Make-It-Yourself PONG systems


Make-It-Yourself PONG systems exist in two forms: magasine articles which describe them in detail as hobby projects, and simple advertisements from which the complete kits can be purchased to be hand-assembled. This page shows the adverts for several kits. Some of them use a dedicated game chip like GI's AY-3-8500, and others make use of discrete technology. Such advertisements were extremely common in 1976-77 and later (especially in Europe). Electronics magasines often contained a number of them. PONG invaded the french magasines in 1977, which even contained some ads for commercial systems.

Click on the pictures to see them in large scale.

Television Magasine, october 1974 (England).

This system was announced in october 1974 by Television Magasine, and was sold either ready-made or as in kit form. As you can see on the picture, the system is digital without using dedicated game chip and displays digital scores on the screen. We could wonder who would have designed such a system. Excepted those who know the PONG story, people would say "a talented electronician". False !!! The board that you see is nothing else than a bootleg. The board is nearly same as the one of the Atari PONG arcade machine, and has been modified a little bit. We can obviously say that the screen showing the game is not a real screen-shot, and this is not a hazard. As a matter of fact, the real game would have been immediately recognised as it is same as Atari PONG. We still ignore if it was legal to copy an analog or digital system, since it did not use a software. What we can say is that Atari patented their games at the end of 1973 (one year after the release of the first arcade PONG machine). But PONG games began to be copied no later than a few weeks after their introduction on the market in 1972.

Electronics Today International, november 1976 (Australia).

This time, it is not an advert for a kit, but just an advert the AY-3-8500 game chip. Rather than selling a complete kit, XENON proposed the game chip at low price since it was taken from printed circuit boards (and tested), and even gave the schematic allowing to build the system (which uses a minimum of extra components). Really really simple...

Electronics Australia, may 1976 (Australia).

This system is maybe one of the most interesting ones that we can see in kit form since it does not use a dedicated game chip. As a matter of fact, the SATURN 5 system proposed three games in its basic configuration (Tennis, Ping-Pong, Ping Pong And Hole [which can be seen on the Orelec PP-2000 page]), and could be easily extended. The most interesting aspect is the possibility of adding a nearly infinite range of games because of the technology used. Add-in modules could be used to add digital on-screen scoring, sound effects, and even more games (like Golf, Baseball, Pool or Targets, as written on the advert). This system was completely modular, hence the ease of adding extra features when knowing how it worked.

Electronics Today International, november 1976 (Australia).

This kit was sold by Applied Technology PTY as the Hobby Kit Selecta TV Game, once published in Electronics Today International as the ETI-804 project. This kit has no great interest since it uses the AY-3-8500 game chip from GI. It plays four games and could be modified to play the two shooting games. Amazing detail: this kit was sold at the price of $49.50 (AUS), just like the one published in the june 1978 by Electronics Australia, which offers the 10 games of the AY-3-8600 chip.

Electronics Australia, june 1978 (Australia).

Electronics Australia published a very complete article for building a game system based around the AY-3-8600 game chip. The system offered the 10 games of the chip, and required a very few extra components (hence its low price of $49.50 AUS). The kit was sold by Dick Smith Electronics, who was also selling the kits of other projects published in previous issues, as well as several game chips separately. Only drawback: the kit has a very artisanal look.

Electronics Australia, june 1978 (Australia).

Here is another kit based around the AY-3-8500 chip: the APOLLO VIDEO TV GAMES Mk II...

Radio Plans, june 1977 (France).

Here is a kit made by ACER, a well known electronics shop in Paris. This one used the AY-3-8500 which was also available separately.

Radio Plans, april 1977 (France).

Just an ad for the AY-3-8500 chip...

Radio Plans, july 1977 (France).

Another ad for a kit using the AY-3-8500 chip, also available separately.

Radio Plans, december 1976 (France).

At that time, kits equiped with a game chip were rather rare. Analog systems were more common. This kit, made by CEA TEL-O-KIT, has the amazing feature of offering a car racing game. Two oscillating lines with a "scrolling" dashed line between them for the road, and two bats for the cars. That's it: you see an surprinsingly well done game for such a system. This kit was available in several versions: with or without digital on-screen scoring, with or without sound effects. It also offers three PONG variants, and light versions only offered the PONG games.

Radio Plans, october 1977 (France).

Ad from IMD. Three options there: the complete system (Markint 4A, a classic french system), the IDM kit, or just the AY-3-8500 chip. Note the price of this chip which passed from 149F to 79F.

Radio Plans, december 1976 (France).

"Video Tennis" kit. This analog game used CMOS circuits, hence its expensive price compared to other kits.

Radio Plans, june 1977 (France).

Kit from KJT based around the AY-3-8500 chip.

Radio Plans, june 1977 (France).

MJ11 kit from M.J. KIT using the AY-3-8500 chip. Like others, the box option allowed housing the circuit in a special case to get a complete "home system".

Radio Plans, june 1977 (France).

OK131 kit from OK kit.

Radio Plans, march 1977 (France).

Kits from CEA TEL-O-KIT. The kit with the car racing game was advertised in december 1976. This ad is different: it has an additional kit based around the AY-3-8500 chip.

Radio Plans, april 1977 (France).

Kits from CEA TEL-O-KIT. Same ad than previously, but with another game illustration. All the 1976 kits are listed here.

Radio Plans, june 1977 (France).

Kits from CEA TEL-O-KIT. This time, it is not a car racing game with analog circuits, but a BREAKOUT game, still with analog circuits (although digital parts could be used in that game) ! This is the only system which offers such a game. It is even the most advanced "ball and paddle" game ever made with analog circuits. The complete version offers this game along with the three initial PONG variants. And the AY-3-8500 kit is listed as well...

Radio Plans, september 1977 (France).

Ad for the TMS-1965 chip from Texas Instruments. It is pin compatible with the AY-3-8500.

Heathkit model GD-1380, 1976.

A kit based around the AY-3-8500 chip. It is a deluxe kit wich has two controllers, an electronic gun, a nice case and very detailed user manual.

Advanced Computer Products, september 1980 (USA).

Another advertisement for General Instruments devices. Note the other game chips (non-PONG games) that were released at the end of the 1970s.

Visulex Kits, may 1976 (USA).

Advertisement for the kits and printed circuit boards made by Visulex Kits. They could be analog systems, although the AY-3-8500 chip was available.

Interfab, may 1976 (USA).

Interfab PONG IV kit, released in 1976. This kit is very interesting. Other than the two Tennis and Handball games, it is entirely made of discrete components and displays digital on-screen scoring. The kit was available in three forms: entirely assembled, partially assembled (RF oscillator tuned) or ready to assemble from scratch. Click here to see this kit in detail.

Poly Paks, september 1980 (USA).

An advertisement for a kit that uses the AY-3-8700 from General Instruments. The kit was a Tank Battle game for two players. The chip was also available separately.

James Kits, june 1976 (USA).

Here is an interesting advertisement. This dealer proposed a 4-player PONG game with a circuit board directly taken from a well known manufacturer. Collectors will obviously recognise the picture of Atari Quadra PONG ! Atari made a large number of these circuit boards, which explains why a number of them did not sell. Note the quite contemptuous comparison against commercial games...

Jade Kit, june 1976 (USA).

Yet another interesting advertisement for quite different games: not only some "gravity" PONG variants and three-bat games, but also some breakout games as well for one or two players. The games feature digital on-screen scoring. The electronic circuit uses 78 TTL logic chips, and some small ROM chips for storing the score patterns. A very advanced kit for the era, but copied from arcade games that existed prior to 1976.