Lot #8013
Allan Alcorn: Original Pong 'Home Edition' Chip Prototype

Mounted first-run prototype of the original Pong chip

This lot has closed

Estimate: $8000+


Mounted first-run prototype of the original Pong chip

Unique prototype of the 'Home Pong' chip given to Pong creator Allan Alcorn by his team as a memento of their work to reduce the hard-wired, arcade cabinet version of the video game to a smaller, affordable single chip for consumer-level use at home. Originating from the first prototype run, it is an N-channel, enhancement mode, CMOS chip that runs at 3 ½ MHz, mounted on a ceramic lead frame used only on the prototype run. The carrier is mounted, matted, and framed to an overall size of 8.75 x 8.75. In fine condition.

Accompanied by a letter of provenance signed by Alcorn, discussing the initial success of the Pong arcade game and Atari's efforts to create a commercial, consumer version of the game-which hinged upon the production of this small, affordable chip to replace the expensive hard-wired PCBs of the arcade version. In part: "We started Atari in 1972 as an arcade game manufacturer and I designed our first video game called Pong. Soon we had become very successful in the coin operated arcade business but Nolan had much higher ambitions. He soon wanted to build a home version of Pong but our arcade version had over 72 chips in it and it would be way too expensive for the consumer market. The only way we could do this was to put all the circuitry on a single silicon chip that we could buy for less than $10. Unfortunately, I had never designed a custom chip but Nolan insisted. Harold Lee was an engineer that worked for me designing coin operated games and he told me that he could use his previous experience to perhaps put the entire Pong game on a single chip. This sounded like fun so I put a small team together and in about six months we had a design. We convinced a local semiconductor company, American Microsystems Inc. (AMI), to build a prototype chip for us. Much to my surprise and delight the chip worked.

Now that we had a working prototype we had to figure out where we were going to sell it. Our marketing man called Sears in Chicago and we managed to get ahold of the one man at Sears that understood what our home version of Pong meant, Tom Quinn. He was selling the Magnavox Odyssey game but only in the catalog because Magnavox wouldn't let them sell it in the store. Tom came out to see us a few days after our call and he was astonished at the youth of our company but he saw the value in this product and eventually ordered close to 1 million units."

From the collection of Pong creator Allan Alcorn.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: The Steve Jobs Revolution: Engelbart, Atari, and Apple
  • Dates: #632 - Ended March 17, 2022