4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Games / Sports / Simulations Timeline


8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

The Earliest Representation of an Organized Fighting System Circa 2,000 BCE

A fresco from tomb 15 of the Middle Kingdom at Beni Hassan (Beni Hasan) Egypt, dating from circa 2000 BCE, remains the earliest representation of an organized fighting system, or system of wrestling. 

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1,000 BCE – 300 BCE

The First Olympic Games Take Place 776 BCE

According to ancient Greek records, which also represent the adoption in Greece of the Phoenician alphabet, from which all other Western alphabets are descended, the first Olympic games took place in 776 BCE. The date is based on inscriptions, found at Olympia, of the winners of a foot race held every four years, starting in 776 BCE.

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30 CE – 500 CE

The Earliest European Martial Arts Manual Circa 150 CE

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus III 466 (P. Oxy. III, 466), a fragmentary 2nd century Greek papyrus, discovered in an ancient rubbish dump near Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, constitutes the earliest European martial arts manual. It contains instructions for wrestling, including the description of various grips and holds. The text is in three columns with 13, 15 and 10 lines, respectively. Each instruction is followed by plexon (πλέξον) "tangle", translated by Miller (2004) as "mix it up!" (in the sense of "execute!"). Poliakoff (1987) translates "you fight it out".

In 1907 the papyrus was donated to Columbia University by the Egypt Exploration Society.

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Pollux's Onomasticon, the Oldest Specimen of Encylopedism Surviving from Antiquity Circa 175 CE

Julius Pollux's (Ἰούλιος Πολυδεύκηςis) Onomasticon, a thesaurus of Attic Greek synonyms and phrases arranged thematically in ten books, is the oldest specimen of encyclopedism surviving from antiquity. It is also the only surviving Greek lexical work with an onomastic structure— not an alphabetic sequence of lemmata but topical assemblages of synonyms.

One of the most significant intellectuals of the later second century CE, the apogee of Hellenism under the Roman EmpirePollux, born in the city of Naucratis in Egypt, was a Greek sophist and grammarian. He received instruction in criticism from his father, and afterwards went to Athens, where he studied rhetoric under the sophist Adrian. He opened a private school at Athens, where he gave instruction in grammar and rhetoric, and was subsequently appointed by the emperor Commodus to the chair of rhetoric at Athens. He died during the reign of Commodus at the age of fifty-eight. 

The Onomasticon, Pollux's only surviving work, is divided into ten books, each of which contains a short dedication to Commodus as Caesar indicating that the work was published before 177 CE, since Commodus became Augustus in that year. Each book forms a separate treatise by itself, containing the most important words relating to certain subjects, with short explanations of the meanings of the words, which are frequently illustrated by quotations from ancient writers. Instead of an alphabetical arrangement, the words are given according to the subjects treated of in each book. The object of the work was to present youths with a kind of store-house, from which they could borrow all the words of which they had need, and could at the same time learn their usage in the best writers.  Subject matter of the ten books is as follows:

"1. Of the gods and their worship, of kings, of speed and slowness, of dyeing, of commerce and manuftactures, of fertility and the contrary, of time and the divisions of the year, of houses, of ships, of war, of horses, of agriculture, of the parts of the plough and the waggon, and of bees.

2. The second treats of man, his eye, the parts of his body and the like.

3. Of relations, of political life, of friends, of the love of country, of love, of the relation between masters and slaves, of money, of travelling, and numerous other subjects.

4. Of the various branches of knowledge and science.

5. Of hunting, animals, &c.

6. Of meals, the names of crimes, &c.

7. Of the different trades, &c.

8. Of the courts, the administration of justice, &c.

9. Of towns, buildings, coins, games, &c.

10. Of various vessels, &c."(Smith, W. Ed. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology from Perseus Digital Library, accessed 01-24-2015).

  “It supplies in passing much rare and valuable information on many points of classical antiquity— objects in daily life, the theater, politics— and quotes numerous fragments of lost works. Pollux was probably the person satirized by Lucian as a worthless and ignorant person who gains a reputation as an orator by sheer effrontery, and pilloried in his Lexiphanes, a satire upon the affectation of obscure and obsolete words” (Encyclopaedia Britannica [1999]).

The Onomasticon did not survive in its original form; all manuscripts of its text derive from four incomplete exemplars which descend from a common hyparchetype— an epitome owned and interpolated by the Greek Orthodox theologian Arethas of Patrae, later Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. One of the few known Byzantine book collectors, Arethas also owned the earliest surviving manuscripts of Euclid and Plato, among other items. The editio princeps of Pollux’s Onomasticon, issued by Aldus Manutius in 1502, made the work more widely available to Renaissance scholars and antiquaries for the first time.

Renouard, Aldus Manutius, pp. 32-33

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1000 – 1100

Playing Cards: One of the Earliest Forms of Block Printing 1007 – 1072

Playing cards existed in China before 1000 AD. Such cards would have been narrow slips of paper, essentially dominoes with dots imitating the twenty-one combinations possible with the throw of two dice. Paper was in fact the original material for dominoes; wood and ivory came later.

"There is little doubt that both playing cards and dominoes originated in China and that both games were influenced by certain forms of divination and the drawing of lots and possibly by paper money. There are certain indications that the development of playing cards took place at about the same time as the transition from manuscript rolls to paged books. As the advent of printing made it more convenient to produce and use books in the form of pages, so was it easier to produce cards. These 'sheet-dice,' as they were called, began to appear according to Ou-yang Hsiu (1007-72) before the end of the Tang dynasty, and if this is true, they were one of the earliest forms of block printing in China, as they were in the West" (Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed [1955] 184).

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1300 – 1400

The Earliest References to Playing Cards in Europe 1377

"The earliest references to playing cards in Europe that can be clearly differentiated from chess, follow each other with rapid succession in various countries—Germany 1377, Spain 1377, Luxemburg 1379, Italy 1379, Belgium 1379, France 1382. . . "(Carter, Invention of Printing in China, 2nd ed. [1955] 185).

At this time playing cards in Europe were probably not printed.

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1400 – 1450

Printing Playing Cards 1418

The Stuttgart Cards. Originally in the collections of the dukes of Bavaria, these are considered amongst the earliest surviving sets of playing cards.  They date from around 1430. A study of the watermarks in the paper revealed that the patper came from the Ravensburg paper mill and was made between 1427 and 1431.

Card makers, who presumably were card printers printing from wood-blocks, are mentioned five times in the city records of Augsburg and Nuremberg by 1418. About the same time the records of the city of Ulm in Germany show that cards were being shipped in barrels to Sicily and Italy.

Carter, History of Printing in China 2nd ed (1955) 186.

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The Earliest Known Artist to Produce Copperplate Engravings 1435 – 1455

A rendition of the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian by the Master of Playing Cards, preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (View Larger)

The first artist known to produce copperplate engravings, and the "first personality" in the history of printmaking, the "Master of the Playing Cards," was active in Germany from roughly 1435 to 1455. Of this artist about 100 engravings are known. He is associated with playing cards because sixty of his engravings are playing cards— the first cards printed from intaglio plates.

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Card Printing in Venice Has Outside Competition 1441

Eighteen cards from a pack of an early form of north Italian playing cards, with the swords back-to-back and curved outwards. Believed to be Venetian, dated 1462.

An edict of the Council of Venice indicated that the card printing industry in this city was being interfered with by outside competition.

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1450 – 1500

"Book of Hawking, Hunting and Heraldry", the Earliest Work Printed in England to Contain Color Printing 1486

In 1486 an unidentified printer, known as the "Schoolmaster Printer," issued the Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry (also known as The Boke of St. Albans) from the town of St. Albans, England.

This work on hawking, hunting, heraldry, and etiquette was the earliest book printed in England to include color printing. It is also the first English book on heraldry and sports, and among the earliest, if not the earliest printed book written by a woman, whose name is variously given as Juliana Berners, though this attribution has been disputed. Little is known about the presumed authoress; some of the most basic information about her is given in the second edition of this work issued by Wynkyn de Worde from his press at Westminister in 1496. She is said to have been prioress of Sopwell nunnery near St Albans, and daughter of Sir James Berners, who was beheaded in 1388.

This work "was, in effect an etiquette manual, one of a number of books published at that time-- a period of social and linguistic flux following the Hundred Years War (1337-1463)-- that showed gentlemen the proper way to act. Thus, the preponderance of terms for birds and animals results from the fact that The Book of St. Albans was concerned largely with hunting, shooting, and the like. It provided instruction on how to comport oneself in the hunt, but also on how to kill, clean and cook fish and game, and in what seasons and times of the day to sally forth. The book concludes with a list of correct terms, so that one could safely say one was hunting a singular of boars--not, heaven forfend, a group of them. As such, it takes the typical function of jargon-defining and reinforcing an exclusive group--to poetical extremes that have lingered in the language since.

