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STILL GAME AT FORTY; Videogames come of age and celebrate with a look back at how it all started.

Byline: BOB LOW

WARNING: readers not obsessed with Lara Croft or Mario the super plumber may find some terms in this story difficult to comprehend.

However, if you're slightly older and remember those clunking great arcade computer games in which you played ping pong at the speed of a steamroller going uphill, then an exhibition opening tomorrow in Scotland may give you a warm glow of contentment.

The Record was given an exclusive preview of the Game On exhibition at Edinburgh's Royal Museum, where we discovered some of the history behind one of the biggest money- spinning industries in the world. Here are the key years from the chronology of computer games.

1958: Slightly further back than the exhibition goes, but you have to credit nuclear engineer William A. Higinbotham with the first videogame.

He hooked up an oscilloscope to play a primitive tennis-style game. Amazingly, it took 14 years before anyone came up with a better version and called it Pong.

1962: Spacewar, created by Steve Russell of MIT on a Digital PDP-1 computer. A big hit with the MIT students and geeks, but it didn't get to a wider audience.

1972: The real start of commercial gaming was Pong, whose arcade cabinet contained only two vital instructions - Deposit Money and Avoid Missing Ball For High Score. Created by student Nolan Bushnell, the company he started with it, Atari, was later sold to Warner for pounds 20million. Pong saturated the world and nearly brought the fledgling market down by creating the first computer games boredom, too.

1978: Space Invaders was the answer to Pong ennui. The arcade version of this, also by Atari, caused a coin shortage in Japan and launched the first of the consoles, the Atari VCS 2600. A variety of now- legendary games was spawned, including Asteroids, Defender, Missile Command, Battlezone and Frogger. Best of them all was Pac- Man, at first called Puck Man until it was worked out this could be turned into something a lot less family-friendly.

1980: Clive Sinclair's ZX80 became the world's favourite console, the PlayStation of its day. It sold for around pounds 80.

1982: A taste of how the market would develop, the ZX80 was superseded by the colour ZX Spectrum. It spawned such favourites as Manic Miner.

1983: The battle of the computer systems began - Apple II lost ground to the Atari 400 and 800, while the Commodore 64 gained in popularity.

1984: The cartridge-based gaming systems hit the skids and the disc-based systems started to take over.

1985: The rise of the PCs and two clear systems emerged - the IBM PCJrs and Commodore's Amiga machines.

1988: Sierra On-Line make use of the 16-colour EGA graphics for the first time.

1989: The year of firsts - the first game to use a 256-VGA graphics card, the first Adlib and Soundblaster sound cards providing music and sound effects, the first games to be played by modem and the first CD- ROM game - Activision's The Manhole.

1993: CD-ROM full video used in Wing Commander, using real actors in cutscenes to spur the action, like a movie.

1994: Doom, the phenomenon that kickstarted online multiplay, enabling complete strangers to hunt each other in virtual worlds with big guns.

1996: Birth of Lara Croft and Tomb Raider, which elevated a game for geeks into the pop star league.

2000: Battle of the consoles - PlayStation versus Nintendo, Sega. The PlayStation emerged top, but Nintendo regrouped with the Gamecube and Bill Gates entered the fray with Xbox.

2002: Lara Croft's latest video- game, Angel Of Darkness, previews at the Game On exhibition. The age of the virtual movie star has arrived.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 17, 2002
Words:606
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