In 1949, a young engineer named Ralph Baer was given an assignment to build a television set. He wasn't supposed to build just any television set, but one that would be the absolute best of all televisions. This was not a problem for Baer, but he wanted to go beyond his original assignment and incorporate some kind of game into the set. He didn't know exactly what kind of game he had in mind, but it didn't really matter because his managers nixed the idea. It would take another 18 years for his idea to become a reality, and by that time there would be other people to share in the glory, like Willy Higinbotham, who designed an interactive tennis game played on an oscilloscope, and Steve Russell, who programmed a rudimentary space game on a DEC PDP-1 mainframe computer. And then there was also Nolan Bushnell, who played that space game and dreamed of a time when fairground midways would be filled with games powered by computers.
This site describes the events leading to the commercial sale of interactive video games and the subsequent growth of a multibillion-dollar industry. The site is kind of busy because it reflects the culture it chronicles and its host site, GameSpot.com. But visitors should not be turned off by the loud advertizing banners and possible pop-up windows. The essay on the history of video games is arranged like a timeline with "next page" links at the bottom of each section and navigation links on the right. The essay includes information dealing with companies, individual programers and marketers, and variations of hardware and software. The site also offers a list of external links at the end. While there is a temptation to video not take video games seriously, this essay gives a good overview of what has become an enormous industry, and has altered the way many Americans recreate and socialize.