Born in 1976 in Italy, Andrea Contato is a researcher in history of videogames, a novelist and writer of non-fiction books and essays. Among his works, Through the Moongate, the biography of Richard Garriott, and Cabel Electronic, a book about an Italian console manufacturer operating between 1977 and 1984.

Born in 1976 in Italy, Andrea Contato is a researcher in history of videogames, a novelist and writer of non-fiction books and essays. Among his works, Through the Moongate, the biography of Richard Garriott, and Cabel Electronic, a book about an Italian console manufacturer operating between 1977 and 1984.

Video Games - Stage One: 1979 and Before by Andrea Contato

From Pong to Silent Hill, from the Atari 2600 to the Dreamcast, a fascinating story is waiting to be told. VIDEO-GAMES, the new book from Andrea Contato - author of Through the Moongate - showcases the birth of video gaming from its earliest origins through 1999, offering a new perspective on the people, ideas, inventiveness and evolution of the gaming industry.

VIDEO-GAMES leads the reader on an in-depth journey through the evolution of gaming technology, from arcades to consoles and personal computers. In its pages, you will relive the years when the revolution began, focusing on the developers and gamers who are the real protagonists of the history of video games.

VIDEO-GAMES is a work in five volumes. Based on decades of research and dozens of unpublished interviews, VIDEO-GAMES is the most comprehensive work on the subject, perfect for enthusiasts and newcomers alike.


Andrea Contato has a tendency to explore vast areas of gaming history, such as his series on Richard Garriott's Ultima games. He pulls the camera back even further in Video Games: The People, Games, and Companies for a wide-ranging look at many of the industry's biggest players. – David L. Craddock



  • "Video Games tells the story of our medium in an interesting and comprehensive way."

  • "I consider the book a 'must-have' for everyone. Both for those who are approaching this world for the first time and want to know the origins, and for those who have been around for years."

    – Amazon Review
  • "The series, complete with interviews, illustrations and various insights, is available in Italy and abroad and is undoubtedly one of the best ways to learn about the path taken by the great developers."

    – IGN Italia



1978 — From the Sumerian Game to Santa Paravia an Fiumaccio

DEC was not the only company interested in the potential of computer-based instruction (CBI) and the prospect of developing a range of products for schools of all types and levels. Before the Plato system attracted the interest of William Norris and prompted DEC to acquire the technology developed at the University of Illinois, one man had spent years expanding the application of automated systems. This individual was Bruse Moncreiff.

Moncreiff, a 1940 graduate of the University of Illinois in philosophy, pursued his education at the University of Chicago and Harvard. In 1947, he shifted his attention to an unquestionably innovative field: the commercial use of computers, their use in industry, and the relationship between computer operators and computer users. He moved to California, where he worked first for the Garrett Corporation and then as a consultant for the Prudential Insurance Co. at the Rand Corporation, where he had the opportunity to work with the first generation of IBM computers and study the issues associated with their use and the actions taken by their operators to keep them running.

His first experience with computer systems was with an IBM 702, and he quickly concluded that the operators of these cumbersome and costly installations were required to perform a large number of tasks, with two consequences: "1) The human operator cannot compete in speed with the machine in making routine decisions and in controlling the processing operations. 2) The human operator is more likely to make mistakes in carrying out routine instructions."

According to Moncreiff, the machines had great potential and could be utilized in areas typically regarded as the exclusive domain of humans, such as machine maintenance. On this basis, he drafted a document in which he considered and examined the possibility of automating the IBM 702 system's supervision, culminating in the creation of a 378-block algorithm. In conclusion, he determined that it would be the subject of his investigation for the next decade. "The activities of a computer operator can be classified as (1) those things which he does when the machine is working well, and (2) those things which he does when the machine is working poorly. The supervisory routine described is intended to be an aid to and substitute for the activities of only the former class."

