1972 Nutting Associates Computer Space

Description: Computer Space, Nutting Associates and Syzygy Engineering, 2/72, the first commercial video game. Very funky fiberglass cabinet, black and white monitor, kind of like "Asteroids" but without the asteroids. Available in a number of colors. Most notable is metalflake red, metalflake blue, metalflake green, and non-metalflake yellow. Yellow is the rarest color, but it is also the ugliest.

Computer space uses three circuit board mounted in a rack. Only 5 volts is needed to run the boards (at 3 amps). The stock linear power supply frankly is a piece of junk and runs hot. Hence you can see the cooling fan mounted above the power supply's heat sink. I mounted a switching power supply in my Computer Space, as it provides a smoother 5 volts and runs very cool. Also all switchers can easily provide 3 amps of 5 volt power, where the original Computer Space power supply struggles at 3 amps. If you are using the original power supply be sure to replace the 10,000 mfd 20 volt filter capacitor!

The monitor is a black and white TV by General Electric. It appears to be a 15" TV (picture tube measured diagonal) model 16CWP4A (maybe it's considered a 16" TV?) The TV uses five vacuum tubes. The large metal can seen towards the back middle is a set of filter capacitors. This can should be replaced with several discrete capacitors to "recap" the monitor. The sounds amplifier is part of the TV set too and is not part of the three boardset.

I got my Computer Space for free. It was about 2 miles from my house. I had bought a pinball machine from a young couple, and she mentioned her dad had a video game I could have for free. So she gave him my phone number. Two months passed and the dad finally called me. I came over to see the red Computer Space show below. It did not work, and the owner had been storing the game for about 10 years. He was sick of looking at it, hence the free price for me removing the game from his house. When I got it home I fixed the problems and got the machine running properely.


The first thing one notices about Nutting's Computer Space is the figerglass cabinet design. Very few coin operated video games ever had such identifying shape. Computer Space is elegant looking, with its fiberglass body considered by many as a work of art.

The game play is similar to the 1979 Atari Asteroids game. But computer space has two alien enemy flying saucers instead of rocks. The player controls a rocketship which can fire at the saucers (or even itself - it is fairly easy to shoot your own rocket with your own missile!) The screen shows time in the game (usually set at 100 seconds), how many rockets have died (lives lost), and how many saucers have been killed (enemies destroyed). There are unlimited "lives" with the play time being fixed.

Computer space does not have a CPU chip like all other video games. In the early 1970s, CPU processors were very expensive. Nolan Bushnell (the inventory of Computer Space) instead used "discrete components", that is TTL (Transistor to Transistor Logic 74xx) chips. Then use a standard black and white TV for the monitor, put it in a space-age cabinet, and the result was Computer Space.

Nolan Bushnell and partner Ted Dabney engineered the game and formed the company Syzygy Engineering. Bill Nutting's Nutting Associates manufactured the game. Nutting was impressed with Computer Space, and wanted to own the game outright. Bushnell retained ownership and the two companies worked out a deal to make a two player Computer Space where Bushnell gave up the rights to the two player Computer Space. But Computer Space was not a very good commercial success, and very few (if any) two player Computer Space games were created. The controls are difficult for the average person to play, especially since there was no history of any game like this in the past. In short, the game was not that fun to play. It is rumored Bushnell only earned $250 from the proceeds of the one player Computer Space. They made a fair number of one player Computer Spaces - I mean it was a small number compared to late 1970s video game production, but there was still a fair number of one player Computer Space games made.

Nolan Bushnell and Dabney decided to try another game and would now be the designer and manufacturer. But in order to divorce from Nutting, they had to form a new company. Bushnell used a Japanese term from a board game that was a warning you were about to lose. This was how the company name "Atari" came about. Atari was formed on June 27, 1972. Atari went on to make the video game Pong and of course a whole string of very sucessful video games in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


The red button is an added credit button (using an existing control panel hole).

The game in "attract" mode with the two enemy saucers.


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