For anyone who remembers early arcade games, one-button joysticks and pixilated graphics, this bit-by-bit history is for you.

For anyone who remembers early arcade games, one-button joysticks and pixilated graphics, this bit-by-bit history is for you.

Space Invaders

In 1978, Space Invaders was released by the Taito Corporation in Japan. In the original design, the player shot at human soldiers, but the company decided the game might be received negatively, so they substituted aliens for humans when it was released. In 1980, the game was unleashed by both Atari and Nintendo in the U.S., where it was incredibly successful, generating hundreds of millions of dollars. The arcade game was purportedly so popular in Japan that there was a coin shortage for a while, until the country quadrupled its supply of yen.

Pac Man

Another Japanese company, Namco, developed the hit game Pac Man after one of its designers, Tohru Iwantani, was allegedly inspired by the shape of a pizza with one slice removed. Released in 1979 with the original name of Puck-Man (his moniker was changed to avoid the obvious vandalism), Pac Man quickly became a ubiquitous aspect of Japanese and American culture, spawning T-shirts and even bed sheets.

Apple of Atari's Eye

A guy named Steve Jobs joined Atari in 1972, where he spent hours playing the arcade machines in the company factory with his friend Steve Wozniak. One of Jobs' tasks was to construct the hardware for Breakout, a Pong-like game in which a player knocks out multiple rows of bricks. Wozniak ended up building the machine with Jobs, and both men became excited by the technology they were using. Jobs approached Atari founder Nolan Bushnell with the idea of building a home computer version of the game, but Bushnell passed on it. Unable to let go of his new idea, Jobs cut out of Atari (with some company parts in tow) and made history with Wozniak by founding Apple Computer.

Adapted from In The Beginning (HarperCollins), available at leading bookstores. For a daily dose of quirky fun visit MentalFloss.com and check out mental_floss magazine at your local newsstand.