Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Spacewar at MIT

Today I dropped by MIT to see a demo of Spacewar, the Very First Videogame -- originally written for the PDP-1 in 1962; now reconstructed by GAMBIT for the Arduino.

My photos aren't terrifically clear, but you can see the two spaceships maneuvering around a central sun (and its gravity well). They shoot at each other, and that's a videogame. The starry background, famously, is based on actual star charts.

The original source code to Spacewar has long been available (here, for example) but it is minimally-commented PDP-1 assembly code and not very accessible. The GAMBIT folks have worked for several months to reverse-engineer the code and figure out what's going on. See their blog posts on the project.

GAMBIT has promised (nudge, nudge) to post their marked-up copy of the original assembly, to document what they've discovered. I'll add a link when that happens.

If you missed Spacewar today, you should drop by the MIT Museum this Friday evening (5:30 pm); the game will be demoed again.

More photos below the dotted line.

Comments imported from Gameshelf

Russell Ranshaw (Oct 17, 2013 at 4:28 PM):

I translated the PDP-1 Spacewar program to run on a PDP-7 in order to learn PDP-7 programming. This was 1970 or so at the University of Pittsburgh. Having left Pitt in 1973, I have no idea what became of it. The translation included the entire star map, and seemed to run about as fast as the PDP-1 version.

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