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William Higinbotham

William Higinbotham

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William A. Higginbotham (October 25, 1910 – November 10, 1994), an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, is credited with creating one of the first computer games, Tennis for Two
Tennis for Two
Tennis for Two was a game developed in 1958 on an analog computer, which simulates a game of tennis or ping pong on an oscilloscope. Created by American physicist William Higinbotham, it is important in the history of video games as one of the first electronic games to use a graphical...

. Like Pong
Pong
Pong is one of the earliest arcade video games, and is a tennis sports game featuring simple two-dimensional graphics. While other arcade video games such as Computer Space came before it, Pong was one of the first video games to reach mainstream popularity...

, it is a portrait of a game of tennis or ping-pong, but featured very different game mechanic
Game mechanic
Game mechanics are constructs of rules intended to produce an enjoyable game or gameplay. All games use mechanics; however, theories and styles differ as to their ultimate importance to the game...

s that have no resemblance to the later game. As the Head of the Instrumentation Division at Brookhaven National Laboratory
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Brookhaven National Laboratory , is a United States national laboratory located in Upton, New York on Long Island, and was formally established in 1947 at the site of Camp Upton, a former U.S. Army base...

, he created it on an oscilloscope
Oscilloscope
An oscilloscope is a type of electronic test instrument that allows observation of constantly varying signal voltages, usually as a two-dimensional graph of one or more electrical potential differences using the vertical or 'Y' axis, plotted as a function of time,...

 in 1958, to entertain visitors during visitor days at the national laboratory.

He helped fund the nuclear nonproliferation group, Federation of American Scientists
Federation of American Scientists
The Federation of American Scientists is a nonpartisan, 501 organization intent on using science and scientific analysis to attempt make the world more secure. FAS was founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs...

, and served as its first chairman and executive secretary.

He earned his undergraduate degree from Williams College
Williams College
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this...

 in 1932 and continued his studies at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

. During 1941 William went to work on the radar system at MIT
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

 until 1943. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory, managed and operated by Los Alamos National Security , located in Los Alamos, New Mexico...

 and headed the lab's electronics group in the later years of the war.

From 1974 until his death in 1994, Higinbotham served as the technical editor of the Journal of Nuclear Materials Management, published by the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management
Institute of Nuclear Materials Management
The Institute of Nuclear Materials Management is an international technical and professional organization that works to promote safe handling of nuclear material and the safe practice of nuclear materials management through publications, as well as organized presentations and meetings.The INMM's...

.

He is said to have expressed regret that he would more likely be famous for his invention of a game than for his work on nuclear non-proliferation. When after his death, requests for information on his game increased, his son William B. Higinbotham wrote, "It is imperative that you include information on his nuclear nonproliferation work. That was what he wanted to be remembered for."

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