"Less remembered terms from the Boke reflect the social life of the age. Berners gives us the appropriate ways to speak about a group of maidens (a rage), housekeepers (a foresight), officers (an execution), and even jugglers (a neverthriving--the poor men!). The tension between relgiious and social freedom prevalent in that era is also palpable: the group term for nuns is a superfluity, and for monks it is an abominable sight. (Tellingly, for the Scottish Reformation to come, that country contains a disworship of Scots). There is no standard linguistic analysis of the different types of collective terms, but Lipton inventories them using six different categories: onomatopeia, characteristic, appearance, habitat, commentary, and error. Appearance brings us a knot of toads, for example, while characteristic gives us a building of rooks, for how rooks build their nests. By far the most illuminating are those that develop via characteristic to comment on social behavior, such as the foresight of housekeepers mentioned above; an abeisance of servants; an impatence of wives;and more cheeringly, a cajolery of taverners. In the category of errors, on the other hand, stands the rage of maidens--not related to any anger on the part of virgins, but rather coming from an Old French ragier, or wantonness (making for an unintentionally ironic commentary on maidenhood in 1486" (Gronlund,"Inventory /A Pendantry of Nouns," Cabinet-A Quarterly of Art and Culture, Issue 41, [Spring 2011] 10).  

Lipton, An Exhaltation of Larks or, The Venereal Game (1977).

ISTC no. ib01030000.

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1700 – 1750

John Newberry Issues the First Printed Book Specifically for the Amusement of Children: No Copies of the First Edition Survive June 18, 1744

In 1744 printer and publisher John Newbery of London announced the availability of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, intended for the Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly with Two Letters from Jack the Giant Killer by M. F. Thwaite and John Newbery. The first edition appears to be known only from an advertisement in the Penny London Morning Advertiser published on June 18, 1744. If copies were issued at that time they appear to have been read out of existence.

This small book, of which very few copies of early editions survived, is generally considered the first book for children in the modern sense. It consists of simple rhymes for each of the letters of the alphabet. To market the book to the children of the day the book could be purchased alone for 6d., or with a ball (for boys) or a pincushion (for girls) at a cost of 8d. 

The book includes a woodcut of stoolball and a rhyme entitled "Base-Ball." This is the first known instance of the word baseball in print. In the book "Base-Ball" refers to the game Rounders, which had been played in England since Tudor times.

The book was very popular in England, and was first published in Colonial America in 1762. 

♦ A facsimile of the edition printed in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1787 by Isaiah Thomas is available the Library of Congress website. In 1966 Oxford University Press issued a facsimile of the earliest known complete copy of an edition— that of London, 1767, preserved in the British Library. The facsimile included an introductory essay and biibliography by M. F. Thwaite, and an index to the introduction and bibliography. Thwaite wrote in his introduction, p. 3:

"The world of the day probably had little idea that this small work was in any way notable, or that it marked a new era in literature for the young. But there was one word in the advertisement which might have struck them an unusual. It was a word which was to open up new realms to young minds. To avow 'amusement' as a principal end in a book for boys and girls indicated that a revolution had taken place. In the past children's books had been reluctant to admit this feature, but in this new century of reason it was to be demonstrated that pleasure should be an important element, even though still firmly leashed to the old purposes of morality and instuction. Newbery was therefore only expressing the new spirit abroad. Before 1700 books for the young had been dominated by religious teaching, moral lessons or scholastic purpose. Now amusement was to be an equally desirable aim. And no one in those formative years of children's book-making was to follow it so well or to carry it so far as John Newbery."

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1750 – 1800

Von Kempelen "Invents" the Chess-Playing Turk & Edgar Allan Poe Compares it to Babbage's Difference Engine No. 1 1769 – 1836

In 1769 Hungarian author and inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen (Johann Wolfgang Ritter von Kempelen de Pázmánd; Hungarian: Kempelen Farkas) built his chess-playing Turk, an automaton that purported to play chess. Although the machine displayed an elaborate gear mechanism, its cabinet actually concealed a man controlling the moves of the machine.

Von Kempelen's Turk became a commercial sensation, deceiving a very large number of people. It became the most famous, or the most notorious, automaton in history. It also must have been kind of an open secret within the professional chess community because over the years numerous chess masters were hired so that The Turk could challenge all comers with its chess skills. With a skilled concealed operator the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers including Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. Although many had suspected the hidden human operator, the hoax was first revealed by the English engineer Robert Willis in his illustrated pamphlet, An Attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player of Mr. de Kempelen. With an Easy Method of Imitating the Movements of the Celebrated Figure. . .  (London, 1821). The operator or operators working within the mechanism during Kempelen's original tour remain a mystery; however after the engineer Johann Nepomuk Mälzel purchased the device in 1804, and exhibited it first in Europe and in 1826 in America, the chess masters who secretly operated it included Johann Allgaier, Hyacinthe Henri Boncourt, Aaron Alexandre, William Lewis, Jacques Mouret, and William Schlumberger. In 1818, for a short time while Boncourt was the operator of the Turk, he caught the flu and his chess performance was rather poor, and he could not control his coughing which could be heard by spectators, creating a certain embarrassment to Mälzel who owned the machine. For this reason Mälzel added some noisy gears to the Turk, which had no other purpose than to cover any noise that might come from the operator.

One of the most insightful commentators on The Turk was the American writer, poet, editor, literary critic, and magazinist Edgar Allan Poe. who in April 1836 published in the Southern Literary Messenger issued from Richmond, Virginia "Maelzel's Chess Player." In this article on automata Poe provided a very closely reasoned explanation of the concealed human operation of von Kempelen's Turk, which Poe had seen exhibited in Richmond by Maelzel a few weeks earlier. 

Poe also briefly compared von Kempelen's Turk to Babbage's Difference Engine No. 1, which was limited to the computation of short mathematical tables, suggesting essentially that if the Turk was fully automated and had the ability to use the results of one logical operation to make a decision about the next one—what was later called "conditional branching" —it would be far superior to Babbage's machine. This feature Babbage later designed into his Analytical Engine

Here is Poe's comparison of the two machines:

"But if these machines were ingenious, what shall we think of the calculating machine of Mr. Babbage? What shall we think of an engine of wood and metal which can not only compute astronomical and navigation tables to any given extent, but render the exactitude of its operations mathematically certain through its power of correcting its possible errors? What shall we think of a machine which can not only accomplish all this, but actually print off its elaborate results, when obtained, without the slightest intervention of the intellect of man? It will, perhaps, be said, in reply, that a machine such as we have described is altogether above comparison with the Chess-Player of Maelzel. By no means — it is altogether beneath it — that is to say provided we assume (what should never for a moment be assumed) that the Chess-Player is a pure machine, and performs its operations without any immediate human agency. Arithmetical or algebraical calculations are, from their very nature, fixed and determinate. Certain data being given, certain results necessarily and inevitably follow. These results have dependence upon nothing, and are influenced by nothing but the data originally given. And the question to be solved proceeds, or should proceed, to its final determination, by a succession of unerring steps liable to no change, and subject to no modification. This being the case, we can without difficulty conceive the possibility of so arranging a piece of mechanism, that upon starting it in accordance with the data of the question to be solved, it should continue its movements regularly, progressively, and undeviatingly towards the required solution, since these movements, however complex, are never imagined to be otherwise than finite and determinate. But the case is widely different with the Chess-Player. With him there is no determinate progression. No one move in chess necessarily follows upon any one other. From no particular disposition of the men at one period of a game can we predicate their disposition at a different period. Let us place the first move in a game of chess, in juxta-position with the data of an algebraical question, and their great difference will be immediately perceived. From the latter — from the data — the second step of the question, dependent thereupon, inevitably follows. It is modelled by the data. It must be thus and not otherwise. But from the first move in the game of chess no especial second move follows of necessity. In the algebraical question, as it proceeds towards solution, the certainty of its operations remains altogether unimpaired. The second step having been a consequence of the data, the [column 2:] third step is equally a consequence of the second, the fourth of the third, the fifth of the fourth, and so on, and not possibly otherwise, to the end. But in proportion to the progress made in a game of chess, is the uncertainty of each ensuing move. A few moves having been made, no step is certain. Different spectators of the game would advise different moves. All is then dependent upon the variable judgment of the players. Now even granting (what should not be granted) that the movements of the Automaton Chess-Player were in themselves determinate, they would be necessarily interrupted and disarranged by the indeterminate will of his antagonist. There is then no analogy whatever between the operations of the Chess-Player, and those of the calculating machine of Mr. Babbage, and if we choose to call the former a pure machine we must be prepared to admit that it is, beyond all comparison, the most wonderful of the inventions of mankind. Its original projector, however, Baron Kempelen, had no scruple in declaring it to be a "very ordinary piece of mechanism — a bagatelle whose effects appeared so marvellous only from the boldness of the conception, and the fortunate choice of the methods adopted for promoting the illusion." But it is needless to dwell upon this point. It is quite certain that the operations of the Automaton are regulated by mind, and by nothing else. Indeed this matter is susceptible of a mathematical demonstration, a priori. The only question then is of the manner in which human agency is brought to bear. Before entering upon this subject it would be as well to give a brief history and description of the Chess-Player for the benefit of such of our readers as may never have had an opportunity of witnessing Mr. Maelzel's exhibition."

