billion dollars and resulted in the games division significantly revising their fiscal outlook for the year.

It was an unprecedented nightmare, for both the gamers affected and the parent company. Never before had such a widespread console flaw been allowed into production.

Oh, wait...

As it turns out, it actually had. Flashback to 1983 - the gaming industry had just crashed mere months earlier, resulting in dozens of gaming companies closing their doors and almost completely destroying the home console market. Nintendo was about to embark on a bold plan to revive the industry but, facing a hostile market jaded to video game consoles, they realised they would have to play their cards carefully. They opted, perhaps wisely, to downplay the video game aspects of their new console. In Japan, the Famicom was advertised as a computer (the name itself is a portmanteau of "Family Computer") and enjoyed widespread success. When the time came for the Famicom to migrate across the pond, Nintendo decided to market it as an "Entertainment Device" instead of a video game console. The machine was redubbed the NES (short for Nintendo Entertainment System) and was significantly redesigned to more closely resemble a front-loading VCR, instead of the top-loading consoles of old. The key design element behind the front-loading system was the "Zero Force Insertion" mechanism, where a cartridge would be inserted into the machine on an angle, then depressed, bending the connector pins into place. As a defence against piracy, Nintendo also included a special chip in their console called the NES10 chip - unless the console detected a corresponding chip in the loaded cartridge, it would reset the system once every second, thus eliminating the possibility for pirated cartridges.

This turned out to be a poor combination. The connector pins for the NES were cheaply made, resulting in them being susceptible to corrosion and metal fatigue from repeated use. As a result, contact between a cartridge and the console's connector pins would be intermittent at best on older machines. This would trip the NES10 chip, resulting in it constantly resetting the console. Thus was born the Blinking Lights of Doom.

Like Microsoft, Nintendo was forced to find a solution. And find one they did; Nintendo actually had to open up a series of repair depots (known as Nintendo Authorized Repair Centers, a somewhat amusing acronym to be sure) and provide training to some of its retailers in how to repair a broken console. Gamers could then take their blinking NESes to these depots in order to be fixed. Late in its lifetime, the NES was redesigned into a top-loading machine with a more common edge connector design, thus doing away with the problematic ZFI mechanism; it was a design that would be repeated for future Nintendo consoles and ZFI became nothing more than an unpleasant memory for Nintendo and its consumers.

One of Sony's original claims to fame was the fact that it brought gaming to a new audience when it entered the market. This is very much true; prior to the Playstation's existence, gaming was seen as a pastime enjoyed largely by preteens. Sega had made a few attempts at garnering a teenage market, but only Sony had the idea of marketing the majority of their games to twenty-somethings. This turned out to be a sound business policy; the early twenties demographic is often quite valuable for marketers, as they have reams of disposable income and can often be a bit fiscally irresponsible (read: prone to massive spending sprees). Sony produced a large number of M-rated, adult-oriented games and was hugely successful for it. This ushered in a new era of gaming where the main marketing focus of gaming shifted from the pre-teen demographic to the young adult age group.

However, this change was not without its own brand of growing pains. With games increasingly sporting gratuitous violence, mature language, and... *ahem*... "exotic" scenary, the industry came under fire by dozens of different interest groups and media outlets for allowing such filfth into popular culture (ignoring the fact that the gaming industry's exploits were, at the time, still quite tame compared to the film and music industry). Specific games and developers often drew wrath from the moral guardians (Rockstar and their flagship Grand Theft Auto series were a particularly favoured whipping boy) and a parade of media were quick to paint such companies as omnipotent, predatory corporations out to steal children's souls (once again ignoring the fact that such games were not meant for children and bodies like the ECRB - a ratings board overwhelmingly supported by the industry - were taking increasingly stringent methods to ensure the games were restricted to their intended audience). Some outspoken critics lamented the lost days of yore, pining for a more innocent time when the most gratuitous violence one would find in a video game was Mario stomping a Goomba into a pancake.

