BOSTON – An original prototype of an Atari Home Pong video game system sold for $270,910 on March 17 at RR Auction. It originally came from the collection of Allan Alcorn, who revolutionized the video game industry in the 1970s as the creator of Pong, the first popular video arcade game.
The unit was built with a finished Pong chip in a prototype circuit board in the base and featured a hand-carved wooden mockup of the Pong system set upon the large black box.
The system mockup features two potentiometer paddle control knobs, a red “start game” push button, and a central metal grille for its built-in speaker. The general design cues seen here – from the three-part layout to the gently angled control panel surfaces – are reflected in the production models of Home Pong, beginning with the Sears Tele-Games (1975) and subsequent Atari Pong Model C-100 (1976).
It was accompanied by a letter of provenance signed by Allan Alcorn, the game’s designer, discussing the initial success of the Pong arcade game and Atari’s efforts to create a commercial, consumer version of the game, which hinged upon the production of a small, affordable chip to replace the expensive hard-wired PCBs of the arcade version. As it turned out, the fabrication of a functional chip was relatively easy – it was getting an injection-molded plastic case for the system that was the main challenge in putting Pong in homes across America.
Alcorn writes, in part: “In 1975 Atari had managed to become dominant in the coin-operated entertainment business and moved on to build video games for the home market. We had to get Pong running on a single chip of silicon so a product could be built at a price a consumer could afford.”
RR Auction Executive VP Bobby Livingston said, “It’s a rare and remarkable piece of gaming history originating from the collection of its legendary pioneer.”
Additional highlights from the sale include a July 1976 Apple Computer check signed by both founding Steves, Jobs and Wozniak. It realized $163,923.
A handwritten, signed 1982 note Steve Jobs penned for a six-year-old boy, which ended with the line, “You are our future,” achieved $124,998.
A three-button computer mouse and coding keyset created by Douglas Engelbart sold for $54,903.
Original Space Race schematics hand-drawn by Allan Alcorn changed hands for $37,999.
A 1971 high school yearbook that Jobs inscribed with the phrase, “When this you see, remember me, Little else can I say, remember me, as you may. Steve Jobs,” sold for $32,069.
The Steve Jobs Revolution: Engelbart, Atari, and Apple auction by RR Auction began February 14 and concluded March 17. For more information, go to www.rrauction.com.
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