Even though the machine intelligence exhibited by the Turk was an illusion, von Kempelen's automaton was much later viewed as an analog to efforts in computer chess and artificial intelligence.

(This entry was last revised on 12-27-2014.)

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Von Kempelen Builds the First Successful Speech Synthesizer 1791

In 1791 Austro-Hungarian author and inventor, Wolfgang von Kempelen, published in Vienna Mechanismus der mensclichen Sprache nebst Beschreibung seiner sprechenden Maschine, in which he discussed the origins and development of languages, and described the first successful speech synthesizer.

Unlike von Kempelen’s fraudulent chess-playing Turk automaton , Kempelin's speech synthesizer actually worked.  Kempelen's synthesizer was the first that produced not only some speech sounds, but also whole words and short sentences. He believed that it was possible to acquire skill in using the machine within three weeks, especially if one chose to synthesize sentences in Latin, French, or Italian. German von Kempelen considered much more difficult to synthesize because of its many closed syllables and consonant clusters.

"The machine consisted of a bellows that simulated the lungs and was to be operated with the right forearm (uppermost drawing). A counterweight provided for inhalation. The middle and lower drawings show the 'wind box' that was provided with some levers to be actuated with the fingers of the right hand, the 'mouth', made of rubber, and the 'nose' of the machine. The two nostrils had to be covered with two fingers unless a nasal was to be produced. The whole speech production mechanism was enclosed in a box with holes for the hands and additional holes in its cover.

"The air flow was conducted into the mouth not only by way of an oscillating reed, but also through a narrow shunting tube. This allowed the air pressure in the mouth cavity to increase when its opening was covered tightly in order to produce unvoiced speech sounds. Driven by a spring, a small auxiliary bellows would then deliver an extra puff of air at the release.

"With the left hand, it was also possible to control the resonance properties of the mouth by varied covering of its opening. In this way, some vowels and consonants could be simulated in sufficient approximation. This was not really a simulation of natural articulation, since the shape of the mouth of the machine in itself remained constant. Some vowels and, especially, the consonants [d t g k] could not be simulated in this way, but only feigned, at best. An [l] could be produced by putting the thumb into the mouth.

"The function of the vocal cords was simulated by a slamming reed made of ivory (leftmost drawing). Although the effective length of the reed could be varied, this could not be done during speech production, so that the machine spoke on a monotone.

"Two of the levers to be actuated with the right hand served the production of the fricatives [s] and . . . as well as [z] and . . . by means of separate, hissing whistles (right drawing). A third one effectuated the production of a rattling [R] by dropping a wire on the vibrating reed (middle drawing)." (http://www.ling.su.se/staff/hartmut/kemplne.htm, accessed 12-14-2008).

Kempelin's final version of the machine, which differs slightly from the version shown in the book, is preserved in the Deutsches Museum, Munich, in the department of musical instruments.

Because Kempelin's speech synthesizer required a human for its operation it was not literally an automation but may be thought of as a forerunner of robotic or computer speech synthesizers.

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1800 – 1850

Karl Drais Invents the Two-Wheeled Bicycle- the First Personalized Mechanical Transport June 12, 1817

In 1817 German inventor Karl Drais invented the Laufmaschine ("running machine"), later called the velocipede, draisine (English) or "draisienne" (French), or nick-named, dandy horse. This incorporated the two-wheeler principle that is basic to the bicycle and motorcycle and represented the beginning of mechanized personal transportation. Drais took his first recorded ride on the Laufmachine from Mannheim to Rheinau, now a suburb of Mannheim on June 12, 1817.

"The dandy-horse was a two-wheeled vehicle, with both wheels in-line, propelled by the rider pushing along the ground with the feet as in regular walking or running. The front wheel and handlebar assembly was pivoted to allow steering.

"Several manufacturers in France and England made their own dandy-horses during its brief popularity in the summer of 1819 -- most notably, Denis Johnson of London, who used an elegantly curved wooden frame which allowed the use of larger wheels. Riders preferred to operate their vehicles on the smooth pavements instead of the rough roads, but their interactions with pedestrians caused many municipalities to enact laws prohibiting their use. A further drawback of this device was that it had to be made to measure, manufactured to conform with the height and the stride of its rider, as none of its manufacturers are known to have built an adjustable version. After its brief moment in the limelight, the dandy-horse quickly faded into oblivion.

"However, in the 1860s in France, the vélocipède bicycle was created by attaching rotary cranks and pedals to the front-wheel hub of a dandy-horse" (Wikipedia article on Dandy horse, accessed 04-25-2009).

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The Phenakistoscope, the First Device to Demonstrate the Illusion of a Moving Image 1832 – 1834

In 1832 Belgian physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau (Joseph Plateau) of Brussels became first person to demonstrate the illusion of a moving image. Plateau's device, which he called the phenakistoscope ("spindle viewer"), used the persistence of motion principle to create an illusion of motion. It consisted of two disks, one with small equidistant radial windows, through which the viewer could look, and another containing a sequence of images drawn around the disk in concentric circles. When viewed in a mirror through the first disk's slots, the pictures on the second disk appeared to move. The synchronization of the windows and the images created an animated effect.  Also in 1832, Viennese mathematician and inventor Simon von Stampfer invented a similar device, which he called a stroboscope.  

Two years later, 1834 when British mathematician William George Horner invented what came to be known as the zoetrope. Horner named his device a "daedalum," but it was widely called "the wheel of the devil." Perhaps the reference to the devil had less to do with Horner's device than with the often psychodelic and sometimes grotesque animated designs created for it.

Horner's invention made two significant improvements over the phenakistoscope: it could be viewed without a mirror, and more than one person could view the moving pictures at the same time.  Horner's device did not become widely popular until the 1860s when it was patented by both English and American makers, including the American game pioneer Milton Bradley. An American developer William F. Lincoln named his version of the toy the "zoetrope", meaning "wheel of life." This name became widely applied to the device.

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1850 – 1875

The First Book on Baseball is Issue Anonymously 1859

In 1859 The Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion: Containing Rules and Regulations for Forming Clubs, Directions for the "Massachusetts Game," and the "New York Game," from Official Reports was published in Boston by Mayhew & Baker. This small format 16mo of only 35 (1) pp. was the first book exclusively devoted to baseball, which began to become organized in the United States during the 1850s. By 1857 sixteen area clubs formed the sport's first governing body, the National Association of Base Ball Players.

The original flexible cloth binding on this anonymous work contained an illustration of a ball player stamped in gold on the upper cover. In October 2012 Between the Covers-Rare Books offered a very good copy of the original edition for $39,500.

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Henry Chadwick Issues the First Compilation of Baseball Statistics 1860

In 1860 Anglo-American sports journalist Henry Chadwick issued Beadle's Dime Base-Ball Player: a Compendium of the Game Comprising Elementary Instructions of this American Game of Ball; together with the Revised Rules and Regulations for 1860. This handbook, written by Chadwick and published in New York by Irwin P. Beadle, was the first baseball guide published for sale to the general public. In this work Chadwick  

"listed totals of games played, outs, runs, home runs, and strikeouts for hitters on prominent clubs, the first database of its kind. His goal was to provide numerical evidence to prove what players helped or hurt a team to win. . . . He is credited with devising the baseball box score (which he adapted from the cricket scorecard) for reporting game events. The first box score was a grid with nine rows for players and nine columns for innings. The original box scores also created the often puzzling abbreviation for strikeout as 'K' - 'K' being the last letter of 'struck' in 'struck out.' The basic format and structure of the box score has changed little since the earliest of ones designed by Chadwick. He is also credited with devising such statistical measures as batting average and earned run average. Ironically, ERA originated not in the goal of measuring a pitcher's worth but to differentiate between runs caused by batting skill (hits) and lack of fielding skill (errors). He is also noted as believing fielding range to be a superior skill to avoiding errors" (Wikipedia article on Henry Chadwick, accessed 10-06-2012).

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1875 – 1900

The Invention of "Basket Ball" (Basketball) December 1891

In December 1891 Canadian sports coach, physician, and innovator, James Naismith, invented basketball as an indoor sport to be played in winter by writing thirteen rules for the new sport and posting these rules in the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA gym. As far as I know, this is the only major sport in which the invention can be traced to a specific document.

