Space Invaders Hit UK
On January 22 1979 the first Space Invaders Machine arrived in Britain, ready for the forthcoming Amusements Trade Exhibition in London. By the time the craze had ended more than a million more had been installed here in clubs, cafes, even schools – but above all in pubs where in the 1980s the insistent piyng piyng piyng of the laser canon destroying descending aliens became as much a part of the background as Elvis Costello and George Michael on the jukebox. The game attracted celebrity players like snooker star Steve Davis, who legend has it had one installed in his Sheffield hotel room to help him relax during an early 1980s World Championships at that city’s Crucible Theatre; and The Who toured with one.
Although the Japanese company Taito developed the game (and made piles of money selling it) in a way it was less of an alien invasion than a homecoming, the designer having based his ideas for the look of the threatening creatures partly on HG Wells’ War of the Worlds.
The game heralded a massive change in amusement arcades throughout the land, and though it is now about as technically advanced as the carthorse it remains iconic, even featured in an exhibition at the Science Museum in London, which is rather neatly back to the future whence it came.