Oh, wait...

Although they were the first ones to do so on a widespread scale, Sony actually WASN'T the first game company to aim for an adult audience. In the earliest days of gaming, several "pioneers" opted to bring gaming to adults in some of the most jaw-droppingly lewd ways possible. Ignoring that the main impetuses for the creation of the ECRB were Mortal Kombat and Doom - both released long before the Playstation was even thought of - gaming has a history of controversy that dates back to its founding years. In fact, the Atari 2600 arguably had the single raunchiest game library in console history and many games that were released for said system would most likely garner themselves an AO rating (thus rendering them ineligible for console release) if they were created today. Amongst them were such creatively-named titles as “Beat-em and Eat-em”, “Burning Desire”, and “Cathouse Blues.” Bearing in mind the type of graphics the Atari 2600 was capable of (somewhere in between fingerpainting and an etch-a-sketch), the erotic value of these games was not particularly high (for your own sanity’s sake, please don’t look up any of the above titles).

However, even amongst the laughably horrible porn games of yesteryear, one stands out above the rest for truly setting the bar in terms of offensiveness for years to come. I speak, of course, of Custer’s Revenge (also known as Westward Ho and The White Man Came). In Custer’s Revenge, you play as General George Armstrong Custer (yes, the same one famous for Custer’s Last Stand) and the object of the game is to dodge arrow fire while you run across the screen and rape a Native American woman who is tied to a cactus. Seriously. I could not make this stuff up. Now I’m pretty sure this game would have gotten plenty of attention on its own, but because the game’s developers (a now-defunct company called Mystique) were apparently gluttons for punishment, they made the inexplicable decision to preview the game to women’s rights groups and Native American organizations.

A predictable storm ensued.

The game was slammed on all sides, having charges of racism, sexism, cultural insensitivity, and glorification of rape hurled at it from scores of activists and special interest groups. Even gamers joined in the abuse, noting (rightly so) that the gameplay was appallingly bad, even by 2600 standards. Some took the fight to the government, and Custer’s Revenge was declared illegal in at least one US city (Oklahoma City), a feat which, as far as I am aware, has never been repeated. Mystique found itself targeted by a series of lawsuits (including one by Atari for slandering the 2600’s name). All the publicity did seem to play at least partially in their favour, as the game garnered twice as many sales as Mystique’s other adult titles (a whopping 80 000 copies sold). However, bowing to immense pressure, Mystique eventually withdrew the game from circulation shortly before they went bankrupt.

So the next time someone waxes philosophical on the “more innocent” days of video gaming, tell to look up this game and see what their reaction is.

Motion Controls are really the trend du jour of gaming these days. Nintendo released the first motion control-based console in the Wii, which has gone on to completely blast its competitors away in terms of sales numbers, vaulting Nintendo back into the number 1 spot for the first time since the SNES days. Unsurprisingly, both Microsoft and Sony have some motion control devices of their own in the wings, presumably as an attempt to emulate the Wii's tremendous success. This sort of control scheme could almost be seen as an inevitability; the ideal to which video games strive towards - their Valhalla, if you will - is Virtual Reality, immersing the player completely within the game itself instead of giving them a proxy to control. Many gaming innovations, from force feedback to improved graphics to funny-shaped controllers, were designed to make the experience more "real," bringing us ever closer to the day when gaming is a fully immersive experience. The ability to take one's actions in the real world and turn them into a corresponding in-game action are an important step in this direction. Sort of makes you wonder why nobody ever thought of it before...

Oh, wait...

