NOVEMBER MARKS THE 50th anniversary of Pong. Why should we care?

For starters, Pong is the first video game that millions of people welcomed into their homes to play on their own televisions. Pong kick-started a global video-game industry that is now worth upwards of US $300 billion. And Pong still has a place in active research, for training AI algorithms, strengthening neural networks, and developing the brain-machine interface called Neuralink, among other things.

And yet as a Gen-Xer born too late to have enjoyed Pong as a child, I have trouble fathoming how anyone could sit in front of a TV watching a square dot—not even a round ball—bounce back and forth across the dark, featureless screen. Was this really fun? To celebrate the half-century persistence of Pong, I set out to discover why so many people love the most boring video game of all time.

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