Syncopated Systems®
Comprehensive Computer Technology Solutions

Entertainment Technology History

This article is part of a series about entertainment and computer games. It follows the introduction to How the Computer Game Industry Works.

I've seen much change in the video game business and in computer technology in general. Being originally from Silicon Valley and having worked in the computer industry my entire career, I've witnessed much of this change first-hand, and have much learned in the process.

As a guide to others wishing to learn, I present a brief historical timeline of video games and related sciences.

Scope

To understand game history, we should briefly examine what goes into a modern computer game. Paraphrasing the old bard, we might ask, "What's in a game?"

Some of the many sciences modern computer games incorporate include:

  • sensory perception, including the recording, storage and reproduction of
    • sounds
    • images
    • motion pictures
  • human behavior (for game design, artificial intelligence, etc.), including
    • anthropology
    • economics
    • psychology
    • sociology
  • telecommunication, including
    • wired (electrical) and wireless (radio) serial data transmission and reception (e.g. telegraph)
    • message routing (e.g. postal systems, telephony, Internet e.mail and instant messengers)
    • typography and teleprinting (e.g. teletype)
  • computation, including
    • computer science
    • electrical engineering
    • mathematics (logic, game theory, etc.)
  • organizational management (business, governmental)

In addition, because of their significance to computer games, I attempt to include in my timeline major events in related fields (as well as some major global events).

Methodology

Presentation Order

It is my opinion that, to gain an appropriate perspective of history, events should generally be examined from the present day backward. So, I list the most recent events first and group them first by year, then by decade, century, etc.

Sources

Most of the information below comes from reliable sources, and I attempt to attribute citations appropriately. However, some comes from only my own journals and fallible recollections, which I sometimes attempt to verify. (I welcome requests for more information and appreciate corrections, especially if you have a better source, story, spelling, and/or memory; please use the link on this page to contact me.)

Wikipedia has been a tremendous resource, so I link many of its pages directly. For other sources, a list of works cited follows below the timeline.

My understanding and appreciation of computer history has been enhanced greatly by tours and lectures at and the volunteers of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California (in the former headquarters building of now-defunct Silicon Graphics, Inc., which has an interesting history of its own); in Austin, TX, I also admire the Goodwill Computer Works for its museum, which in many ways rivals its larger counterpart.

Abbreviations

To maximize readability, I attempt to limit my use of abbreviations and follow Syncopated's style guide. Resulting abbreviations may vary slightly from common usage. In brief, this style guide specifies that:

  • initialisms (abbreviations not pronounced as words) use periods to separate letters but
  • acronyms (abbreviations pronounced as words) do not use periods to separate letters,
  • capital letters appear only where they would have been had the abbreviation not been made,
  • dates may be abbreviated as numbers ordered from most-significant (e.g. year) to least-significant (e.g. day) following a modified ISO 8601 date format, and
  • monetary units are suffixed with one "M" (from the French "mille", or thousand) for each three digits of magnitude.

A glossary of abbreviations is published separately.

For further reading on the history of video and computer games and their technology, see Entertainment Technology Generations, which introduces the Entertainment Technology Timeline. The Historical Size Constraints in Electronic Games provides an illustrated summary of growth in media size constraints affecting video and computer games.