Museum Builds 3D-Printed Replica Of Computer Space, The First Ever Arcade Machine 1
Image: Retro Collective

Computer Space holds a special place in video game history. It was the first arcade video game ever released, launching in 1971. It was also the first commercially available video game of all time and is responsible for starting Nolan Bushnell on the path to Atari, one of the most influential companies in the history of the industry.

However, despite all of this, it was not a success when it first launched. The complex gameplay (based on the 1962 computer title Spacewar!) and unusual controls put people off, and as a result, only a few units were ever produced – and that means they're incredibly expensive today.

The Arcade Museum in Stroud, United Kingdom, doesn't have a Computer Space unit – so it decided to obtain the next best thing, a fully-working replica.

Working with a company called Heber, The Arcade Museum has created a 3D-printed version of Computer Space which will allow visitors to experience the dawn of video gaming.

Neil Thomas, the curator at the Arcade Museum, says this approach is similar to what natural history museums do with dinosaur bones.

Speaking to the BBC, he said:

We liken the idea [of the 3D machine] to display a plaster cast of a dinosaur bone in a museum. While it's not the original it is engaging and stimulates conversation around the topic. [And] the really nice thing about it being a replica is we're not scared to let people play on it. So you can actually experience it here and you can get frustrated with it, which people do because it's a very frustrating game.

Original Computer Space cabinets can cost as much as £55,000 today.

Richard Horne, the director at Heber, says that pictures of the original machine were used as reference material, then the unit was 3D printed in sections. The gaps were then filled in and a resin was applied, just like on the original machine.

To top it off, a CRT screen has been installed; Heber supplied the internal electronics. It is the only machine in the arcade which still uses coins for a truly authentic experience.

You can visit The Arcade Museum's website here.