Giving Spacewar! Its Props

by Amy Marcott on January 7, 2013 · 2 comments

in Alumni Life, Arts, Media, Modern Geekhood, Remember When..., Research

Playing the original Spacewar! game.

Playing the original Spacewar! game. Click to view the short video “Story of Spacewar!” on the Computer History Museum site.

If you’re living in or planning to visit New York between now and March 3, you might want to check out the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. Its interactive exhibit Spacewar! Video Games Blast Off celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first digital video game, which was created at MIT, and examines how the game shaped science-fiction shooters and the industry.

View the games on exhibit. The list includes another with MIT ties: the 1980 arcade game Defender, codesigned by Larry Demar ’79.

All the games are playable, and each paid visitor receives four complimentary arcade tokens with the option to buy more.

According to a New York Times article about the exhibit, each game is presented in its original housing, not simply original code decked out in modern machines. (Though any replacement parts, like joysticks, are noted.) The only exception, unfortunately, is Spacewar! itself. Apparently, there is only one working Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 (the computer on which the game was designed) and that lives at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. The Spacewar! game in the exhibit is a commissioned model offering “a reasonable facsimile of the original play experience.”

Check out the short video “Story of Spacewar!” on the Computer History Museum site and learn more about the development of the game. The video includes interviews with cocreators Steve Russell ’60, SM ’62, EE ’66; Dan Edwards ’59, SM ’66, EE ’67; and Peter Samson ’62 along with documentary footage from Tech and great gems of information, like how inspiration for the game came from Japanese Toho science fiction films, Disney’s Man in Space series, and E. E. Smith’s Lensman novels.

Related Slice Posts

Five MIT-Developed Video Games that Revolutionized the Industry

Even More Groundbreaking Alumni-Developed Video Games

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vicky Storms January 30, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Space war games are the best. I have always played space games on battlestar-galactica.bigpoint it has been a great site to play on and be a member of.


Emil M Friedman July 28, 2015 at 11:09 pm

Other digital video games were around then or possibly earlier. I played ping-pong against a computer during a high school trip to a lab at Stonybrook. I graduated high school in ’64 so it must have been invented right around the same time as Space War.


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