Video Game Firsts - Spacewar!

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Geek Dave goes to war...

In 1960, the Digital Equipment Corporation released the first in a line of computer hardware systems: the PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1). One year later a group of MIT students used the platform to develop what was the first multiplayer, competitive game, and the first action game too.

Called Spacewar!, the game was developed by Steve Russell, Martin Graetz, and Wayne Wiitanen. It took approximately 200 hours of work to create the initial version, which was able to be played by two players at once, each controlling a space craft, firing missiles at each other. A star in the center of the screen pulls on both ships and requires maneuvering to avoid falling into it. In an emergency, a player can enter hyperspace to return at a random location on the screen, but only at the risk of exploding if it is exploited.

Amazingly the game was also distributed through the Internet (as primitive as it was back then) and proved to be the basis for many other games to follow. Think Asteroids, and all the titles that have appeared like that.

Today there is only one working PDP-1 known to exist, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. The computer and its display were completely restored after two years of work, and Spacewar is operational!

So if you fancy yourself a bit of 1962 style multi-player fun, better head to California!

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