Founder: George "The Creator" Carter
Date Established: March 28, 1984
Date Opened: 1984
Date Closed: 1989
Number of Locations: 46
George Carter - Founder
James L. Dooley - Technical Engineer
The First Facility: The first Photon was located at 12630 E. Northwest Highway, Suite 300, in Dallas, Texas. The 10,000 square foot facility was located on the eastern edge of Dallas. Taken directly from an official Photon fact sheet:
Customers, entering entering directly from parking lot sidewalks, find themselves in the lobby where passports are required by the Photon computers and tickets for play can be purchased. In the Photon staging area, players don their Photon equipment and wait their turns to enter the actual playing area. An "earth Port Observation Deck" overlooks approximately 10,000 square feet of playing area, featuring elaborate lighting and sound equipment, a heavily mazed network of tunnels, battlements, walkways, artificial fog machines and electronic sensors. Most walls and all floors in the Photon playing area are fully padded and carpeted for the players' protection".
Equipment: The Photon equipment was large and cumbersome by today's standards. It weighed 13 pounds and consisted of:
- A "high-tech" helmet with radio frequency receivers and signal lights that inform the helmet's wearer he or she has been "zapped" and is momentarily disrupted.
- A Photon Phaser which uses a light beam to score on opposing players and on the opposing team's home base goal.
- A Photon Control Module containing micro-processor chips that communicates constantly with the game-controlling Photon computers, informing the central computers as to whether the wearer has been hit in the past few seconds by a light beam. If an opposing player's beam has struck home, the microcomputer will deactivate the disrupted player's Phaser for 10 seconds.
- A Power pack which powers all Photon Space Gear.
The Photon equipment was manufactured under contract by the Maxtron company, owned by Max Hargrave. Max provided to the Laser Tag Museum a prototype pod holder and one of the 6 Grand Opening posters created by the Photon Marketing department.
Photon used reverse infrared technology where the pack emitted the infrared beam and the phaser was the receiver. This technology also used by Vultrek and Laserforce. The industry moved to the forward infrared transmission which is now the standard pack-to-pack communication process.
George Carter and James L. Dooley received a U.S. Patent for the development of the Photon laser tag system. It is Patent #4,695,058.
Photon had hired a contract electronics company to manufacturer the Photon circuit boards. The company was Maxtron and was owned by Mack Hargrove. Mack recived a "Grand Opening" poster that was later made available to the Laser Tag Museum and is now on display. Mack also donated the prototype pod holder. George Carter confirmed the prototype pod holder after seeing it again for the first time in over 25 years.
The digital sound track for playing Photon was created by Ken Caillat, a Los Angles recording producer who is best known for producing Fleetwod Mac's best selling albums.
Photon featured on 20/20
History: Welcome Photon Warrior, The story begins with George watching the famous laser battle scene in the movie "Star Wars" where Luke, Princess Leia and Han Solo are running across the deck of the Death Star. The Storm Troopers are shooting at them and they are returning fire. This inspired George Carter to create what is known as "Photon - The Ultimate Game on Planet Earth".
From The Curator: I remember the day George Carter first showed up and introduced himself. I was working the ILTA booth at the IAAPA Expo that was in Dallas, TX in 1998. The ILTA was only a year old and the trade show had over 20 laser tag exhibitors. Laser tag was the talk of the show.
George came to the booth and I instantly recognized his name. We spoke for a while about the laser tag industry and where it was headed. George had informed me how he had sold the rights of Photon and thought the laser tag fad had passed. I chuckled and gave him the industry stats as far as I was able to compile at that time.
In 2005, the ILTA presented George Carter with the first "Industry Innovator" Award in front of a room full of operators and manufacturers who owed their livelihood to the efforts of George Carter. I have since been to George's house in Dallas and the award is prominently featured in his office.
In my quest to understand the evolution and growth of the laser tag industry, all roads came back to Photon. Sitting in Christchurch speaking with Hugh Robinson of Laser Strike, he told me how he was inspired after seeing media coverage of Photon. Having dinner with Geoff Hazelhurst, inventor of Quasar, he told me how he saw the Photon product on the news and it inspired him to create a laser tag system. I spent two days with Robyn and Graham Smith of Vultrek and Photon was referenced several times. In simplest terms, the laser tag industry would not exist without Photon.
But Photon did more than create a laser tag industry. The individuals lucky enough to play Photon often developed friendships that last 30 years later. The players have reunions; email back and forth; and have set up a Facebook page to stay in touch. They celebrate as new babies are brought into the world and mourn when a Photon Warrior has fallen. The players are the reason for the spark that created the laser tag industry. They played Photon; they lived friendships. Shared memories and shared glories.
There cannot be enough said about the importance of Photon and the efforts of the team put together by George Carter. Many of the original concepts of Photon are only now being rediscovered 30 years later. Photon still is The Ultimate Game on Planet Earth.