Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device

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Cathode ray tube
amusement device
Cathode ray tube amusement device - schematic.jpg
Circuitry schematic from the patent
Type Interactive electronic game
Inventor Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr.
Estle Ray Mann
Availability Patented 1947–1948
Materials cathode ray tube, oscilloscope

The cathode ray tube amusement device is the earliest known interactive electronic game to use an electronic display. The player simulates an artillery shell trajectory on a cathode ray tube (CRT) screen. Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann constructed the game from analog electronics in 1947, and patented it the following year. The gaming device was never marketed or sold to the public, and so despite its position as a contender for the first video game, it had no effect on the future video game industry.


The "cathode ray tube amusement device" appears to the player as a cathode ray tube (CRT) screen connected to an oscilloscope, with a set of knobs and switches. The device uses purely analog electronics and does not use any memory device, digital computer, or programming.[1] The CRT beam appears as a spot on the display, which traces a parabolic arc across the screen when a switch is activated by the player. This beam spot represents the trajectory of an artillery shell. There are several overlay targets on the screen, representing objects such as airplanes. At the end of the spot's trajectory it defocuses if it is within the bounds of a target, representing the shell exploding, as if detonated by a time fuze.[2] The player turns control knobs to direct the beam spot's trajectory and the delay of the shell burst. The machine can be set to fire a "shell" either once or at a regular interval, adjustable by the player. This gives the player the goal of hitting one of the overlay targets with the shell burst within a time limit.[3]


The cathode ray tube amusement device is one of the contenders for the title of the first video game, despite being a purely analog device and not software on a computer, as it is the earliest known interactive electronic game to have an electronic display.[4] The game was inspired by the radar displays used in World War II.[5] It was invented by Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann in 1947; the patent was filed on January 25, 1947 and issued on December 14, 1948.[3] Goldsmith, who had received a Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University in 1936 with a focus on oscilloscope design, was at the time of the device's invention the director of research for DuMont Laboratories in New Jersey.[6] The patent, the first for an electronic game, was never used and the device never manufactured beyond the original handmade prototypes, so the device did not have any effect on the future video game industry.[1][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cohen, D. S. "Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device". Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  2. ^ Baker, Kevin (2013-05-23). The Ultimate Guide to Classic Game Consoles. p. 8. 
  3. ^ a b US 2455992, Goldsmith Jr., Thomas T. & Estle Ray Mann, "Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device", published 25 January 1947, issued 14 December 1948 
  4. ^ Kowert, Rachel; Quandt, Thorsten (2015-08-27). The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games. Routledge. p. 3. 
  5. ^ Silberman, Gregory P. (2006-08-30). "Patents Are Becoming Crucial to Video Games". The National Law Journal. .
  6. ^ "3 Promoted by DuMont; Officials of Laboratories Are Made Vice Presidents". New York Times. 1953-11-23. .
  7. ^ Wolf, Mark J. P. (2012-06-05). Before the Crash: Early Video Game History. Wayne State University Press. pp. 1–2. 

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