(Roughly) Daily

Love – 50…

A 50th anniversary tribute, from our friends at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories:

In the year 1958– fourteen years before the 1972 debut of Pong— a physicist named William Higinbotham demonstrated a remarkable video game called “Tennis for Two.”

Higinbotham, head of the Instrumentation Division at Brookhaven National Laboratory, designed his game as an exhibit to improve what was an otherwise lackluster visitors’ day at the lab. Tennis for Two presented a tennis court– shown from the side– on an oscilloscope screen, where handheld controllers allowed the two players to toss the ball to each other. Each controller had two controls: a button and a knob. With the button, you could hit the ball at any time of your choosing when it was on your side of the net, and with the knob you could choose the angle at which the ball was hit.

The game was based on the best contemporary technology: analog electronic computers built out of op-amps, relays, and the occasional transistor. It took Higinbotham and his technicians several weeks to design and build the game. Of course, some things have changed over the last 50 years. Using convenient modern electronics, we have designed a functional and playable replica of the original that can be put together by a hobbyist in a couple of evenings. You can watch the video of our recreation on YouTube.

As we loosen our wrists, we might recall that this is the date on which the birth (c. 535 BCE) of Damo of Croton is traditionally commemorated.  Damo was the daughter of Pythagoras, who bequeathed her all the secrets of his philosophy, giving her the stewardship of his compositions. When the Pythagorean School at Croton closed, Damo sought refuge in Athens, where, with the help of Thymaridas and Philolaus, she shepherded her father’s writings on geometry. Damo herself wrote and published treatises on the construction of a regular tetrahedron and the construction of a cube, and a book, An Account of Pythagoras: Advanced Geometry.

Written by LW

July 21, 2008 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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