"The first game of "Basket Ball" was played in December 1891. In a handwritten report, Naismith described the circumstances of the inaugural match; in contrast to modern basketball, the players played nine versus nine, handled a soccer ball, not a basketball, and instead of shooting at two hoops, the goals were a pair of peach baskets: 'When Mr. Stubbins brot [sic] up the peach baskets to the gym I secured them on the inside of the railing of the gallery. This was about 10 feet from the floor, one at each end of the gymnasium. I then put the 13 rules on the bulletin board just behind the instructor's platform, secured a soccer ball and awaited the arrival of the class... The class did not show much enthusiasm but followed my lead. . . I then explained what they had to do to make goals, tossed the ball up between the two center men & tried to keep them somewhat near the rules. Most of the fouls were called for running with the ball, though tackling the man with the ball was not uncommon.' In contrast to modern basketball, the original rules did not include what is known today as the dribble. Since the ball could only be moved up the court via a pass early players tossed the ball over their heads as they ran up court. Also, following each 'goal' a jump ball was taken in the middle of the court. Both practices are obsolete in the rules of modern basketball

"By 1892, basketball had grown so popular on campus that Dennis Horkenbach (editor-in-chief of The Triangle, the Springfield college newspaper) featured it in an article called 'A New Game', and there were calls to call this new game 'Naismith Ball', but Naismith refused. By 1893, basketball was introduced internationally by the YMCA movement. From Springfield, Naismith went to Denver where he acquired a medical degree and in 1898 he joined the University of Kansas faculty at Lawrence, Kansas" (Wikipedia article on James Naismith, accessed 12-11-2010).

♦ On December 10, 2010 Sotheby's in New York auctioned Naismith's original typewritten and hand-written manuscript of the rules which created basketball. To promote the sale, which benefited the Naismith Foundation, they published a separate catalogue which was available online. The document sold for $4,338,500, including buyer's premium. According to CBSsports.com, the buyers were David and Suzanne Booth, who intended to donate the manuscript to the University of Kansas at Lawrence where Naismith was the first basketball coach. Mr. Booth is an alumnus of the University of Kansas. The price was a record high for sports memorabilia.

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1910 – 1920

Torres y Quevedo Invents the First Decision-Making Automaton 1912 – 1915

In 1912 Spanish civil engineer and mathematician, and Director of the Laboratory of Applied Mechanics at the Ateneo Científico, Literario y Artístico de MadridLeonardo Torres y Quevedo built the first decision-making automaton — a chess-playing machine that pit the machine’s rook and king against the king of a human opponent.  Torres's machine, which he called El Ajedrecista (The Chessplayer) used electromagnets under the board to "play" the endgame rook and king against the lone king.

"Well, not precisely play. But the machine could, in a totally unassisted and automated fashion, deliver mate with King and Rook against King. This was possible regardless of the initial position of the pieces on the board. For the sake of simplicity, the algorithm used to calculate the positions didn't always deliver mate in the minimum amount of moves possible, but it did mate the opponent flawlessly every time. The machine, dubbed El Ajedrecista (Spanish for “the chessplayer”), was built in 1912 and made its public debut during the Paris World Fair of 1914, creating great excitement at the time. It used a mechanical arm to make its moves and electrical sensors to detect its opponent's replies." (http://www.chessbase.com/newsprint.asp?newsid=1799, accessed 10-31-2012).

The implications of Torres's machines were not lost on all observers. On November 6, 1915 Scientific American magazine in their Supplement 2079 pp. 296-298 published an illustrated article entitled "Torres and his Remarkable Automatic Devices. He Would Substitute Machinery for the Human Mind."

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1920 – 1930

Von Neumann Invents the Theory of Games 1928

In 1928 Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, economist and polymath John von Neumann then working at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, published "Zur Theorie der Gesellschaftsspiele" in Mathematische Annalen, 100, 295–300. This paper "On the Theory of Parlor Games" propounded the minimax theorem, inventing the theory of games.

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The First Flight Simulator 1929

In 1929 Edwin Albert Link of Binghamton, New York designed and constructed  the Link Trainer, the first flight simulator, as a safe way to teach new pilots how to fly by instruments. Link used his knowledge of pumps, valves and bellows to create a flight simulator that responded to the pilot's controls and gave an accurate reading on the included instruments.

Link Trainers became famous in World War II and were used by almost every combatant nation. The Link Company became a leader in flight simulation and training.

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1930 – 1940

The Voder, the First Electronic Speech Synthesizer: a Simplified Version of the Vocoder 1936 – 1939

Between 1936 and 1939 electronic and acoustic engineer Homer Dudley and a team of engineers at Bell Labs produced the first electronic speech synthesizer, called the Voder ("Voice Operation DEmonstratoR").

The Voder was demonstrated at the 1939-1940 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York and the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island, San Francisco Bay, by experts who used a keyboard and foot pedals to play the machine and emit speech.

♦ The Voder was a simplified version of the Vocoder (short for voice encoder) developed by Dudley from 1926 onward, and for which Dudley received US patent 2151091 A for Signal Transmission on March 21, 1939. Dudley's vocoder was used in the SIGSALY system built by Bell Labs engineers in 1943. SIGSALY was used for encrypted high-level voice communications during World War II.  Since then the Vocoder has been widely applied in music, television production, filmmaking and games, usually for robots or talking computers.

On August 19, 2014 Nate Lavey and Jay Caspian Kang posted an outstanding video in NewYorker.com as Object of Interest: The Vocoder. The video, which is embedded here, can be slow to load.

On April 14, 2016 Episode 208, Vox Ex Machina of 99percentinvisible.org posted this outstanding page on Vocoder and SIGSALY: http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/vox-ex-machina/

(This entry was last revised on 05-04-2016.)

(This entry was last revised on 08-20-2014.)

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1940 – 1950

NIMATRON: An Early Electromechanical Machine to Play the Game of Nim 1940

For the Westinghouse Pavilion at the New York World's Fair in 1940 nuclear physicist Edward Condon, then associate director of research at the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, designed and patented an electromechanical machine called the Nimatron to play the ancient mathematical strategy game of Nim. Condon and associates applied for a patent on this early special purpose electromechanical computer in April 1940, after which the machine was displayed at the World's Fair. They received U.S. patent 2,215,544 for "Machine to Play Game of Nim" on September 24, 1940. The first two images of the machine reproduced with the patent presumably show the machine as it was built. Other drawings in the machine are logic diagrams. The machine played 100,000 games at the fair, winning about 90,000. Most of its defeats were apparently administered by attendants to demonstrate that possibility. When the machine did lose it would "present its opponent with a token coin stamped with the words 'Nim Champ' "

In 1939 Westinghouse produced a 55 minute promotional film illustrating "the contribution of free enterprise, technology, and Westinghouse products to the American way of life." Entitled The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair, it may be viewed here: 

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Key Developments in Jay W. Forrester's Project Whirlwind 1943

In 1943 Project Whirlwind began as an analog flight simulator project at MIT. About November 1945 the project switched from analog to digital electronics. Formal design of the machine began in 1947.

By 1950 Project Whirlwind was in limited operation at MIT as a general purpose computer. It was the first computer that operated in real time, with the first video display for output, and it was the first computer that was not just an electronic replacement of older mechanical systems. On April 20, 1951 Whirlwind offically began operation at MIT. Whirlwind I included the first primitive graphical display on its vectorscope screen.

In 1952 three-dimensional magnetic-core memory replaced electrostatic memory on the Whirlwind I, leading to increased performance and reliability. 

In 1954 programmers J. H. Laning and Neil Zierler developed an algebraic compiler for theWhirlwind I—the first high-level algebraic language for a computer.

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Von Neumann & Morgenstern Issue "The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" 1944

In 1944 mathematician, physicist, and economist John von Neumann, and economist Oskar Morgenstern published The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior in Princeton at the University Press.

Quantitative mathematical models for games such as poker or bridge at one time appeared impossible, since games like these involve free choices by the players at each move, and each move reacts to the moves of other players. However, in the 1920s John von Neumann single-handedly invented game theory, introducing the general mathematical concept of "strategy" in a paper on games of chance (Mathematische Annalen 100 [1928] 295-320). This contained the proof of his "minimax" theorem that says "a strategy exists that guarantees, for each player, a maximum payoff assuming that the adversary acts so as to minimize that payoff." The "minimax" principle, a key component of the game-playing computer programs developed in the 1950s and 1960s by Arthur Samuel, Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, and others was more fully articulated and explored in The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, co-authored by von Neumann and Morgenstern.

Game theory, which draws upon mathematical logic, set theory and functional analysis, attempts to describe in mathematical terms the decision-making strategies used in games and other competitive situations. The Von Neumann-Morgenstern theory assumes (1) that people's preferences will remain fixed throughout; (2) that they will have wide knowledge of all available options; (3) that they will be able to calculate their own best interests intelligently; and (4) that they will always act to maximize these interests. Attempts to apply the theory in real-world situations have been problematical, and the theory has been criticized by many, including AI pioneer Herbert Simon, as failing to model the actual decision-making process, which typically takes place in circumstances of relative ignorance where only a limited number of options can be explored.

Von Neumann revolutionized mathematical economics. Had he not suffered an early death from cancer in 1957, most probably he would have received the first Nobel Prize in economics. (The first Nobel prize in economics was awarded in 1969; it cannot be awarded posthumously.) Several mathematical economists influenced by von Neumann's ideas later received the Nobel Prize in economics. 

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) no. 953.

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"The Cathodre Ray Tube Amusement Device," Probably the Oldest Interactive Electronic Game 1947

A patented invention from 1947 called The Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device is probably the earliest interactive electronic game. American television pioneer Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, and Estle Ray Mann constructed the game from analog electronics and a cathode ray tube (CRT) .

