Up until now I was more than sure that the history of electronic or electric arcade games (played be teenagers in "game saloons") were around early seventies / late sixties of twentieth century. However, today I have found two suspicious (to me) parts in Stanislaw Lem's "The Investigation" SF book, written in 1957.

I don't have access to actual English text for this book, so both fragments are my free translation from Polish original:

A few short-haired youths watched as one shot blue sparks at the small plane circling through the window behind the glass.

The machine next to which he stood was a metal box with glass at the top, under the glass lay a miniature green landscape full of bushes and trees (...). Hottentots catch a kangaroo. There are no Hottentots in Australia, but what's the harm? (...) He pressed the knob. A tiny kangaroo jumped out of its black hole and collapsed into clumps of bushes. (...) three twisted black figures moved to the side. He manipulated the handle, bringing it closer to the suspicious place. At the last moment, the kangaroo jumped out, broke the line of the manhunt and fell back into the thicket. They travelled the entire plastic map several times, and the kangaroo always slipped out at the last moment.

As mentioned above, the original book's text was completed somewhere in 1957-1958 (published in Polish ten years later. I don't know, if it was ever translated and published in English).

My question is: does the above description shows arcade games that was actually available at the time of the book was actually written (1957, so 65 years ago)? Or is this a part of very accurate Lem's prognosis, but in the book itself it was a pure part of fiction (as no such games existed at such times in arcade game history)?

  • Is this about video game arcades? Aug 5, 2021 at 13:25
  • 1
    Electromechanical games pre-dated electronic games by quite a bit. For example, pinball machines started electrifying in the 1930s.
    – Mark
    Aug 6, 2021 at 0:16
  • I can't answer your both questions directly, because I have exactly the same doubts. The second (longer) cite stands for a game description that can clearly be electromechanical and can have nothing to do with the video game arcade. But the first (shorter) part (shooting electrical sparks) can be either electrical or electronic / video.
    – trejder
    Aug 6, 2021 at 15:15
  • 2
    There were some sophisticated electromechanical games before then. I saw a working one in a tech museum in the early 80s. From memory it was an aircraft flying a bombing run at night through flak. So a plane flying behind glass.
    – Gerry
    Aug 18, 2021 at 8:53

1 Answer 1


Your first thought is correct, a quick Google search shows that the first arcade machine was made in 1971, and its creator's went on to develop the Atari. But computers have been around since at least the 1940's, and in the 1952 people were developing games on them with displays.

So while the author does show some foresight about the technology, people had been moving in that direction for 5 years by the time the book was published and it still took almost 15 years for it to become a reality on a commercial level.

Here is a link to first arcade machine being made in 1971.

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