The Brown Box Program Cards, 1967–68

These oddly cut index cards are actually programs for the very first video games.
These program cards were used with the “Brown Box,” prototype for the first multiplayer, multiprogram video game system. Users of the "Brown Box" could play a variety of games by flipping the switches along the front of the unit. The games included ping-pong, checkers, four different sports games, target shooting with the use of a lightgun and a golf putting game which required the use of a special attachment.
To play these games, the user placed one of these program cards between the two sets of switches on the "Brown Box" (as you can see in the picture). The dots on the card indicated in which position the switches should be set. Magnavox licensed the "Brown Box" and released the system as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, with the switch system replaced by a plug-in game slot and plastic program cards.
Currently not on view
Object Name
programing cards
Date made
patent holder
Baer, Ralph H.
Baer, Ralph H.
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
program cards: 3 in x 5 in; 7.62 cm x 12.7 cm
envelope: 3 3/4 in x 6 1/2 in; 9.525 cm x 16.51 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Computers & Business Machines
Family & Social Life
Popular Entertainment
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Ralph H. Baer
Related Publication
Baer, Ralph H.. Videogames: In The Beginning

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