Goldsmith and Mann's patent application dated January 25, 1947

"describes a game of skill in which a player sits or stands facing a cathode ray tube (CRT) video screen mounted in a cabinet. Goldsmith and Mann designed the game to resemble a World War II radar display, but with airplanes or some other targets painted onto a transparent overlay (since this invention preceded the era of computer graphics).

"The player turns a control knob to position the CRT beam on the screen; to the player, the beam appears as a dot, which represents a reticle or scope. The player has a restricted amount of time in which to maneuver the dot so that it overlaps an airplane, and then to fire at the airplane by pressing a button. If the beam falls within the preprogrammed coordinates of a target when the user presses the button, then the CRT beam defocuses, simulating an explosion. . . ." (Wikipedia article on Cathode ray tube amusement device, accessed 02-29-2012).

U.S. Patent 2,455,992 which describes the device, granted to Goldsmith and Estle Ray Mann in December 1948, and assigned to Allen B. DuMont Laboratories, is the earliest patent for an electronic game. The product was never commercially manufactured.

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Norbert Wiener Issues "Cybernetics", the First Widely Distributed Book on Electronic Computing 1948

"Use the word 'cybernetics', Norbert, because nobody knows what it means. This will always put you at an advantage in arguments."

— Widely quoted: attributed to Claude Shannon in a letter to Norbert Wiener in the 1940s.

 In 1948 mathematician Norbert Wiener at MIT published Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, a widely circulated and influential book that applied theories of information and communication to both biological systems and machines. Computer-related words with the “cyber” prefix, including "cyberspace," originate from Wiener’s book. Cybernetics was also the first conventionally published book to discuss electronic digital computing. Writing as a mathematician rather than an engineer, Wiener’s discussion was theoretical rather than specific. Strangely the first edition of the book was published in English in Paris at the press of Hermann et Cie. The first American edition was printed offset from the French sheets and issued by John Wiley in New York, also in 1948. I have never seen an edition printed or published in England. 

Independently of Claude Shannon, Wiener conceived of communications engineering as a brand of statistical physics and applied this viewpoint to the concept of information. Wiener's chapter on "Time series, information, and communication" contained the first publication of Wiener's formula describing the probability density of continuous information. This was remarkably close to Shannon's formula dealing with discrete time published in A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948). Cybernetics also contained a chapter on "Computing machines and the nervous system." This was a theoretical discussion, influenced by McCulloch and Pitts, of differences and similarities between information processing in the electronic computer and the human brain. It contained a discussion of the difference between human memory and the different computer memories then available. Tacked on at the end of Cybernetics were speculations by Wiener about building a chess-playing computer, predating Shannon's first paper on the topic.

Cybernetics is a peculiar, rambling blend of popular and highly technical writing, ranging from history to philosophy, to mathematics, to information and communication theory, to computer science, and to biology. Reflecting the amazingly wide range of the author's interests, it represented an interdisciplinary approach to information systems both in biology and machines. It influenced a generation of scientists working in a wide range of disciplines. In it were the roots of various elements of computer science, which by the mid-1950s had broken off from cybernetics to form their own specialties. Among these separate disciplines were information theory, computer learning, and artificial intelligence.

It is probable that Wiley had Hermann et Cie supervise the typesetting because they specialized in books on mathematics.  Hermann printed the first edition by letterpress; the American edition was printed offset from the French sheets. Perhaps because the typesetting was done in France Wiener did not have the opportunity to read proofs carefully, as the first edition contained many typographical errors which were repeated in the American edition, and which remained uncorrected through the various printings of the American edition until a second edition was finally published by John Wiley and MIT Press in 1961. 

Though the book contained a lot of technical mathematics, and was not written for a popular audience, the first American edition went through at least 5 printings during 1948,  and several later printings, most of which were probably not read in their entirety by purchasers. Sales of Wiener's book were helped by reviews in wide circulation journals such as the review in TIME Magazine on December 27, 1948, entitled "In Man's Image." The reviewer used the word calculator to describe the machines; at this time the word computer was reserved for humans.

"Some modern calculators 'remember' by means of electrical impulses circulating for long periods around closed circuits. One kind of human memory is believed to depend on a similar system: groups of neurons connected in rings. The memory impulses go round & round and are called upon when needed. Some calculators use 'scanning' as in television. So does the brain. In place of the beam of electrons which scans a television tube, many physiologists believe, the brain has 'alpha waves': electrical surges, ten per second, which question the circulating memories.

"By copying the human brain, says Professor Wiener, man is learning how to build better calculating machines. And the more he learns about calculators, the better he understands the brain. The cyberneticists are like explorers pushing into a new country and finding that nature, by constructing the human brain, pioneered there before them.

"Psychotic Calculators. If calculators are like human brains, do they ever go insane? Indeed they do, says Professor Wiener. Certain forms of insanity in the brain are believed to be caused by circulating memories which have got out of hand. Memory impulses (of worry or fear) go round & round, refusing to be suppressed. They invade other neuron circuits and eventually occupy so much nerve tissue that the brain, absorbed in its worry, can think of nothing else.

"The more complicated calculating machines, says Professor Wiener, do this too. An electrical impulse, instead of going to its proper destination and quieting down dutifully, starts circulating lawlessly. It invades distant parts of the mechanism and sets the whole mass of electronic neurons moving in wild oscillations" (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,886484-2,00.html, accessed 03-05-2009).

Presumably the commercial success of Cybernetics encouraged Wiley to publish Berkeley's Giant Brains, or Machines that Think in 1949.

♦ In October 2012 I offered for sale the copy of the first American printing of Cybernetics that Wiener inscribed to Jerry Wiesner, the head of the laboratory at MIT where Wiener conducted his research. This was the first inscribed copy of the first edition (either the French or American first) that I had ever seen on the market, though the occasional signed copy of the American edition did turn up. Having read our catalogue description of that item, my colleague Arthur Freeman emailed me this story pertinent to Wiener's habit of not inscribing books:

"Norbert, whom I grew up nearby (he visited our converted barn in Belmont, Mass., constantly to play frantic theoretical blackboard math with my father, an economist/statistician at MIT, which my mother, herself a bit better at pure math, would have to explain to him later), was a notorious cheapskate. His wife once persuaded him to invite some colleagues out for a beer at the Oxford Grill in Harvard Square, which he did, and after a fifteen-minute sipping session, he got up to go, and solemnly collected one dime each from each of his guests. So when *Cybernetics* appeared on the shelves of the Harvard Coop Bookstore, my father was surprised and flattered that Norbert wanted him to have an inscribed copy, and together they went to Coop, where Norbert duly picked one out, wrote in it, and carried it to the check-out counter--where he ceremoniously handed it over to my father to pay for. This was a great topic of family folklore. I wonder if Jerry Wiesner paid for his copy too?"

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1950 – 1960

Jule Charney, Agnar Fjörtoff & John von Neumann Report the First Weather Forecast by Electronic Computer 1950

In 1950 meteorologist Jule Charney of MIT, Agnar Fjörtoff, and mathematician John von Neumann of Princeton published “Numerical Integration of the Barotropic Vorticity Equation,” Tellus 2 (1950) 237-254. The paper reported the first weather forecast by electronic computer. It took twenty-four hours of processing time on the ENIAC to calculate a twenty-four hour forecast.

"As a committed opponent of Communism and a key member of the WWII-era national security establishment, von Neumann hoped that weather modeling might lead to weather control, which might be used as a weapon of war. Soviet harvests, for example, might be ruined by a US-induced drought.

"Under grants from the Weather Bureau, the Navy, and the Air Force, he assembled a group of theoretical meteorologists at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study (IAS). If regional weather prediction proved feasible, von Neumann planned to move on to the extremely ambitious problem of simulating the entire atmosphere. This, in turn, would allow the modeling of climate. Jule Charney, an energetic and visionary meteorologist who had worked with Carl-Gustaf Rossby at the University of Chicago and with Arnt Eliassen at the University of Oslo, was invited to head the new Meteorology Group.

"The Meteorology Project ran its first computerized weather forecast on the ENIAC in 1950. The group's model, like [Lewis Fry] Richardson's, divided the atmosphere into a set of grid cells and employed finite difference methods to solve differential equations numerically. The 1950 forecasts, covering North America, used a two-dimensional grid with 270 points about 700 km apart. The time step was three hours. Results, while far from perfect, justified further work" (Paul N. Edwards [ed], Atmospheric General Circulation Modeling: A Participatory History, accessed 04-26-2009).

As Charney, Fjörtoff, and von Neumann reported:

"It may be of interest to remark that the computation time for a 24-hour forecast was about 24 hours, that is, we were just able to keep pace with the weather. However, much of this time was consumed by manual and I.B.M. oeprations, namely by the reading, printing, reproducing, sorting and interfiling of punch cards. In the course of the four 24 hour forecasts about 100,000 standard I.B.M. punch cards were produced and 1,000,000 multiplications and divisions were performed. (These figures double if one takes account of the preliminary experimentation that was carried out.) With a larger capacity and higher speed machine, such as is now being built at the Institute for Advanced Study, the non-arithmetical operations will be eliminated and the arithmetical operations performed more quickly. It is estimated that the total computation time with a grid of twice the Eniac-grids density, will be about 1/2 hour, so that one has reason to hope that RICHARDSON'S dream (1922) of advancing the computation faster than the weather may soon be realized, at least for a two-dimensional model. Actually we estimate on the basis of the experiences acquired in the course of the Eniac calculations, that if a renewed systematic effort with the Eniac were to be made, and with a thorough routinization of the operations, a 24-hour prediction could be made on the Eniac in as little as 12 hours." (pp. 274-75).

