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Lot #3163
Computer Space: The First Arcade Game Ever Made - Complete, Original, Fully Functional Coin-Op Console

Before PONG and Atari, there was Computer Space and Syzygy Engineering—the first arcade video game ever created

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Estimate: $20000+
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Before PONG and Atari, there was Computer Space and Syzygy Engineering—the first arcade video game ever created

Exceedingly rare original and fully functioning Computer Space arcade game released in 1971 by Syzygy Engineering, the company that evolved into Atari, Incorporated less than a year later. Designed by pioneering game developers and electrical engineers Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, Computer Space is both the first arcade video game ever created and the first commercially available video game, with an estimated total of 1,300–1,500 units sold during its distribution period. The game is enclosed in its original futuristic blue sparkle (metallic flake) fiberglass cabinet, approximately 24˝ x 67˝ x 30˝, the back of which features its on/off switch, speaker vents, and Nutting Association parts label, which reads: “Model No. 720, Serial No. 10144.” The game’s hardware consists of a Xentek power supply, a General Electric television set, and a series of circuit boards, dubbed the ‘brain box’ in company flyers. The front control panel featured a 25-cent quarter slot, a coin return button, a ‘Start Game’ button, and four control buttons for ‘Fire Missile,’ ‘Thrust,’ and left and right rotations. The game’s simple gameplay instructions, printed beneath the monitor, read as follows:

“1. Insert quarter and press start; your rocket ship will appear
2. There is no gravity in space; rocket speed can only be changed by engine thrust
3. Evade the saucers’ missiles and use yours to score hits
4. Outscore the saucers for extended play in hyperspace”

Included with the cabinet is the original cabinet key and ‘Instructions’ folder, which contains a dual-sided instructions sheet from Bushnell, a three-page ‘Trouble-Shooting Guide’ from August 1972, a ‘Troubleshooting Guide, Computer Space Display’ fold-out from Dabney dated January 4, 1972, a ‘Control & Power Chassis Wiring’ schematic drawn by Dabney, a GE ‘Main Chassis Schematic Diagram’ (S-3), an extra ‘2 Plays for a Quarter’ coin label, additional player control and trouble-shooting print-outs, an early Nutting Associates promotional flyer for ‘Computer Space, NA-2010,’ and the arcade's original 'coin can.' In fine condition, with scattered scrapes and scuffs to cabinet.

A coin-operated derivative of the 1962 computer game Spacewar!, Computer Space made its official public debut at the Music Operators of America (MOA) Expo, which was held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois on October 15-17, 1971. Syzygy founders Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney were thrilled with the early response, as was their manufacturer, Bill Nutting of Mountain View, California, whose company Nutting Associates greenlit initial production sometime in November or December, and then full production near the end of January 1972.

The ultimate sales tally was modest, but the game’s success led to a two-player sequel and the game’s telltale cabinet even made a cameo in the 1973 film Soylent Green, marking the first appearance of a video game in a movie. After parting ways with Nutting, Bushnell and Dabney sought to incorporate Syzygy Engineering, but learned that the name already existed in California. Inspired by the Japanese game Go, they changed the company name to Atari and ignited the video game revolution with PONG (1972), Home PONG (1975), and the Atari 2600 console (1977).

Although Computer Space didn’t bring video games to the masses, it established the blueprint for nearly all coin-operated arcade video games to follow: a cabinet, marquee, control panel, television monitor, audio speaker, circuit boards, power supply, and coin acceptor. It also inspired early professional game developers like Jerry Lawson, the engineer who led the creation of the first cartridge-based video game console in 1976, and Atari game designer Ed Logg, who based his bestselling 1979 space shooter Asteroids on elements borrowed from Computer Space and Space Invaders.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Steve Jobs and the Apple Computer Revolution
  • Dates: #690 - Ended March 21, 2024