Maybe because they did think of it before. Back in their heyday, arcades occasionally had games controlled by Motion Capture systems (for example, some Tekken arcade units allowed players to actually punch and kick and would translate their motions into gameplay actions). But even before that, there was a fairly famous example of motion controls that predates the Wii by twenty odd years. It is a legend amongst retro gamers; we love it... it's so bad. Yes, of course, I speak of the Power Glove, a much-hyped but ill-fated controller peripheral for the NES. The Power Glove was a synthetic plastic glove that fit over a person's right hand. It had a keypad on the back of the hands and sensors in the fingers to detect movement. The idea was novel: movements of a person's fingers and arm would translate to movements and actions in-game. Unfortunately, the implementation was exceptionally poor. The Power Glove had to be "programmed" in order to work with a specific game, which involved inputting a separate code into the glove before starting. Since each game had a different code, this required a large notebook of codes for gamers that had a sizable collection of NES games. It also suffered from extremely poor motion detection, rendering most games unplayable. A quick Youtube search can turn up a plethora of humorous demonstrations of just how bad the Power Glove really is. In spite of this, it lives on in infamy largely thanks to a cameo role in "The Wizard," one of the first ever video game movies (famously spawning the line "I love the Power Glove. It's so bad.")

What's interesting is that the Power Glove and the technology behind it are strikingly similar to the method of motion control used by the Wii, except in reverse. With the Wii, the Wiimote calculates where it is pointing based on two stationary references, while the powerglove has two ultrasonic emitters and three sensors on the TV can triangulate the glove’s position based on the time it takes an ultrasonic signal to reach the sensors from the glove. Just goes to show that sometimes a good idea is just a bad idea turned on its head.

Humanity has always displayed a curious fascination in connecting with other people far away. Of course, we're also too lazy to actually get up off the couch and go visit these distant lands to meet people in person, so we prefer to pay someone to create a technical marvel that will bring everyone else to us. Venturing outside of gaming, this dates back as early as HAM Radio and Pen Pals, both (comparatively) ancient practices. However, within the realm of video games, gamers haven't just wanted to talk to other gamers far away - we wanted to play with them, challenging them to deathmatches or teaming up with them to smash apart a CPU adversary. Well, with the invention of this new-fangled internet thing, gamers finally got their chance to do just that. Moreover, as technology improved, game developers were able to create dynamic digital worlds where more than just two or three gamers could meet up and game with one another. Enter the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online RolePlaying Game, for the uninitiated), massive games where everyone who was playing could meet up with one-another in-game, all at the same time. Richard Garriot, the creative mind behind the Ultima Series, coined the acronym in 1997, referring to his game Ultima Online. Everquest, a fantasy-based game, is widely hailed as the seminal MMORPG, and it spawned a large number of successors and competitors. Today, literally hundreds of millions of people play MMO games and MMORPGs alone pull in over a billion dollars a year in revenue. Everquest has been toppled from its throne by Blizzard's World of Warcraft, which has attracted over 10 million gamers to its banner. Of course, this relatively recent addition to gaming could only have been made possible by the explosion of the internet, and the improvement of connection technologies, allowing large number of gamers to run a client program without frying the host's server, right? ...Right?

Oh, wait...

MMORPGs were actually predated by a different form of massively-multiplayer game known as a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon, or Multi-User Domain) and they were around as early as the '70s. The first widely-known MUD, MUD1, was developed in 1978 by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle, predating Everquest by over two decades. The idea behind a MUD was pretty much identical to that of a MMORPG: lots of players could play the same game at the same time. The games were usually developed independently by hobbyists, who either ran them as a DM-like figure or coded a computer program to handle the administrative duties (later MUDs typically had both). The games featured combat, equipment, roleplaying with both PCs and NPCs, and quests/missions, just like modern MMORPGs. Most were fantasy-based, although some sci-fi and modern-day variants also popped up as the genre expanded. To get around the technological limitations of the day, MUDs were typically text based and had limited (if any) graphical support. The earliest MUDs originally ran on independent networks or on the ARPANET, a precursor to the modern internet. However, once the internet became widespread, MUDs quickly migrated there as well. MUDs started as a sister industry to the Adventure Game industry (Roberta Williams, eventual founder of Sierra Games, was inspired by Colossal Cave Adventure, which was also the inspiration for many of the earliest MUDs) and eventually fathered the MMORPG industry - in fact, before they got their own acronym, MMORPGs were originally called "Graphical MUDs." Commercial MMORPGs were, in their infancy, tied quite closely to the MUDing community, and many developers of the first MMORPG games were former MUDders. MUDding has since largely been subsumed by the MMORPG genre (text games aren't exactly in style these days...), but a few MUDs still press on, their fanbases small but loyal.

