Steve "Slug" Russell, Martin "Shag" Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen of the fictitious "Hingham Institute" conceived of the game in 1961, with the intent of implementing it on a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After Alan Kotok obtained some sine and cosine routines from Digital Equipment Corporation, Russell began coding, and by February 1962 had produced his first version. It took approximately 200 hours of work to create the initial version. Additional features were developed by Dan Edwards, Peter Samson, and Graetz.
The basic gameplay of Spacewar! involves two armed spaceships called "the needle" and "the wedge" attempting to shoot one another while maneuvering in the gravity well of a star. The ships' fired missiles were unaffected by gravity (due to a lack of processing time). Each ship had a limited number of missiles and a limited supply of fuel.The hyperspace feature could be used as a last-ditch means to evade enemy missiles, but the reentry from hyperspace would occur at a random location and there was an increasing probability of the ship exploding with each use.
- Spacewar! page at the Computer History Museum
- History of Spacewar!
- The original Spacewar! code running on PDP-1 emulator in Java
- Dmoz directory for Spacewar!
- 1up.com's article naming Spacewar! the most important video game ever made
- "Spacewar", a 1972 Rolling Stone article by Stewart Brand
- A 1972 Saga Magazine article about Spacewar!
- Computer and Video Game History describes Spacewar! and earlier video games such as A.S. Douglas' Tic-Tac-Toe and William Higinbotham's Tennis for Two