Play Spacewar! on a PDP-1 Emulator (10-15 mins)

Task: Play Spacewar! on a PDP-1 Emulator

Needed: Web browser 

Time: 10-15 mins


When Nolan Bushnell started Atari he had inspiration from two major sources. First, he had worked at an amusement park in the 1960s where he was exposed to early coin-operated games that were mostly mechanical in nature. Second, he was able to play the early video game Spacewar! on a PDP-1 at the University of Utah where he was in school. The recombination of these two experiences gave him the idea for coin-operated video games that set him on the path that led to his own version of Spacewar! called Computer Space that was released in 1971. This in turn led to the smash hit Pong in 1972. The story of the early days of Atari is amazing and there are plenty of videos online and with Bushnell recounting this history. The impact this had on the development of the 8-bit computers is briefly discussed in the book Breakout. The goal of this task is to play Spacewar! online via a Javascript emulator for a taste of history that helped launch Atari.


Navigate to the Spacewar! page and follow the instructions on the readme.



I was not born yet when Spacewar! was making the rounds in the early 1960s and was too young to remember Computer Space. However, I do recall playing Space Wars in early arcades in the late 1970s with my dad. Space Wars was produced by a company called Cinematronics and was inspired by Spacewar!. It is really awesome to have this emulated.

Here is a nice piece on Bushnell and Computer Space in Continuum magazine from the University of Utah. Some of the history is explored in this article.