chapter  Chapter 1
8 Pages

Spacewar!: It’s Rocket Science

One of the earliest and most influential hacks of all time is a real-time, physics-based, spaceship dogfighting video game called Spacewar!, which began making its way across university campuses in the early 1960s. The story of Spacewar!.’s creation has been told many times, most notably by Steven Levy in his excellent book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. A key feature of Spacewar! was its display. At the time, most computers relied on printers to relay information to users–there was no screen. While this technology worked for some types of games, an action-based game needed a way to present information in real time. Spacewar! was an immediate hit at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and spread to other universities, including Stanford—host of the first “Spacewar Olympics.” The competitive nature of the game encouraged friendly rivalries complete with “trash talk” there was always an appetite for fresh meat. There were even reports of “Spacewar elbow.”