The history of gaming is brief but colorful, starting with the enormous Nimrod computer and continuing today with the rise of virtual and augmented reality games.

1. The Nimrod computer (1951)

Before the advent of pocket-sized gaming consoles there was the Nimrod, a hulking machine (12 feet wide, 5 feet tall, and 9 feet deep) manufactured by Ferranti for the 1951 Festival of Britain. Though it’s now considered the world’s first gaming computer, its engineers initially hoped that the public would be intrigued by the mathematics and logic behind “Nim,” the single game the Nimrod was programmed to execute. Players would face off against the computer’s artificial intelligence. Instead, visitors to the exhibit were quick to discover that computer gaming was, well, fun.

2. The Atari 2600, Atari (1977)

Joysticks seem like a relic of bygone days, but they were popular as recently as 1977, with the release of the Atari 2600. Atari, the company responsible for “Pong,” created the first gaming console to use microprocessor technology. The 2600 also used ROM cartridges (predecessors to the plastic game packs used by Game Boys); most other consoles at the time only accepted bulky cassette tapes and floppy discs. As a result, the owner of a 2600 could play multiple games on a single machine—a ‘70s icon and a pioneer of more compact gaming systems.

3. Pacman (1980)

Sometimes, the simplest games are the most memorable. “Pac-Man” sold 100,000 units in its first year (an enormous number in 1980), inspired a TV spinoff, and remains a classic today. The game’s protagonist gobbles pellets, or dots, with four ghosts (Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde) in hot pursuit. Interestingly, Namco employee Toru Iwatani created the game in hopes that it’d attract female gamers. Having noticed that arcade gamers were predominantly male, he set out to create a colorful, friendly product that’d appeal to all genders.  

4. Nintendo ES (1982)

Did you know that there was a videogame crash in 1983? And did you know that the Nintendo Entertainment System was instrumental in reviving the faltering gaming industry after its release? The NES was originally called the Famicom (for “Family Computer”) and was shipped with three of Nintendo’s most popular games to that point: “Donkey Kong,” “Donkey Kong Jr.,” and “Popeye.” Engineered to be accessible to children and non-technophiles (Nintendo engineers rejected a larger design, complete with keyboard and disc drives, which they thought would turn away the less tech-savvy), the NES was refreshingly versatile, with vivid (for its time) graphics to boot.

5. Virtual reality and augmented reality games (2016)

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented realityy (AR): their names suggest that our gaming worlds are increasingly melding with our tangible ones. This past July marked the release of “Pokemon Go,” the newest iteration of the pocket monster game series that’s been around since 1995. In “Go,” players use GPS tracking to locate and capture Pokemon in their immediate surroundings. Niantic, the company behind “Go,” couldn’t have chosen a better time to release the game—it’s riding a wave of new VR and AR technology that also includes the Oculus, Vive, MagicLeap and HoloLens.