A Pong ping to the past.
Most of the time, when I talk about the first home video game system we had when I was little, I’m talking about the Atari. (Much like “Star Wars: A New Hope,” I’ll never call this thing either by its full name – “Atari Video Computer System” or its later-popularized numeric designation, the 2600.)
Truth is, though, there was a predecessor in the Booth household: One of these Radio Shack TV Scoreboard games.
I think my dad was itching to get one after seeing something like it at my Uncle John’s house, and it was quite the big deal when we hooked it up to the family room TV.
Looking at that picture on Retro Thing activated some deep-seated tactile and muscle memory: I can feel the heft of the larger “right player” controller, which housed the brains of the thing, and the lightweight “it’s-just-a-plastic-knob” feel of the detachable “left player” controller. My fingertips can recall the resistance and satisfying clicks of the power switch and the selector toggles, and the way the paddles smoothly turned
What our system had, though, that my uncle’s lacked, was that monstrous plastic Dirty Harry hand cannon gun you used to play the two target-shooting games. Seriously: That thing was huge. Yeah, it was hollow and plastic and ridiculously light, and the trigger-pull was a wholly unsatisfying tiny >click!< but look at the damn thing. Long after we had abandoned this game for the fields of Combat and the march of Space Invaders, we cut the cord off the bottom of this gun and used it for Halloween costumes and stuff like that.
Even after the TV Scoreboard lost its place in our living room, my parents let me hook it up to the old black-and-white Zenith TV we kept in the spare bedroom upstairs. (The one with the power knob missing and which, after shutoff, condensed the whole picture into a brilliant blue-white star which slowly faded from the center of the screen over about five minutes.)
Double-bonus flashback: Years later, when my cousins got their first-generation Nintendo and we all took turns, I totally DESTROYED all those little Mario-talented warriors when it came to Duck Hunt.
I credit the hours spent on “target” and “skeet.”