30 years ago at CES…

candvg_logoThe other day while I was looking through some of my ancient copies of Computer and Video Games magazine (“the first fun computer magazine!”) I discovered some coverage of the 1982 Consumer Electronics Show. It’s such a contrast to today’s shiny, immaculately produced, PR-fest that I couldn’t help but scan it in for everyone to see.

To get things into context, this is 1982: The state of the art in home computing is ZX81s sold in kit form, Vic20s, PET 8K, Tandy TRS-80. But as the magazine says, home computing’s not where it’s at in the US:

“The 25th Consumer Electronics Show… showed very clearly that one thing continues to dominate the media and electronics business in the USA. This is not the personal computer – which seems to be causing far more interest in Europe than in America – but the video game.”

So while in the UK we were busy typing in listings from games magazines, in the US Atari, Mattel were creating ready-to-play cartridge based games.

frogger_smallGetting compelling press coverage was made difficult by the fact that it was impossible to get decent screen shots. Think how much of the pages in modern games mags are covered with glossy, full-colour, high-resolution screen shots. Without these, you’re left with nothing but words to describe these visual wonders. Luckily, you didn’t need much of a vocabulary to describe the games of the time; they were either based on existing analogue games, or they were derived from the small pool of original video game ideas:

“Munchie, which is similar to PacMan” … “Cosmic Raiders is a fast-action Defender style games” … “Solar Conqueror is an Asteroids game.”

Of course, some of this “re-purposing” was pukka; Coleco made table-top versions of things like PacMan, Donkey Kong, and Frogger (image above). You can imagine how faithful these arcade conversions actually were…

We’ve made quite some progress in the last 30 years, both in terms of game mechanics and graphics. It’s best summed up by 2 images, I’m sure you can guess which is from 1982, and which from 2012?

Click through these images for the full scans on flickr.

C&VG March 1982 cover C&VG CES 1982 coverage 1 C&VG CES 1982 coverage 2