3D TV is being touted as "the next big thing" in digital entertainment and 3D movies have been popping up quite regularly for a few years now. Advances in 3D technology allow the picture to come to life as never before. The games industry has caught onto this particular trend and a few brave souls have jumped onboard. Sony has several games out that are designed to be compatible with a 3D TV and Nintendo has taken the unprecedented step of designing a glasses-free 3D portable, the 3DS. For the first time ever, we gamers will be able to play our games in true 3D, with the action popping right off the screen at us.

Oh, wait...

As anyone who has been on the planet for two decades or longer is painfully aware, 3D tends to come in and out of vogue about once every other decade. My fellow children of the 80's and early 90's will remember being bombarded by a plethora of red-and-blue 3D comics designed to be read with specially designed glasses. Hell, some TV shows even jumped onboard (anyone remember The Bots Master?) and, of course, 3D movies were commonplace. And, though they are not often remembered, video games got in on the act as well. Rad Racer, an NES game from 1987, had a special feature where the player could press select on the control pad and the entire game would switch to 3D mode, turning the screen red and blue and allowing a player with those funky coloured glasses to play the game in 3D. "But wait, Mr. 109," I hear you cry, "This time is different! Now we no longer have to put up with gaudy blue-and-red paper shades - simple specially-designed dark-coloured lenses now allow us a full 3D experience!" Well, unfortunately, that isn't new either. Before they exploded into popularity with the Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega produced a little-known 8-bit console known as the Sega Master System which had, as one of its features, a port for specialized electronic 3D glasses. The glasses worked by causing each of the black, transparent lenses to go opaque several dozen times a second, while the game itself projected a slightly shifted image in the same timeframe. The console coordinated the timing of the glasses and the game and the end result was a fairly convincing stereoscopic 3D effect. The glasses weren't widely supported (a grand total of 8 games used them), but the 3D effect was actually fairly impressive. So impressive, in fact, that they are actually comparable in quality to today's 3D effects...

DLC and DD (DownLoadable Content and Digitial Distribution respectively) are two new methods of obtaining games and game content that are quietly killing console gaming. Why that is so is a rant for another day... At any rate, this current console generation is the first one where all three competitors have both internet access and a hard drive built right into their consoles. Unsurprisingly, developers have been quick to take advantage of these new tools. It is now possible to purchase extended content for a game - or even the entire game itself - online and have it downloaded directly onto your console. This has resulted in a veritable explosion in the Indie game market, as up-and-coming development studios can create small, quick-to-play games that simply would not be profitable to sell via mass retail. However, as I alluded to in the opening sentence of this entry, DLC and DD have been something of a double-edged sword and some unscrupulous developers have made it so that gamers can now expect to pay notably more than retail value just to get a complete game package. Whether you love it or hate it, DLC has certainly made a huge impact on gaming and it's only been this generation, with its built-in hard drive and internet access, that has made it possible.

Oh, wait...

...of course, if you were around in the pinnacle of humanity's existence (the early 90s), you'd probably know that people have tried this sort of thing before. Back in 1994, Sega came up with this brilliant new product where they could instantly beam new games and content to their customers. They called it "The Sega Channel" and it was actually pretty successful (Wikipedia claims 250 000 subscribers at its peak). All subscribers had to do was pay a $15 monthly subscription fee (plus a $25 activation fee) and they received an adaptor to hook up their Sega Genesis to their cable outlet. The cable connection allowed them to download demos for upcoming products, or even entire games (some of which were Sega Channel exclusives) to their Genesis. The available games changed once a month, constantly bringing new games to the masses. Even more impressive, given that high-speed internet was still years away for most of the planet, the cable connection allowed entire games to be downloaded in less than a minute. Interestingly enough, due to the technical specifications involved in cable companies setting up the hardware for the Sega Channel, Sega is credited as being a significant player in improving digital infrastructure in North America and paving the way for the eventual introduction of high-speed cable internet.

