Pong, the electronic ping-pong game invented by Atari in 1972, was the first really successful video game.

In Britain, 'pong' was also slang for a nasty smell, and I remember reading somewhere, a long time ago, that Atari became aware of this and had a discussion about what if anything to do about it, but I cannot for the life of me remember what the conclusion was, nor can I find any mention of it on Google.

What was the game called when it was released in Britain? Did they just keep the name Pong, or did they change it to something else?

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    As an aside, perhaps I could mention at this point the Wireless World "Tele-Tennis" design from about 1975, made up almost entirely of 555 timer chips. Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 15:33
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    rwallace, for some reason I always assumed you were a Brit. May I ask where you come from? Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 16:19
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    What a cool side note ... guess that's the GB equivalence of the VC20 vs. VIC20 urban legend. Didn't happen but sounds like people would love to believe.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 23:41
  • @OmarL from his posting times he's either nocturnal European or lives on the other side of the pond :))
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 23:42
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    @MarkMorganLloyd - an awe-full thing & thanks for the steer to it: 12*NE555, 16*SN7400, 6 PCBs, from Practical Wireless Jul-Oct 1974, available worldradiohistory.com/UK/Practical/Wireless/70s/PW-1974-07.pdf onwards Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 9:52

3 Answers 3



I've lived in the UK for many years and never heard it called Ping! That is news to me. Now, when talking about the video game called Pong, we call it Pong.

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    Yes, same here -- when I lived in the UK (late 90s/early 2000s), it was definitely known as Pong. But then again, that was 25 years after the fact. Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 10:39
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    The same, git and gimp Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 16:56
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    @dotancohen "Git" was named with the British meaning in mind. Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 17:32
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    @OmarL - see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Git_(slang) esp. footnote 11
    – Martin Ba
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 21:00
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    Torvalds has said that he has two major pieces of software named after him -- "Linux" and "git".
    – dave
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 23:28

According to Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, Pong was marketed as "Ping" in the UK. He said so in this 1982 BBC interview ("because evidently Pong is not a good word in England"), and repeated it 16 years later in this interview with German online magazine Telepolis. If nothing else, Bushnell is probably the source of the story you heard.

Also, Pong is indeed a British informal word for "an unpleasant odor" (Merriam-Webster) or "a disagreeable or offensive smell; stink" (Collins), lending credibility to Bushnell's claim.

On the other hand, several people in this thread have stated that Pong has always been Pong in the UK, whereas no-one can remember it being called Ping. So Bushnell may be misremembering (perhaps this was discussed at Atari, but never implemented?), or Atari may have reverted to Pong after a couple of machines. Or Bushnell is playing a really long-time prank.

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    Excellent, thanks! What search term did you use? Perhaps my Google-fu needs sharpening.
    – rwallace
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 7:34
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    This answer has been accepted, but it is incorrect. The UK version of Pong was called Pong. UK citizens are familiar with Ping Pong (table tennis) and there was no scope for confusion about the name. Bushnell must have been joking.
    – jsm
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 15:53
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    We had some such device in the early 1970s, but I couldn't tell you what it was actually called. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't called "Ping". FWIW, "pong" as a synonym for "smell" isn't a particularly bad word. It's not like naming a chocolate bar after the noise a horse makes.
    – dave
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 23:24
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    In defence of this answer, it should be pointed out that the clip of Bushnell making the claim is from the very much British BBC, 10 years after the game's release, and doesn't appear to be challenged in either the original clip or the Twitter feed, also run by the BBC, that re-posted it. If people want to challenge, it would be good to have stronger evidence than people's memories 40 years on.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 11:10
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    Anecdotally, & speaking as a 60-year-old who has lived in the UK my entire life - though I never owned the original as a child (only in later compilation versions), I cannot recall any instance of it ever being referred to as 'ping', only ever pong. Being about 14 at the time, it would have been the perfect age to compare it to 'a bad smell' but I can't recall anyone considered that particularly amusing either.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 11:35

It was marketed as PONG (note the capitals) and can be seen (subject to current restrictions) at British retro preservation venues like the Centre for Computing History.


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    That's an American box. It says "color TV" on the side. Also "D batteries", which would have been "U2" in Britain.
    – dave
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 22:38
  • more likely "HP2" as I remember them, @another-dave
    – scruss
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 1:59
  • @scruss - Per Wikipedia, HP2 was an Ever-Ready designation for a zinc-chloride U2 battery, with SP2 for the cheaper zinc-carbon U2.
    – dave
    Commented Dec 25, 2020 at 16:16
  • yes, @another-dave — just I don't think I ever saw a battery in the UK that actually said "U2" on it, just SP2 and HP2 from several brands, not just Ever Ready. Though they did exist.
    – scruss
    Commented Dec 25, 2020 at 18:46
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    That's the 1975 Pong home console. Given the 1972 reference in the question, I thought the OP was referring to the 1972 arcade machine? Commented Dec 25, 2020 at 20:56

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