Linear Pong Loses A Dimension But Remains Challenging

When Pong hit the scene in the early 70s, there was something about the simplicity of the 2D monochrome tennis game that made it engaging enough that enthusiastic proto-gamers shorted-out machines by stuffing their coin boxes to overflowing.  But even with the simplicity of Pong’s 2D gameplay, the question becomes: could it by made simpler and still be playable?

Surprisingly, if this one-dimensional Pong game is any indication, it actually seems like it can. Where the original Pong made you line up your paddle with the incoming ball, with the main variable being the angle of the carom from your opponent, [mircemk]’s version, limited to a linear game field, makes the ball’s speed the variable. Players take control of the game with a pair of buttons at the far ends of a 60-LED strip of WS2812s. The ball travels back and forth along the strip, bouncing off a player’s paddle only if they push their button at the exact moment the ball arrives. Each reflection back to the opponent occurs at a random speed, making it hard to get into a rhythm. To add some variety, each player has a “Boost” button to put a little spice on their shot, and score is kept by LEDs in the center of the play field. Video of the game play plus build info is below the break.

With just a Neopixel strip, an Arduino Nano, and a small handful of common parts, it should be easy enough to whip up your own copy of this surprisingly engaging game. But if the 2D-version is still more your speed, maybe you should check out the story of its inventor, [Ted Dabney]. Or, perhaps building a clock that plays Pong with itself to idle the days away is more your speed.

15 thoughts on “Linear Pong Loses A Dimension But Remains Challenging

    1. Nolan Bushnell claims that pong was inspired by an “electronic tennis” on the PDP-1 in ’64, the Nova didn’t come out until, ’69 but arcade pong didn’t appear until ’72.

  1. Interestingly, I never uploaded the updated code for this project to my project-page. A remake in Australia some years ago inspired some extras. There are now twinkles in the display while boosting. I’d suggest that mircemk (from the page) take a look at that new code from This is also the code that is running at the school where is has been in use for the past five years.

  2. Having seen linear pong games on HaD before, I assumed the headline meant one less dimension than linear pong.

    How about a 2 player pong game with one RDB LED that sits there, not moving? Or use three of them. One for each player which the game sets to a specific color at the start of the turn then ramps the center one through the spectrum. The player pokes the button when judging the color matches. If successful within the (adjustable) difficulty range the ball ‘bounces’ to the opposing player.

    Difficulty could be set by having different numbers of discrete colors up to a full 24bit rainbow that smoothly changes. Adjust the match range from say 5% to 0%.

    Then the title would make more sense. “Linear pong loses a dimension”

        1. I doubt it, even back then there were cheaper alternatives. I cracked open a knock-off 1970’s Simon Says game, made by Tyger, I think. It had four buttons and four LED’s and a switch. Anyway, I was hoping for some TTL or CMOS goodies so you can imagine my disappointment when all I found was a single DIP IC. I Imagine it was some kind of ASIC, PGA, or PLA. I looked up the part number, but I’ve since forgotten…

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