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Tennis for Two with FamiLAB at The History Center!


The Orange County Regional History Center has an exhibition called “Games People Play: The History of Video Games” running now through September.

The FamiLAB crew is hosting an event there Saturday, July 16th called the “Retro Arcade” – we will be setting up classic video games and computers for History Center visitors to see, touch, and play.

While planning the event, we stumbled on plans to recreate the original “Tennis for Two”, which is generally considered the first video game ever created. It was built over 50 years ago, in the age of vacuum tubes and a newly invented thing called a “transistor”!

When I found the plans over at evilmadscientist.com, I popped them on the FamiLAB mailing list. Within minutes, several of our members said “Let’s do it” and we suddenly had a project, AND a deadline – the “Retro Arcade” was less than a week away.

Ted built the main circuit board, and we sourced most of the parts from parts bin (ATMEGA CPU, a few buttons) and our local Radio Shack (pots, knobs, perf board).

Ted brought the work-in-progress to the normal Tuesday night FamiLAB meeting, where Mack started building the “paddle” controllers and getting the dust off the analog oscilloscope. I took the parts home to cut the pots to length and mounted the buttons to finish the paddles. One more quick hand-off late last night and Ted has the setup working at the lab.

I’m excited to tell this story, because this is what I love about working with the FamiLAB team. When I first saw the plans, there was no way that I could execute on it myself in the time I had available – but with the FamiLAB crew, a great idea gets attention, and others jump in to make it happen. I learned a few things along the way – AND we have a fun and historic game to show off at The History Center. Huge thanks go to Ted and Mack for their efforts on this one.

I hope you can come out to see and PLAY it Saturday at the Retro Arcade!




4 thoughts on “Tennis for Two with FamiLAB at The History Center!

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  • Dave Johnson

    I wonder if there’s a copy of the /original/ circuit, as actually used by the original designer of ‘Tennis for Two’?

    I’ve seen no end of supposed ‘recreations’ of this amazing conceptual leap, but no one seems to want to actually rebuild it (which is what I’d like to try).

    I mean, I could certainly code exactly that game in C++ (or even ASM) to run on an x86. It’d take me about an hour. Boring!

    All I’m trying to say is that the production of a facsimile of his invention using 21st century technology isn’t really I was hoping to find in the search that led me to this site. 🙂

    I want to know how this fellow actually did it.

    Maybe I’ve misunderstood and he set up an actual multi-purpose analogue computer to provide the game, but that’s not my perception so far, my interpretation of what I’ve read is that he built a separate circuit to play the game.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but either way, is there anywhere that might illuminate?


    David Johnson

  • Dave,

    On this site, you will find details on how the original game worked:


    and on the bottom of this page, I believe you will find the original schematics:


    Direct Links:


    I’m with the FamiLAB, btw. I would have emailed you back, but you didn’t give us a real email to use. 😉

    If you’d like to chat more in depth, email us through the contact page.

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