Celebrating Pong’s anniversary Maker style

November 29, 1972: A day that will forever hold a place in the heart of all video gamers. It was the day in which Atari Corporation announced Pong, one of the first video games to reach mainstream popularity in both homes and arcades everywhere. In the simulated table tennis game, players were represented by paddles that could move up and down to try to deflect a ball, all while keeping it from passing into their goal. Despite its simplistic two-dimensional graphics, Pong started a craze. A craze that still exists today.

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And, what better way to honor the iconic game originally designed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney than with a set of Pong-inspired, Atmel powered Maker projects?

While it may be 2014 and Pong obviously pales in comparison to games like Crysis or CoD, some of us are clearly more prone to nostalgia than others, including James Bruce of MakeUseOf, who recently penned a detailed guide on how to recreate the retro console using an Arduino board.

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“I won’t lie – it’s unlikely your daughter will be giving up her Nintendo DS, and this isn’t going to provide hours of fun for the whole family – but it is an awesome and easy project to improve your Arduino coding,” Bruce writes.

Essential ingredients for this retro masterpiece?

  • 470 ohm resistor x1
  • 1k ohm resistor x1
  • 10k ohm Potentiometer (twiddly variable resistor) x2
  • Arduino x1 (any version)
  • RCA plug x1 (if you have more than one, you can hook up sound too. One for the video is a bare minimum)
  • Pushbutton switch x1
  • 10k ohm resistor x1

Oh, and yes, you’ll also have to download the TV Out Arduino library (TVoutBeta1.zip), subsequently placing all resulting folders in your /arduino/libraries directory.

Now, this project probably isn’t for the faint-hearted, as you will definitely need to break out the soldering gun for the 470 ohm and 1k ohm resistors – which are to be soldered to the center signal line of an RCA plug.

tvout-test

Meanwhile, others even wear their love for the game on their sleeve — or the front of their shirt at least. A young Maker by the name of Spencer recently shared an Instructable detailing the creation of a flexible 14 x 15 pixel, Pong playing garment.

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After a year’s worth of hard work, Spencer finally had the chance to adorn the wearable at a few Halloween parties back in October where it was (understandably) a big hit.

The Maker created a screen using a series of RGB LED strips, soldered together into a large flexible panel of 14 x 15 full color pixels. In addition, an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280) serves as the brains of the game, along with a cleverly designed controller using a slide-potentiometer and single button. To play back, the computer AI uses about 15 lines of code.

Oh, and yes, Spencer made the pong project removable (the batteries and the ‘Magic Box’ go into a pocket) so the shirt can be washed after it is shown off.

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Then, there is Maker Fernando Vicente who revealed how easy it is to transform an ATtiny45 MCU into a fully-functional Pong game. The design was accomplished by connecting a set of RGBs to a PBo. For storing purposes, Vicente utilized fifteen registers throughout the project to achieve a horizontal resolution of 120 x 96, giving the screen a more square appearance.

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“There are also other parts of the code that might be of interest. For example, I’ve use LFSR to add some pseudo-random variables to the ball direction and the paddle ‘computer’ movements,” the Maker explains.

Next, Onur Avun recreated a new rendition to the classical game on an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) using a PCD8544 LCD screen — more commonly known as the Nokia 5110 screen. Player bars are controlled by a potentiometer for each player, meaning if you want the bar to go left, just turn the potentiometer left.

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Lastly, our friends over at Evil Mad Scientists decided to pay homage to the pop sensation by building a real-life tabletop Pong game. Driven by an ATmega168, the Makers devised a project which combined the awesomeness of ping-pong, foosball and pinball. In the recreation, two players each have a single knob responsible for controlling the position of a paddle along a short track.

Using the paddles, the ball is bounced back and forth, with each player attempting not to miss the ball. The paddle surfaces are curved, so that the ball reflects in various directions depending on the position of impact. The paddles are also powered, thereby enabling the ball to maintain a fairly constant speed between the two sides, gradually increasing as the game goes on.

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“The playfield is level and has a dotted line down the middle, and the scores are displayed on either side of that line. There are top and bottom walls of the playfield that the ball can bounce off of. Sounds possible, right? So we built it. We documented the build with (a heck of a lot of) photos, which are available in this Flickr set,” EMSL notes.

1 thought on “Celebrating Pong’s anniversary Maker style

  1. Pingback: Paying homage to the “Father of Video Games” Maker style | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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