One of the earliest video games, ''Spacewar!'' was developed on the [[UsefulNotes/MainframesAndMinicomputers PDP-1 computer]] at MIT in 1962, fifteen years before UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfVideoGames. It was also an important early prototype of computer graphics techniques that later became standard in the industry.

The game was created between 1961 and 1962 by a bunch of nerdy model railroad/computer enthusiasts that were students at MIT, led by Steve "Slug" Russell, who is often given sole credit for the game as he was the one that came up with most of the idea.

The game pitted two players, each commanding [[CosmeticallyDifferentSides cosmetically different]] spaceships armed with torpedoes against each other around the gravity well of a planet. The ships and their torpedoes obeyed correct Newtonian physics (in [[TwoDSpace two dimensions]]), and players navigated their ships by rotating them and applying thrust. [[OneHitPointWonder One hit]] would destroy each ship.

The game quickly spread and by the beginning of 1963, any company or school who had the money to buy the PDP-1 (only 55 were ever manufactured, in the [[TheSixties 1960s]] that was an almost ridiculously large run) had a copy of ''Spacewar!'' on it. In fact, by the end of the run of the computer, its manufacturer DEC had a copy pre-loaded on every new PDP-1. It was a good diagnostic of the computer and its display during factory testing, and even back then they saw the value of an entertainment program.

Ten years later, two electrical engineer/computer science student/entrepreneur by the names of Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney adapted a clone of the game and developed it into the world's first coin-operated arcade video game, called ''VideoGame/ComputerSpace''. The game was a commercial flop, but the company they founded, Creator/{{Atari}}, became one of the main driving forces behind UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfVideoGames. One of Atari's early successes, ''VideoGame/{{Asteroids}}'', borrowed ''Spacewar!'''s ships and mechanics, and adapted the game for one player by setting the battle in [[TheAsteroidThicket an asteroid field]]. In 1978, Atari ported ''Spacewar!'' itself to the [[UsefulNotes/{{Atari 2600}} 2600]] game console. Another company, Cinematronics, adapted the game in 1977 as ''Space Wars'', the first VectorGame.

You can play the original ''Spacewar!'' on the web: http://spacewar.oversigma.com or you go to [[http://www.computerhistory.org/hours/ the Computer History Museum]] in Mountain View, California (just south of UsefulNotes/SanFrancisco) and see a demonstration of the only PDP-1 still working (coincidentally that PDP-1 was the 55th and final one manufactured). If you're lucky, you might be able to play ''Spacewar!'' on that PDP-1 itself.

!!Being one of the first ever VideoGames, ''Spacewar!'' is the [[TropeMakers Trope Maker]] for several VideoGameTropes:

* CosmeticallyDifferentSides: The "Needle" and the "Wedge".
* GameMod: Various programmers added features like realistic star map for background (dubbed the Expensive Planetarium), mines or cloaking devices.
* OneHitPointWonder: Both ships.
* WrapAround
* VideoGames

!!''Spacewar!'' provides examples of:

* TwoDSpace
* ArbitraryMaximumRange
* EveryBulletIsATracer
* ExcitedShowTitle: The full title according to Wiki/TheOtherWiki is ''Spacewar!''
* GravityScrew: The planet-type
* LeadTheTarget
* NoPlotNoProblem
* PlayerVersusPlayer
* ShootEmUp: Maybe the UrExample, depends [[VideoGame/SpaceInvaders on how you define the genre.]]
* TheSixties
* TimedMission: The arcade version would give you 90 or 120 seconds per round, but inserting more quarters could buy you more time to play, up to 20 hours.