• 1937
    (b.) - ?


An American video game designer, programmer, and computer scientist most famous for creating Spacewar!, one of the earliest videogames. He was born in Hartford, Connecticut, but his family later moved to a small farm in Burlington, Washington where he attended Mount Vernon High School near Burlington. His father was an engineer and his mother was a teacher and homemaker. He graduated in 1958 from Dartmouth College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wrote the first two implementations of the Lisp computer programming language for the IBM 704. It was he who realized that the concept of universal functions could be applied to the language. By implementing the Lisp universal evaluator in a lower-level language, it became possible to create the Lisp interpreter (previous development work on the language had focused on compiling the language). He invented the continuation to solve a double recursion problem for one of the users of his Lisp implementation. In 1961, he was the key developer and designer of Spacewar!, with the fellow MIT students and members of the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT, Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen, working on a DEC Digital PDP-1. Inspired by his tutor Marvin Minsky's "Three Position display" and the science-fiction novels of E.E. Smith, he created an interactive demonstration that would show the advanced capabilities of the PDP-1 computer. The game premiered at the MIT Science Open House in 1962, and has since had an enormous influence on the past 50 years of game development. The precise origin of the concept of computer-based games in general has been debated. Spacewar!, however, was unquestionably the first to gain widespread recognition, and it is generally recognized as the first of the "shoot-'em' up" genre.