The graphics were poor, the colour was provided by placing a transparent overlay on top of a monochrome display, and the gameplay was about as varied as John Major's wardrobe, but when Taito launched Space Invaders in 1978, it was so popular that it actually caused a Yen shortage in Japan.
For the rest of the world, the advance of the Invaders was as relentless as the march of the pulsating aliens down the flickering screen. Soon every sports hall and cafe was reverberating to the menacing thump, thump, thump sound effects produced by bulky cabinets decorated with fuzzy creatures who bore more of resemblance to Dave Lee Travis than the 64-pixel nasties inside.
Despite almost immediate obsolescence in the wake of machines such as Defender, Pole Position and Donkey Kong, it is a tribute to the simple addictiveness of Space Invaders that it survived longer than many of its more sophisticated successors. And it has since been faithfully replicated in hundreds of chunks of downloadable Java on the Internet.
Today, having endured two decades of abuse at the hands of sticky-fingered children, many original machines have now become must-have accessories for fashionable New York loft dwellers. These trend-setters are currently happily forking out upwards of $1,500 for what is basically a knackered TV set coupled to a computer less powerful than a digital watch.
This was first published in January 2000