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Shannon Issues the First Technical Paper on Computer Chess March 1950

In March 1950 Claude Shannon of Bell Labs, Murray Hill, New Jersey, published "Programming a Computer for Playing Chess," Philosophical Magazine, Ser.7, 41, no. 314. This was the first technical paper on computer chess; however, the paper was entirely theoretical; it contained no references to Shannon programming an actual computer to play a game.

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One of the Earliest Computer Games February – October 1951

In February 1951 British computer scientist Christopher Strachey finished a program for the game of draughts, or checkers. The game ran for the first time on the Pilot ACE at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, on July 30, 1951, but completely exhausted the machine's memory.

"When Strachey heard about the Manchester Mark 1, which had a much bigger memory, he asked his former fellow-student Alan Turing for the manual and transcribed his program into the operation codes of that machine by around October 1951. The program could 'play a complete game of draughts at a reasonable speed' " (Wikipedia article on Christopher Strachey, accessed 09-12-2012).

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NIMROD: The First Special Purpose Digital Computer Designed to Play a Game May 5, 1951

For the Festival of Britain Exhibition of Science in South Kensington, London, which opened on May 5, 1951 in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Ferranti built a special purpose computer called NIMROD that played the ancient game of Nim, a mathematical game of strategy. 

NIMROD was the first digital computer designed specifically to play a game, though its actual purpose was to illustrate the principles of the digital computer to the public when almost no one had seen or interacted with a computer. Because of the number of vacuum tubes involved, the machine was 12 feet wide, 5 feet tall and 9 feet deep. When the Festival of Britain ended, in October 1951, the computer was displayed at the Berlin Industrial Show. According to the Wikipedia article on Nimrod (computing), so significant was the computer considered when it was exhibited in there that "famous German politicians were present including Konrad Adenauer, the Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and Ludwig Erhard, the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs." 

In Berlin, the NIMROD

"was so popular that people ignored the free beer (in Berlin!!!...though the beer was English beer, I suppose). The beer was at the other end of the same room but people instead watched the 'electronic brain' beat its human competitors. In part the excitement was caused because on the first day Nimrod had beaten Ludwig Erhard, the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, three times in a row. The age of computers outwitting humans had started" (http://www.cs4fn.org/binary/nim/nim.php, accessed 02-01-2014).

To help explain the NIMROD computer to the British public Ferranti published a pamphlet priced 1s 6d entitled Faster than Thought. The Ferranti Nimrod Digital Computer. Discovery magazine published an artist's watercolor impression of the NIMROD in their March 1951 issue. NIMROD was further discussed in Bertram Bowden's book, Faster than Thought (1953), chapter 25. 

NIMROD was conceived by Ferranti employee John M. Bennett, who received his PhD in computing at Cambridge under Maurice Wilkes, and later became the first professor computer science in Australia. Bennett got the idea of a Nim-playing computer from the Nimatron, an electro-mechanical machine exhibited at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in New York City.

In 1994 Bennett reminisced:

"Ferranti had undertaken to display a computer at the 1951 Festival of Britain, and late in 1950 it became evident that this promise could not be fulfilled. I suggested that a machine to play the game of NIM against all comers should be constructed with a versatile display to illustrate the algorithm and programming principles involved. The design was implemented by a Ferranti engineer, Raymond Stuart-Williams, who later joined RCA.

"In its simplest form, two players with several piles of, say, matches play the game of Nim. The players move alternately, each removing one or more of the matches from any one pile. Whoever removes the last match wins.

" The machine was a great success but not quite in the way intended, as I discovered during my time as spruiker on the Festival stand. Most of the public were quite happy to gawk at the flashing lights and be impressed. A few took an interest in the algorithm and even persisted to the point of beating the machine at the game. Only occasionally did we receive any evidence that our real message about the basics of programming had been understood" (http://www.goodeveca.net/nimrod/bennett.html, accessed 02-01-2014).

In February 2014 a 55 second sound recording of radio columnist Paul Jennings giving his impressions of the NIMROD in 1951 was available at this link

A reduced size replica of Nimrod was later built for the Computerspielemuseum Berlin.

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The First Graphical Computer Game 1952

In 1952 A. S. Douglas wrote Noughts and Crosses, the first graphical computer game, on the cathode ray tube (CRT) screen of the EDSAC at Cambridge University.

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The First Programmed Chess Game, Played Using a Human Computer 1952

In 1952, two years after Claude Shannon published his theoretical paper on programming a computer to play chess Alan Turing at Manchester wrote a program for playing chess called the "paper machine," and actually used it in a chess game. Following the algorithm with a paper and pencil— or acting as a human CPU, so to speak— Turing played an actual game against British computer scientist Alick Glennie. In this case the "computer" lost; the program hung a queen and resigned.

In January 2014 the game was available from chessgames.com at this link.

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The First Video Game: "Tennis for Two" 1958

In 1958 William Higinbotham, head of the Instrumentation Division at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York, invented the first video game, "Tennis for Two". It ran on an analog computer hooked up to an oscilloscope.

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Game Tree Pruning October 1958

In October 1958 Allan Newell, Clifford Shaw, and Herbert Simon invented game tree pruning, an artificial intelligence technique.

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Machines Can Learn from Past Errors July 1959

In July 1959 Arthur Lee Samuel published "Some Studies in Machine Learning Using the Game of Checkers," IBM Journal of Research and Development 3 (1959) no. 3, 210-29. In this work Samuel demonstrated that machines can learn from past errors — one of the earliest examples of non-numerical computation.

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) no. 874.

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1960 – 1970

Spacewar, the First Computer Game for a Commercially Available Computer 1962

In 1962 Programmer and computer scientist Steve Russell, aka Steve "Slug" Russell, and his team at MIT, including members of the Tech Model Railroad Club, took about 200 hours to program the first computer game for a commercially available computer on a DEC PDP-1.

Inspired by the space battles in the Lensman serial of science fiction space opera by E. E. "Doc" Smith, the computer game, or videogame, was called Spacewar .

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"The potential contributions of computers depend upon their use by very human human beings." November 1962

In November 1962 electrical engineer David L. Johnson and clinical-social psychologist Arthur L. Kobler, both at the University of Washington, Seattle, published "The Man-Computer Relationship. The potential contributions of computers crucially depend upon their use by very human human beings," Science 138 (1962) 873-79. The introductory and concluding sections of the paper are quoted below:

"Recently Norbert Wiener, 13 years after publication of his Cybernetics, took stock of the man-computer relationship [Science 131, 1355 (1960).] He concluded, with genuine concern, that computers may be getting out of hand. In emphasizing the significance of the position of the computer in our world, Wiener comments on the crucial use of computers by the military: 'it is more than likely that the machine may produce a policy which would win a nominal victory on points at the cost of every interest we have at heart, even that of national survival.' 

"Computers are used by man; man must be considered a part of any system in which they are used. Increasingly in our business, scientific, and international life the results of data processing and computer application are, necessarily and properly, touching the individuals of our society significantly. Increasing application of computers is inevitable and requisite for the growth and progress of our society. The purpose of this article is to point out certain cautions which must be observed and certain paths which must be emphasized if the man-computer relationship is to develop to its full positive potential and if Wiener's prediction is to be proved false. In this article on the problem of decision making we set forth several concepts. We have chosen decision making as a suitable area of investigation because we see both man and machine, in all their behavior actions, constantly making decisions. We see the process of decision making as being always the same: within the limits of the field, possibilities exist from which choices are made. Moreover, there are many decisions of great significance being made in which machines are already playing an active part. For example, a military leader recently remarked, "At the heart of every defense system you will find a computer." In a recent speech the president of the National Machine Accountants Association stated that 80 to 90 percent of the executive decisions in U.S. industry would soon be made by machines. Such statements indicate a growing trend-a trend which need not be disadvantageous to human beings if they maintain proper perspective. In the interest of making the man-machine relationship optimally productive and satisfactory to the human being, it is necessary to examine the unique capabilities of both man and machine, giving careful attention to the resultant interaction within the
mixed system."


