Steve Russell

It was in 1962 when a young computer programmer from MIT, Steve Russell fuelled with inspiration from the writings of E. E. "Doc" Smith, led the team that created the first computer game. It took the team about 200 man-hours to write the first version of Space war. Steve Russell wrote Space war on a PDP-1, an early DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) interactive minicomputer which used a cathode-ray tube type display and keyboard input. The computer was a donation to MIT from DEC, who hoped MIT's think tank would be able to do something remarkable with their product. A computer game called Space war was the last thing DEC expected who later provided the game as a diagnostic program for their customers. Russell never profited from Space wars.

The PDP-1's operating system was the first to allow multiple users to share the computer simultaneously. This was perfect for playing Space war, which was a two-player game involving warring spaceships firing photon torpedoes. Each player could manoeuvre a spaceship and score by firing missiles at his opponent while avoiding the gravitational pull of the sun. Try playing a replica of the computer game for yourselves. It still holds today up as a great way to waste a few hours. By the mid-sixties, when computer time was still very expensive, Space war could be found on nearly every research computer in the country. Steve Russell transferred to Stanford University, where he introduced computer game programming and Space war to an engineering student called Nolan Bushnell. Bushnell went on to write the first coin-operated computer arcade game and start Atari Computers.

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