A Brief History
Hardly able to pass up the rare opportunity to use such bizarre names in the same article, this date in history gives us two wacked stories!
Digging deeper, we find the slave ship Zong engaged in the evil business of slavery, and the Atari game Pong making its debut as the first successful video game.
The Zong, an English slave ship formerly owned by the Dutch, made infamous, even sickening history in 1781 when the crew threw 142 African slaves overboard to their deaths because the ship had run low on provisions due to misnavigation. The way insurance worked (the “cargo” of slaves being insured) there could be no claim of loss if the malnourished slaves died ashore, so for insurance reasons, those deemed weak were tossed overboard.
Not only did the blundered navigation contribute to the problems of the Zong, but the crisis was aggravated by having about 442 slaves aboard which was double the normal occupancy.
Incredibly, the courts upheld the insurance claim and the outrage caused by this incident fueled the abolitionist movement.
On the happier side of history, the 1972 release of Atari’s video game, Pong, spawned a whole new genre of entertainment. A simple version of tennis or ping pong, Pong was 2 dimensional and lacked the color and sophistication of today’s games.
Played on your television screen, gamers found out the hard way about ghost images left behind when the game was left on for extended periods! Making a simple blooping sound, the audio was also nothing like today’s!
The success of Pong resulted in furious efforts to produce new and ever better games, which is evident today as a multi-billion dollar industry. Some video games and video game systems have debuted to sales of hundreds of millions of dollars on their first day of sales!
Question for students (and subscribers): What video game has most influenced your life? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For greater in-depth coverage of Zong and Pong, see…
Kent, Steven L. The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon–The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World. Three Rivers Press, 2001.
Walvin, James. The Zong: A Massacre, the Law and the End of Slavery. Yale University Press, 2011.