Image of Spacewar! Spacewar!
Spacewar!

“Look, you need action and you need some kind of skill level. It should be a game where you have to control things moving around on the scope, like, oh, spaceships. Something like an explorer game, or a race or contest...a fight, maybe?”

— Wayne Wiitanen

In 1961, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) gave MIT a PDP-1 computer and the games began. The computer game Spacewar! had its origins in discussions among young programmers who had come to MIT’s Kludge room to experiment with the new DEC computer. At first the talk was about making more “interesting displays” for the new computer, but that evolved into talk of some sort of game. Martin Graetz, Stephen Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen conceived the now-legendary Spacewar! computer game, the first influential computer game. For scores of students across the country pulling all-nighters to write new code, Spacewar! taught a crucial lesson in interactive programming: “how to talk to a computer and have it answer back.”

Exhibited:
Spacewar!—Interactive Display Conceived in 1961 by Martin Graetz, Stephen Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen; realized on the PDP-1 in 1962 by Stephen Russell, Peter Samson, Daniel Edwards, and Martin Graetz, together with Alan Kotok, Steve Piner, and Robert A. Saunders
Spacewar! Java applet by Barry Silverman, Brian Silverman, and Vadim Gerasimov.

photo: MIT Museum Collections

3 comments
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  • Just found about that story due some computer history research. That game does look interesting to me, even the controllers seem accurate ones, from what i got out of that picture
    …and that back in 1960! *Impressive*
    cheers, Dandare

    Dandare
    22 Sep 13 at 8:56 pm
  • I congratulate highly all of the men who had their hand in developing this landmark hardware (game.) It’s so neat and I think that it always will be!!! I can vividly see that God has blessed each man with wonderful skills and knowledge and creativity to produce a game in a University. Good for you all, Martin Graetz, Stephen Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen; realized on the PDP-1 in 1962 by Stephen Russell, Peter Samson, Daniel Edwards, and Martin Graetz, together with Alan Kotok, Steve Piner, and Robert A. Saunders
    Spacewar! Java applet by Barry Silverman, Brian Silverman, and Vadim Gerasimov!!!!!!!!!!! I wonder in a way how a game was thought of for a computer!?! Way to go. I am glad to been enabled to play it on my Atari 2600.

    17 Oct 13 at 5:35 pm
  • Wayne Wiitanen sounds Finnish. Fast search in google didn´t give me any information about him. Does someone know the history behind his name?

    Jere Tiilikainen
    22 Jan 14 at 5:39 am