"The levels of human knowledge of the environment and the universe are increasing, and it is obviously necessary that man's ability to cope with this knowledge should increase—necessary for his usefulness and for his very survival. The processes of automation have provided a functional agent for this purpose. Successful mechanized solution of routine problems has directed attention toward the capacity of the computer to arrive at apparent or real solutions of routine-learning and special problems. Increasing use of the computer in such problems is clearly necessary if our body of knowledge and information is to serve its ultimate function. Along with such use of the computer, however, will come restrictions and cautions which have not hitherto been necessary. We find that the computer is being given responsibilities with which it is less- able- to cope than man is. It is being called on to act for man in areas where man cannot define his own ability to perform and where he feels uneasy about his own performance- where he would like a neat, well-structured solution and feels that in adopting the machine's partial solution he is closer to the "right" than he is in using his own. An aura of respectability surrounds a computer output, and this, together with the time-balance factor, makes unqualified acceptance tempting. The need for caution, then, already exists and will be much greater in the future. It has little to do with the limited ability of the computer per se, much to do with the ability of man to realistically determine when and how he must use the tremendous ability which he has developed in automation. Let us continue to work with learning machines, with definitions of meaning and 'artificial intelligence.' Let us examine these processes as 'games' with expanding values, aiming toward developing improved computer techniques as well as increasing our knowledge of human functions. Until machines can satisfy the requirements discussed, until we can more perfectly determine the functions we require of the machines, let us not call upon mechanized decision systems to act upon human systems without intervening realistic human processing. As we proceed with the inevitable development of computers and means of using them, let us be sure that careful analysis is made of all automation (either routine-direct, routine-learning, or special) that is used in systems of whichman is a part-sure that man reflects upon his own reaction to, and use of mechanization. Let us be certain that, in response to Samuel Butler's question, "May not man himself become a sort of parasite upon the machines; an affectionate machine tickling aphid?' we will always be able to answer 'No.' "

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General Motors and IBM Develop the First CAD Program December 1962

In December 1962 DAC-1 (Design Augmented by Computers), the first computer-assisted design (CAD) program, was demonstrated. Development of the program began in 1959 as a joint effort between General Motors in Detroit and IBM. 

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Ivan Sutherland Creates the First Graphical User Interface 1963

In 1963 Ivan Sutherland, a student at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, working on the experimental TX- 2 computer, created the first graphical user interface, or first interactive graphics program, in his Ph.D. thesis, Sketchpad: A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System. 

Sketchpad was an early application of vector graphics.

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The TUTOR Programming Language for Education and Games 1965 – 1969

In 1965 Paul Tenczar developed the TUTOR programming language for use in developing electronic learning programs called "lessons" for the PLATO system at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It has "powerful answer-parsing and answer-judging commands, graphics and features to stimulate handling student records and statistics by instructors." This also made it suitable for the creation of many non-educational lessons— that is, games—including flight simulators, war games, role-playing, such as Dungeons and Dragons (dnd), card games, word games, and Medical lesson games.

The first documentation of the TUTOR language, under this name, appears to be The TUTOR Manual, CERL Report X-4, by R. A. Avner and P. Tenczar, January 1969.

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Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull Create the First Virtual Reality Head Mounted Display System 1968

In 1968 Ivan Sutherland at the University of Utah, with the help of his student Bob Sproull, created the first Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) head mounted display system.

Sutherland's head mounted display was so heavy that it had to be suspended from the ceiling, and the formidable appearance of the device inspired its name—the Sword of Damocles. The system was primitive both in terms of user interface and realism, and the graphics comprising the virtual environment were simple wireframe rooms.

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Evans & Sutherland Commercialize the Use of Computers as Simulators 1968

In 1968 Ivan Sutherland and David Evans, both professors at the University of Utah, founded Evans & Sutherland to commercialize the use of computers as simulators for training purposes.

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1970 – 1980

"Galaxy Game", the Earliest Coin-Operated Computer or Video Game September 1971

The earliest known coin-operated computer or video game, Galaxy Game, was installed at the Tresidder Union at Stanford University in September, 1971, two months before the release of Computer Space, the first mass-produced video game. Only one unit was built initially, although the game later included several consoles allowing users to play against each other.

"The game was programmed by Bill Pitts and Hugh Tuck. Like Computer Space, it was a version of the existing Spacewar!, which had been created in the early 1960s on the PDP-1 and ported to a variety of platforms since then. The coin-operated game console incorporated a Digital PDP-11/20 with vector displays. The hardware cost around $20,000, and a game cost 10 cents or three games for 25 cents. In June 1972 the hardware was improved to allow the processor to power four to eight consoles. The game remained popular on campus, with wait times for players as much as one hour, until it was removed in May 1979 due to damaged screens.

"The unit was restored in 1997 and now resides in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California" (Wikipedia article on Computer Space, accessed 08-26-2009).

Lowood, "Videogames in Computer Space: The Complex History of Pong, " IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 31 (2009) #3, 5-19.

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"Computer Space," the First Commercially Sold Coin-Operated Video Game November 1971

In November 1971 Nutting Associates of Mountain View, California, released the video arcade game Computer Space, created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. It was an adaptation of Spacewar (1962).

Computer Space was the first commercially sold coin-operated video game, predating the Magnavox Odyssey by six months, and Atari's Pong by one year.

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Magnavox Odyssey, the First Home Video Game Console, Uses a TV Screen as a Display May 24, 1972

The first home video game console, the Magavox Odyssey, which used a television screen as a display, was first demonstrated on May 24, 1972 and released in August of that year, predating the Atari Pong home consoles by three years. The Odyssey was designed by Ralph Baer, who began development around 1966 and had a working prototype finished by 1968.

This prototype, known as the Brown Box, is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

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Pong: The First Commercially Successful Video Game September 1972

On June 27, 1972 Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari in Sunnyvale, California, and hired Allan Alcorn to design the table tennis (ping-pong) game “PONG.” Pong was the first commercially successful video game (videogame).

Alcorn produced the prototype, and in September 1972 Bushnell and Alcorn placed the first prototype of the game in Andy Capp’s bar in Sunnyvale. Measured by the number of quarters in the coin box of the game, it was judged a remarkable success. Part of its success may have been its simplicity and intuitive nature, which made the game very easy to learn.

Based on this almost comically limited market research, the company announced the release of Pong on November 29, 1972. In keeping with the small-time nature of the business, management sought unskilled assembly workers at the local unemployment office, and was unable to keep up with demand. The first arcade cabinets produced were assembled very slowly— about ten machines a day— many of which failed quality testing. Atari eventually streamlined the process, and began producing the game in greater quantities. Production began in 1973.

Lowood, "Videogames in Computer Space: The Complex History of Pong," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 31, #3 (2009) 5-19.

(This entry was last revised on April 21, 2014.)

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SPACEWAR: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums December 7, 1972

On December 7, 1972 Stewart Brand published "SPACEWAR: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums" in Rolling Stone magazine.

"The first 'Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics' will be held here, Wednesday 19 October, 2000 hours. First prize will be a year's subscription to 'Rolling Stone'. The gala event will be reported by Stone Sports reporter Stewart Brand & photographed by Annie Liebowitz. Free Beer!

"Ready or not, computers are coming to the people.  

"That’s good news, maybe the best since psychedelics. It’s way off the track of the “Computers — Threat or menace?” school of liberal criticism but surprisingly in line with the romantic fantasies of the forefathers of the science such as Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, J.C.R. Licklider, John von Neumann and Vannevar Bush. The trend owes its health to an odd array of influences: The youthful fervor and firm dis-Establishmentarianism of the freaks who design computer science; an astonishingly enlightened research program from the very top of the Defense Department; an unexpected market-Banking movement by the manufacturers of small calculating machines, and an irrepressible midnight phenomenon known as Spacewar.

"Reliably, at any nighttime moment (i.e. non-business hours) in North America hundreds of computer technicians are effectively out of their bodies, locked in life-or-Death space combat computer-projected onto cathode ray tube display screens, for hours at a time, ruining their eyes, numbing their fingers in frenzied mashing of control buttons, joyously slaying their friend and wasting their employers' valuable computer time. Something basic is going on.  

"Rudimentary Spacewar consists of two humans, two sets of control buttons or joysticks, one TV-like display and one computer. Two spaceships are displayed in motion on the screen, controllable for thrust, yaw, pitch and the firing of torpedoes. Whenever a spaceship and torpedo meet, they disappear in an attractive explosion. That’s the original version invented in 1962 at MIT by Steve Russell. (More on him in a moment.)  

"October, 1972, 8 PM, at Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory, moonlit and remote in the foothills above Palo Alto, California. Two dozen of us are jammed in a semi-dark console room just off the main hall containing AI’s PDP-10 computer. AI’s Head System Programmer and most avid Spacewar nut, Ralph Gorin, faces a display screen which says only:  


(http://downlode.org/Etext/Spacewar/, accessed 02-25-2010).

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Maze War, the First Networked 3D Multi-User First Person Shooter Game 1973 – 1974

Maze War (also known as The Maze Game, Maze Wars or simply Maze), developed in 1973-74, was the first networked, 3D multi-user first person shooter game.