Moncreiff's education ultimately led him to IBM. In 1957, he joined its San Jose, California, Advanced Systems Development Division. Here, he began a highly productive collaboration with Wolfgang Kuhn , a music and education professor at Stanford University. Together with Kuhn and Jerome D. Harr, Moncreiff began developing software capable of analyzing students' vocal exercises, indicating their sex ("low" for males and "high" for females), and calculating the deviation from the perfect note, with values spanning from 4 to 1 percent. The program analyzed the students' singing, eventually prompting them to repeat the exercise or progress on to the next, after which it generated a comprehensive report of the exercise's results. Professor Kuhn asserted that the system was extremely reliable; out of 10,000 evaluations, only one incorrect output was returned.

Kuhn advocated the Suzuki method of music instruction, which is based on listening, imitation, and repetition. In the final report, it was stated that: "Prof. Kuhn, who used a small Music Department allocation for his study, foresees the day when a complete curricula in melodic, rhythmic and harmonic sight-singing and dictation could be computerized and adapted for any level of musical development. He also envisions instructional systems for learning to play instruments."

After his positive experience with Kuhn, Moncreiff continued his research to broaden the purview of computer-based instruction, while other researchers were already attempting to identify the most effective system for integrating new technologies into education. Moncreiff was promptly notified when the superintendent of the Westchester County school district in New York inquired with IBM about the possibility of initiating a study project on the use of computers in education.

This superintendent's name was Noble Gividen , and he was well aware of how the education system varied throughout his school district. Students in urban areas had access to better services, whereas the situation in rural areas was already concerning. Children in poorer areas were crowded into small schools with fewer teachers, not all of whom were fully qualified. Due to a lack of personnel and adequate facilities, it was sometimes necessary to teach students of diverse ages in the same classroom. To ameliorate the circumstance, Gividen required additional resources and comprehensive reform. He hoped that information technology would assist in saving the educational system.

Gividen had IBM in his crosshairs. In the 1960s, it was renowned worldwide for its computer systems, and its name became synonymous with computers. Its corporate headquarters were located in Armonk, Westchester County. Gividen intended to involve IBM in a project that would help his students study more effectively and eliminate some of the disparities he had discovered in his district. He was unaware, but his timing was impeccable: Gividen contacted IBM's Armonk branch, and Moncreiff was brought back from California.

Midway through 1962, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) of Westchester County and the IBM Advanced Systems Development Division of Yorktown Heights, New York, established their first formal contacts. During a two-day seminar titled Simulated Environment held at IBM's Thomas A. Watson Research Laboratory in June 1962, it was decided to create a summer workshop in which BOCES delegates, IBM's ASDD team, and ten teachers from the Northern Westchester district would come together to lay the groundwork for Gividen's project.

The IBM team consisted of Bruse Moncreiff, James Dinnen, and William McKay , while Richard Lawrence Wing was selected to represent BOCES and oversee the initiative.

Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on July 11, 1918, Wing attended Harvard, where he earned bachelor's and doctoral degrees in comparative education. After completing his studies, he entered the military and served in both World War II and Korea. After the two wars, he returned to the United States, where he met his future wife, Marcia Crichton, and where his daughter Debbie was born. Wing, an avid traveller with a strong passion for teaching, never remained in one place for very long. In the second half of the 1950s, he returned to Europe for the first time since the end of World War II. He spent two years in the Netherlands, observing the Dutch education system, before working as a school consultant in Paris, France.

Wing collaborated with William H. Burton and Roland Kimball on an important study titled "Education for Efficient Thinking: An Introductory Text" during his business travels and as a result of his familiarity with diverse school systems. The purpose of the text was not to improve the reader's way of thinking but to assist instructors and educators. The authors attempted to give a response to the question, "Can we teach anyone how to think?" They then clarified: "We can aid individuals to improve the natural abilities they possess and the natural processes which they use. We can aid individuals to recognize and be sensitive to certain conventions and processes of valid thought, to certain pitfalls, fallacies, and sources of error. Certain general methods can be developed by teachers. We have made an earnest effort in this volume to set forth the outlines of these general methods of teaching."

