Writing for The Video Game History Foundation, Kate Willaert spent months trying to determine exactly when the first video game commercial aired. It would have had to be about the Magnavox Odyssey (the first video game console), but when did the ad first appear? The result may be one of the most fascinating articles you read all week, possibly all month.

In the process of doing the research, Willaert ended up correcting many erroneous beliefs along the way, some of which were sprung from the faulty memories of Ralph Baer, inventor of the Odyssey. Baer seemed to remember that Magnavox purposely misled consumers into thinking his machine only worked on Magnavox televisions, but none of the ads Kate tracked down made this claim, and in fact made extra effort to proclaim the truth.

Baer also seemed to remember Frank Sinatra was involved with the ad campaign, but this turned out to be a television special that aired in the fall of 1973 and plugged all sorts of Magnavox products, not just Odyssey. The most amazing footage, however, turned out to be not the first commercial (which Kate did find) but a 1972 episode of What’s My Line? where celebrity guests were introduced to the entire concept of video games for the first time.

Writes Willaert, “These are terms and concepts that we take for granted to such a degree that it’s difficult for us to imagine anyone not knowing them. How could someone watch two people sitting in front of a TV with controllers, and not recognize that they’re playing video games? This video is a fascinating historical document of people being introduced to these concepts for the very first time, before the terminology had even been established.”

It’s all fascinating stuff. Read the full article at GameHistory.org.

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