Sentab News & Blog / Backgammon to Buckaroo – A Brief History of Killing Time

Backgammon to Buckaroo – A Brief History of Killing Time

In the Beginning

From the playground to the dinner party, games have a universal appeal which transcends race, class, gender, religion and any other method often used to segregate people.  On a large scale, the beauty of this is evidenced during international events such as the Olympics Games or the World Cup.  Not to mention the slightly smaller scale World Tiddlywinks Championships or the Annual World Marble Championships. Yes, both tournaments do exist and really are competed for at international level!


The beauty of games is that they are not only interactive, but they also bring people together (the odd, overenthusiastic game of Monopoly aside).  As this is a large part of the ethos of Sentab, we thought we would look further into the history of gaming as we know it, and hopefully stir up some fond memories as we go.


The Ever Expanding Gaming Universe

The aforementioned Tiddlywinks dates back to Victorian England and a form of Marbles can be traced back to ancient Egypt! Who would have thought that both games were still being played at a competitive level today?!  In fact, many games date back much further than one would expect.  Take Checkers, also known as Draughts, for example – boards closely resembling this game have been found in Egypt dating back some five thousand years.  And an early ancestor of Backgammon dating back to the same period has been found in Iran.

Moving quickly through the ages, we pass the Roman Empire with their love of tic-tack-toe (or Noughts and Crosses), Eastern India Circa 280-550 CE and the origination of Chess, to 9th Century Imperial China and the development of playing cards.

Although it took nearly 500 years before card games became a trend in Europe, they went on to become an important part of our history and culture.  From the peasants of Provençal, in what was until very recently the world’s most expensive painting - ‘The Card Players’ by Cézanne, to some of the most influential people in history such as Napoleon during his exile at St. Helena, card games such as Blackjack have become a most popular, and sometimes lucrative, way to pass the time with companions.



The Origin of the Horse Chestnut and the Fate of the Conker

When we think back to our more recent history, simple playground games of Hopscotch, Red Rover or maybe Kiss Chase spring to mind. It is somewhat strange at this time of year to watch children walk past Horse Chestnut trees and pay absolutely no attention to the conkers on the floor – past generations would have been excitedly gathering these up and looking for potential winners!  Is this the sign of the end for Conkers? Not as long as there is still a World Conkers Championships it isn't!


Nowadays, children have a vast industry of products to choose from.  Whilst we grew up with games such as Battleships, Buckaroo or Snakes (or Chutes) & Ladders, children now have a plethora of computer games to choose from.  This might seem like a shame to traditionalists amongst us, but for every Rubik’s Cube there is a Nintendo Brain Training or similar. If you’ve played the latter you’ll realise just how addictive and challenging they can be!


Pong ain't so Wrong

Computer games are nothing new either.  The first truly successful video game dates back to the early 70’s and was called Pong and was pretty much solely responsible for the medium becoming what it is today.  Originally developed by Ralph Baer on a console called the Magnavox Odyssey and just called Tennis game, the name Pong was introduced a few years later and differed only slightly from the original.  As a result of these clones, we saw the first lawsuit in video game history.  In fact, Magnavox probably made more money from the respective patent lawsuits that followed than it did from the original consoles - $100 million!


Although the Magnavox was the first home video games console, the big success story was the Atari 2600.  With its wooden clad body and games such as Space Invaders, Missile Command and Pac-Man, this proved to be a massive hit internationally.  Good condition consoles can still sell for hundreds, and pristine examples of rare games carry valuations of tens of thousands of Dollars!


The 80s saw the rise of home computers such as the Commodore 64, Atari ST and Amiga.  But neither this nor the video game industry crash of the late 70’s and early 80’s did anything to slow the development of the games console.  The Nintendo Entertainment System stole the show in the 80s with 62 million units sold worldwide and seeing the rise of now household names such as Super Mario Bros.


Next came the development of the Sega Mega Drive and a certain spiky haired hedgehog.  Followed by generation after generation of new consoles, with ever improving graphical capabilities which make the earlier efforts seem positively archaic.  But one thing that remains since the very first games, and that is that sometimes the simplest concepts are often also the most fun and compelling!

The games on Sentab are not an afterthought, rather we have employed a cognitive specialist to aid in the system development.  We have designed them to retain the simple fun and pick up & play characteristics of the best you've just read about.  You’ll find classics such as Simon Says, as well as a range of ‘casino’ style games, with a smattering of Trivia thrown in for good measure.  And many continue with our social theme, allowing you to pit your wits against your friends online.

Check out our website at to discover further exciting features.