Back in the United States, he relocated to New York and joined BOCES. The subject of education was particularly important to Wing, and he obtained the position of curriculum research coordinator in 1962, just before Gividen's initiative began, as a result of his experience and studies. When he was tasked with supervising the IBM collaboration, he was designated as an impartial observer tasked with compiling and evaluating data for a detailed report to BOCES and intervening as needed to improve outcomes. He was the one who worke

During the summer workshop conducted between July and August of 1962, the working groups developed a preliminary outline of potential study units. These were subjects for which audio-visual teaching materials could be prepared rapidly or were already available; software would be developed later. It was presumed that the 11- to 12-year-old sixth-grade students who participated in the project had adequate reading, writing, and mathematical skills.

The initial proposal included eight speculative projects spanning from mathematics to music. Before formal submission to the United States Office of Education for approval and budgetary allocation, the initiative was reduced to a single teaching unit. When deciding which project to retain, economic games were chosen, and among all possible economic games, it was decided to construct one set in Mesopotamia during the time of the Sumerian city-states. It was not a mere coincidence.

Moncreiff: "The idea of constructing a computer model of the ancient Sumerian civilization which could be used for teaching basic economics drew its inspiration from many sources: Rousseau's Emile; Dewey's emphasis on the problematic situation; a paper entitled 'Teaching through Participation in Micro-Simulations of Social Organizations' by Richard L. Meier delivered at the AAAAS meeting in 1961; the first chapter of Harrison Brown's The Challenge of the Future, in which he discusses the origin of civilization in the Near East river valleys; a luncheon conversation with sociologist James Coleman of The Johns Hopkins University; and finally a PTA meeting at which the fourth-grade social studies curriculum was discussed."

Despite the increasing recognition of their significance by the academic community, the study of pre-classical civilizations was virtually omitted from American curricula, according to Wing. This prompted Moncreiff to focus on the Sumerian setting.

Moncreiff disclosed the submission in an interview published in the Patent Trader on December 30, 1962. Seven years earlier, when he worked on the supervised algorithm for the IBM 702, he had a similar objective in mind for his project: "The teacher is, after all, only an audio-visual device with blood in the veins, into which various information has been programmed. She simply repeats it to the pupil. This is the process we could automate. Then the teacher's role should be as a guidance specialist, to decide what particular phases of a subject the student should study, and to relate these subjects to others."

Not everyone received the announcement with enthusiasm. One youthful educator, Nancy Malawista, criticized Moncreiff's stance in a letter to the Patent Trader. The letter was published in its entirety in an editorial titled "Young Teacher Upholds Importance Of Personal Unprogrammed 'Dialogue'" , to which the philosopher replied the following week: "What I intended to communicate was that one of the many tasks of a teacher is the lecturing function and, if this aspect of the teacher's role could be successfully separated from other functions, there is a real possibility that it could be automated. This would benefit both the teacher and the pupil since it would free the instructor to devote more time to other crucial aspects of the student-teacher relationship."

Several weeks later, the response from the United States Office of Education arrived: they were given the go-ahead. A total of $104,000 in funding has been allocated. The estimated eighteen-month-long project could finally commence.

One of the teachers present at the summer workshop was especially enthusiastic about Moncreiff's suggestion to situate the economic simulation game in Sumerian times. Her name was Mabel Addis.

Addis, who was born Mabel Holmes, was the daughter of James P. Holmes, a veteran of the 1898 Spanish-American War and former member of the 71st New York Volunteer Battalion, and Mabel Amelia Holmes, his wife. In Mt. Vernon, New York, where his daughter Mabel was born on May 21, 1912, Holmes was employed in the construction materials trade after leaving the army in 1911 with the rank of first lieutenant. In 1922, the family relocated to the rural, small village of Brewster, where they became very involved in the local community. Everyone in the family played a musical instrument, except for James, who remained very attached to the military and his former comrades. His wife and daughter played the piano, while his son Alden, a carpenter, played the violin.