HOWTO build a 1958, oscilloscope-based proto-Pong game

The good folks at Evil Mad Scientist Labs have unveiled their fantastic HOWTO for recreating a 1958, oscilloscope-based proto-video-game called "Tennis for Two," created by a physicist named William Higinbotham "to improve what was an otherwise lackluster visitors' day at the lab."

Before we start, let's be clear that this is not a tutorial in how to build an oscilloscope. Tennis for Two is supposed to display on a 'scope, so beg, borrow, or buy one if you don't have one handy. Older low-end analog scopes like mine (a Hameg!) usually go for $50-$150, and if nothing else, you can always make a Scope Clock out of it later.

There are three parts to the electronics that we're building. First, there is the AVR microcontroller-- the brains of the outfit. The specific variety that we're using is the ATmega168, the same chip used in (for example) the Arduino platform. Secondly, there are two handheld controllers that connect to the ATmega168 microcontroller. Each handheld controller has a knob and a button. Third, there is the digital to analog converter that takes the output from the AVR and uses it to drive the scope.



  1. The really funny thing is an AVR like the one they are using probably is equal to a substantial portion of the world’s digital computing power in 1958.

  2. The original Tennis for Two run on an analog computer anyhow, but this too is incredibly cool.


  3. This is cheating. Tennis for Two was originally made without digital components. That is why it was clever. Using microcontrollers to simulate an analog game is wrong on so many levels. This is like simulating a steamship with a gas turbine generator hidden away.

  4. I’m with BZISHI — aw come on, anyone could do that in code.

    At least use opamps and modern electronics. Believe it or not, the digital simulation is unlikely to capture the subtleties than an analog copy would.

    In fact, this is so cheatingly(*) done that is doesn’t even deserve a mention in BB.

    (*) That’s a perfectly cromulent word.

  5. I see a lot of indignant comments about opamps and steam valves, but I don’t see any links to schematics…

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