The system wasn't perfect; the lack of a hard drive on the Genesis meant the games had to be downloaded to RAM. When the system was turned off, the game was lost and had to be redownloaded. This also ruled out the use of a save feature (although, given that this was the 16-bit era, most games still went without fancy things like built-in saves and used passwords to preserve a player's status, if they even went that far...). However, The Sega Channel is still worth noting as the world's first widespread DD service for console gaming.

Ah, arcades… those classic hubs of gaming subculture. Arcades were formerly the coolest places on the planet; dark lit, cavernous spaces filled with loud, glowing machines that would eat up quarters like candy and allow you a few precious minutes of gaming bliss. They were nexuses to gamers, places where knowledge could be gleaned, challenges could be issued, and rumours could be spread. Basically, an arcade was to a video game player what a tavern was to a stereotypical RPG adventurer. Once upon a yesteryear, such arcades were commonplace; indeed, any mall of appreciable size would have at least one (and usually several). Sadly, with the rise of home consoles, arcades quickly fell out of favour. Despite a brief resurgence in the late 90s, arcades have dwindled in number, and now arcade cabinets are more frequently found in airports and bars instead of getting a whole establishment to themselves. Still, they remain piquant, if quaint, reminders of gaming’s earliest years and are a truly emblematic symbol of the 80s and 90s.

Oh, wait…

“Now wait a minute, darkknight109,” I hear you say. “You just said that arcades date back to gaming’s earliest years. How can they be older than that?”

So glad you brought that up. I ask you this: just how old do you think arcades are as an establishment? Those of you thinking of video arcades may be thinking of the late 70s as the founding point of arcades. However, arcades were around long before that – in fact, “penny arcades” (the amusement houses, not the webcomic) date back to the 1920s, predating video games by over half a century. That’s a pretty far way back, but I’m sure at least some of you had penny arcades in mind when I postulated the above question. So what about pinball? That’s pretty much the staple of any arcade. They can’t be any older than arcades, can they? Just when were they first created?

Would you believe me if I said the 15th century?

To be fair, I speak of pinball’s predecessor, a tabletop game known as bagatelle. Bagatelle was an evolution of billiards which, in turn, was a tabletop evolution of outdoor games like bocce and croquet. What made bagatelle so unique was the fact that it used a slender table (virtually identical in shape and size to today’s pinball tables), and had obstacles set up in the form of pins (the same pins that would later give pinball its name). The object of bagatelle was to use a small cue (the precursor to pinball’s “plunger”) to hit a ball into holes. The game was hugely popular in France (it was a smash hit at a party thrown by King Louis XVI) and French soldiers brought the tables with them to the US when they were aiding revolutionaries in the war of independence, spreading the game to the Americas. It is even rumoured (though not confirmed) that Abraham Lincoln was a fan of bagatelle. By then, the game had already taken on some of the familiar aspects of pinball: the cues were fixed in place and a spring mechanism was used to aid them in firing the balls. The original patent for the first “true” pinball machine was filed in 1871, although machines of a similar nature were already in circulation. Thus was born the era of pinball that has lasted straight through until modern day.

So the next time you spot one of them fancy video-pinball machines at your local airport, take note of the fact that you’re staring at the culmination of over 500 years of history.

As this list goes to show, a lot of our modern creative innovations have their roots in the past. Heck, we even had wireless controllers in the NES years (look up “Supersonic the Joystick” if you want more info on that one). So you just remember, junior, respect your elders: they may just be responsible for creating that new fad you’re enjoying now.


List by darkknight109 (10/12/2010)

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