Steve Russell

Steve Russell

In 1962, Steve "Slug" Russell, a young computer programmer out of Dartmouth led a team of programmers at MIT, who created the first computer video game, "SpaceWar!" The game was inspired by the writings of sci-fi author, E.E. "Doc" Smith.

Russell wrote his game on a PDP-1, an early DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) "interactive" mini-computer that used a cathode-ray tube type display and keyboard input. Nothing like it had been commercially available before. 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 game called "SpaceWar!" was possibly the last thing DEC expected. For their part, Russell and his group simply went about trying to figure out what would be the best way to show the power of this new machine and came up with the idea of a graphical battle simulation between two spaceships.

Steve Russell's SpaceWar! showed that fun could be a driving force in the advancement of computer technology. It influenced companies like Atari and others in creating a powerful new entertainment medium that would become a multi-billion dollar industry.

Steve Russell went on to specialize in tools for artificial intelligence research at Stanford University and is currently working at Nohau, a Silicon Valley company that makes computer system debugging tools. Today he is only an occasional gamer and visits arcades simply to keep up with new video game technology.

Play a Simulated Version of Spacewar!Galaxy Game is a reprogrammed version of Spacewar!, which was conceived in 1961 by Martin Graetz, Stephen Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen and first realized on the PDP-1 at M.I.T. in 1962 by Stephen Russell, Peter Samson, Dan Edwards, and Martin Graetz, together with Alan Kotok, Steve Piner, and Robert A. Saunders using PDP-1 assembly language. It very became popular at most Artificial Intelligence (AI) research centers and is now available in a simulated version on the web: http://lcs.www.media.mit.edu/groups/el/projects/spacewar/.