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The Golden Age of video games on your iPhone and Touch


Come with me on a geeky journey through time and pixels…

If like me you were born in the late sixties or early seventies you would have experienced the birth and development of video games during your childhood. The early games were simple, but it was an exciting time. Modern games are without doubt amazing and I wouldn’t want to go back to what we had then, but there was a certain magic about those first games that has now been lost, probably due to our familiarity  with technology. Remember the film Tron? Well, as children I think we really did wonder what went on deep inside the brains of those emerging computers.

The first known video game was a device called the Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device patented in the US by Thomas T Goldsmith Jr in 1947. It used a collection of vacuum tubes to draw the trajectory of an imaginary missile which could be adjusted with various knobs to hit a target which was a simple overlay stuck to the screen. There was no such thing as computer graphics at this time.

There followed many one off attempts at computer based amusement, mostly run on university computers but It wasn’t until 1972 that the first truly successful arcade video game with wide spread appeal was developed by a new company called Atari. The game was called PONG. based on table tennis, it sold 19, 000 machines and and kick started the games industry we know today.

If you want to relive those heady days of PONG, Breakout, Space Invaders and Pac-Man you can do so on your iPod touch or iPhone. Outlined below are the key games of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90s along with their app store equivalent. Once again you can stand proud in the knowledge that you have saved man kind from the invading armies of flickering pixels.


1972 – Atari – PONG
Pong iPhone Edition. This is quite a nicely designed version of Pong which has been presented in a retro looking frame. Sounds, 2 player mode and Landscape play to come in a future version. Also take a look at Classic Qong Arcade.


1976 – Atari Breakout
Atari Super Breakout for the iPhone wont quite give you that retro feel until you switch it to its old style graphics option. This version is really quite customisable and even allows you to set your own background picture.


1978 – TAITO – Space Invaders
Taito’s Space Invaders on the iPhone is a faithful reproduction of the original set in an arcade cabinet complete with joystick and fire button. You can even switch it to very early versions of the game which were monochrome or used a colour cellophane overlay.


1979 – Atari – Asteroids
Astro Clash is the closest thing I can find to one of my favorites, Asteroids. It was one of the most popular games of its time and has been duplicated many times for many different systems.


1979 – Namco – Galaxians
Space invaders with a bit more interest,; Galaxians presented the added hazard of kamikaze aliens. This iPhone version of Galaxians seems to be the most authentic but check out the reviews before you buy. You could also try BugHunt


1980 – Namco – Pac Man
Namco have recreated PAC-MAN for the iphone which seems to be almost identical to the original. You have a few control options with this which can make game play easier, including accelerometer mode. If you’re not ready to spend the cash you could try the free version here.


1980 – Atari – BattleZone
BattleZone was another favorite of mine. It utilised  wire frame 3D graphics to create a futuristic tank battle and is considered to be the first virtual reality arcade game. The Touch and iPhone version is called Vector Tanks and is a rather good recreation or the original.


1980 – Atari – Missile Command
In my opinion this was when games started to get a bit creative. Missile command involved deploying missiles in the path of incoming nukes to in an attempt to save several cities. The iPhone version of Missile command gives you the option of playing with the original original game or a modern, graphically enhanced version.


1980 – Atari – Centipede
A clever variation on the Space Invaders/Galaxians theme; Centipede required you to shoot advancing insects before they reached you at the bottom of the garden. Like the other Atari iPhone games this version of Centipede gives you the option of original or revamped graphics.


1980 – Williams Electronics (who?) – Defender
I had a version of this for my ZX Spectrum called Penetrator, loved it. Planet Defence is the closest thing you will get to this side scrolling classic on the iPhone. Lite version available


1981 – Konami – Frogger
Not one of my favorites but a popular game nonetheless is Frogger. Could this have been the forerunner of a multitude of platform games? Frogger on the iPhone features some pleasant updated graphics which are not too far removed from the original.


1982 – Namco – Pole Position
You know, I’m sure some months back I had a version of this on my iPod Touch that sported the original graphics. Anyway Namco’s current iPhone version of Pole Position has some updated graphics but is otherwise much the same. Prepare to qualify! Lite version available


1984 – First Star Software – Boulder Dash
Unlike previous titles this cave digging, diamond collecting game was released on multiple platforms including the Apple IIMSXZX SpectrumCommodore 64, and Atari 400/800 home computers. Bolder Dash for iphone features a choice of modern or original graphics.


1984 – Tetris
Tetris has complex roots but it was originally created by Alexey Pajitnov whilst working for the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. Tetris has evolved in a very organic way spawning many variations over the years. Tetris for the iPhone is a recent addition to a long string of Tetris games.


1991 – SEGA – Sonic the Hedgehog
I never had a Megadrive and have never played Sonic the Hedgehog. Now on the iPhone Sonic the Hedgehog is a faithful reproduction of the original of the craze hedgehog themed shenanigans.


1992 – id Software – Wolfenstein 3D
Wolfenstein can be credited as being the forerunner of the first person shooter genre and was released on a multitude of platforms. It is said that secret level 3-10 is a replica of the maze from Pac-Man, including ghosts and power pills. Wolfenstein 3D Classic for the iPhone is is a faithful copy of the original. Lite version available


Well I’m all geeked out now so I hope you have found this brief journey back in time interesting. Please feel free to comment if you feel I have left anything important out. I now return you to the present.


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