"Maze first brought us the concept of online players as eyeball "avatars" chasing each other around in a maze). From its humble 1973-1974 origins on the Imlacs PDS-1 at the NASA Ames Research Center in California, to its life in project MAC at MIT, on Xerox Altos and "D* Machines" running on early ethernet, to versions ported to Mac, NeXT and PalmOS, Maze started it all. Today's massively multiuser 3D games owe a great debt to Maze and those who created and kept on porting it to new systems for the past 30 years. Maze is the reason why nobody can claim ownership of the rights to the invention of a multi-user 3D Cyberspace and is another of the major gifts to innovation made by early net pioneers" (Digibarn Computer Museum, accessed 04-15-2009)

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The First Computer Role-Playing Game: Dungeons & Dragons 1974 – 1975

From 1974 to 1975 Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, wrote the first computer role-playing game in the TUTOR programming language for the PLATO system. It was called Dungeons & Dragons (dnd).

The name "dnd" was derived from the abbreviation "DND" (D&D) from the original tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, first released in 1974. The publication of D&D is widely regarded as the beginning of modern role-playing games and of the role-playing game industry.

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Origins & Early Development of PostScript and Scalable Digital Type Fonts at Xerox PARC and Adobe Systems 1975 – 1989

At Evans & Sutherland in Salt Lake City, Utah, from 1975-78 computer scientists John Warnock and John Gaffney developed the "The Evans and Sutherland Design System" for producing 3-dimensional graphical databases both for the Evans & Sutherland CAD/CAM Picture System and for custom-built simulation machines. These graphics systems used a graphics model, developed by Ivan Sutherland and others, based on coordinate system transformations and line drawing.

After leaving Evans & Sutherland in 1978 John Warnock joined Xerox PARC to work for Charles "Chuck" Geschke. At "PARC" he teamed up with Martin Newell to producie an interpreted graphics system called JAM. "JAM" stood for "John And Martin".

"JAM had the same postfix execution semantics as Gaffney's Design System, and was based on the Evans and Sutherland imaging model, but augmented the E&S imaging model by providing a much more extensive set of graphics primitives. Like the later versions of the Design System, JAM was 'token based' rather than 'command line based', which means that the JAM interpreter reads a stream of input tokens and processes each token completely before moving to the next. Newell and Warnock implemented JAM on various Xerox workstations; by 1981 JAM was available at Stanford on the Xerox Alto computers, where I first saw it.  

"In the meantime, various people at Xerox were building a series of experimental raster printers. The first of these was called XGP, the Xerox Graphics Printer, and had a resolution of 192 dots to the inch. Xerox made XGP's available to certain universities, and by 1972 they were in use at Carnegie-Mellon, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, and the University of Toronto. Each of those organizations produced its own hardware and software interfaces. The XGP is historically interesting only because it is the first raster printer to gain substantial use by computer scientists, and was the arena in which a lot of mistakes were made and a lot of lessons learned.  

"To replace the XGP, Xerox PARC developed a new printer called EARS, and then another newer printer called Dover. After the agony of converting software from XGP to EARS, various Xerox people realized that applications programs generating files for the XGP or for EARS should not be tied to the device properties of the printer itself. Bob Sproull and William Newman, of Xerox PARC, developed a relatively device-independent page image description scheme, called "Press format", which was used to instruct raster printers what to print.  

"As part of an extensive grant program to selected universities, Xerox donated Dover printers and made documentation of the Press format available under a nondisclosure agreement. As far as I know, that nondisclosure agreement has never been lifted, though information about Press format has been widely enough distributed that by 1982 researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) at Lausanne had given conference papers about their own independent implementation of Press format.  

"Press format was a smashing success; it revolutionized laser printing technology in the academic and research communities, and stimulated a large number of people to think about issues of device-independent print graphics. Nevertheless, Press format had its limitations, and various people felt the need to revise the basic design.  

"Sproull left Xerox in 1978 to become a professor of computer science at CMU. Newman returned home to England to become an independent consultant. Martin Newell left Xerox to join Cadlinc Corp. Warnock and Geschke remained at Xerox.  

"While at CMU, Sproull began making plans for a new version of Press that would combine the graphics model of JAM with the page image description properties of Press. Sproull returned to Xerox for a sabbatical leave in 1982, and enlisted the help of Butler Lampson in the creation of the new page image description language that Warnock dubbed "Interpress". The name caught on.  

"While it is difficult to separate the contributions made by Sproull and Lampson, it is not incorrect to say that Lampson and Warnock produced the execution model of Interpress while Sproull and Warnock produced the imaging model. It is also approximately correct to characterize this first version of Interpress as being derived from the graphics model and execution model of JAM with additional protection and security mechanisms derived from experience with programming languages like Euclid and Cedar, and a careful silence on the issue of fonts. The trio worked under Geschke's direction, and Geschke was responsible for refereeing disagreements and for making certain that the resulting design was acceptable to the rest of Xerox" (Brian Reid, http://groups.google.com/group/fa.laser-lovers/msg/5d0df32a0e91f1fa?rnum=2&pli=1, accessed 01-07-2009).

In December 1982 Warnockand Chuck Gerschke founded Adobe Systems in San Jose, California. At Adobe Warnock developed the PostScript page description language — a simplified version of the InterPress language that he had developed at Xerox PARC.

Two years later, in 1984, Warnock and Geschke releasied PostScript Level 1, enabling scalable PostScript digital type fonts and desktop publishing.

In 1985 Cleo Huggins, graphic designer and typographer at Adobe Systems, San Jose, California, designed the Sonata PostScript type font. This font for musical notation was the first of the "Adobe Originals," and predated personal computer software for musical composition.

The following year Lynne Garell, a graphic designer typographer at Adobe Systems, designed Carta, a map font. This was the first alphabetic typefont created in PostScript and marketed by Adobe.

The first typeface families arrived at Adobe in 1989: Robert Slimbach's Utopia and Adobe Garamond. A reinterpretation of the Roman types of Claude Garamond and the italics of Robert Granjon.

(This entry was last revised on 01-18-2015.)

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"Adventure," the First Computer Text Adventure Game 1975 – 1976

In 1975 and 1976 spelunker and programmer at Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, Massachusetts, William Crowther wrote the first computer text adventure game, Adventure.

Adventure was originally called ADVENT because a filename could only be six characters long in its operating system.  The game was renamed Colossal Cave Adventure, as it was based on part of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky.

"Crowther had explored the Mammoth Cave in the early 1970s, and created a vector map based on surveys of parts of the real cave, but the text game is a completely separate entity, created during the 1975-76 academic year and featuring fantasy elements such as an axe-throwing dwarf and a magic bridge."

"Crowther's original game consisted of about 700 lines of Fortran code, with about another 700 lines of data, written for BBN's PDP-10. (See the original source code) The program required about 60K words (nearly 300KB) of core memory in order to run, which was a significant amount for PDP-10/KA systems running with only 128K words." (Wikipedia article on Colossal Cave Adventure, accessed 04-14-2009).

"In early 1977, Adventure spread across ARPAnet,  and has survived on the Internet to this day. The game has since been ported to many other operating systems, and was included with the floppy-disk distribution of Microsoft's MS-DOS 5.0 OS. The popularity of Adventure led to the wide success of interactive fiction during the late 1970s and the 1980s, when home computers had little, if any, graphics capability. Many elements of the original game have survived into the present, such as the command 'xyzzy', which is now included as an Easter Egg in games such as Minesweeper" (Wikipedia article on Interactive fiction, accessed 04-15-2009).

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The Warez Scene Emerges Circa 1975

The Warez scene, often referred to as The Scene—a "community" specializing in the distribution of pirated content—started emerging around 1975. It was used by predecessors of software cracking and reverse engineering groups who made their work public on privately run BBS systems.

"The first BBSes were located in the USA, but similar boards started appearing in the UK, Australia and mainland Europe. At the time setting up a machine capable of distributing data was not a trivial matter and required a certain amount of technical skill. The reason it was usually done was for the technical challenge. The BBS systems typically hosted several megabytes of material. The best boards had multiple phone lines and up to one hundred megabytes of storage space, which was very expensive at the time. Releases were mostly games and later applications" (Wikipedia article on the Warez scene, accessed 07-20-2009).

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"Home Pong" is Released 1975

In 1975 Atari of Sunnyvale, California, released the Home Pong video game console through the Sears catalogue. Home Pong used a television as a monitor. The success of this product resulted in a patent infringement lawsuit from the manufacturers of the Magnavox Odyssey video game console.

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One of the First GPU's 1975

During the 1970s Fujitsu's MB14241 video shifter was used to accelerate the drawing of sprite graphics for various 1970s arcade games from Taito and Midway, such as Gun Fight (1975), Sea Wolf (1976), and Space Invaders (1978). The MB14241 may have been the earliest graphics processing unit (GPU).

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Atari Introduces the First Successful Video Game Console Using Plug-in Cartridges 1977

In 1977 Nolan Bushnell and Atari, Sunnyvale, California, introduced the Atari Video Computer System (VCS).

Later known as the Atari 2600, VCS was the first successful video game console to use plug-in cartridges instead of having one or more games built in. It was "typically bundled with two joystick constrollers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a cartridge game."

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The First Multi-Player Computer Games Evolve on the Plato IV-V System 1977

In 1977 the first multi-user or multi-player computer games, or MUDs began to evolve on the PLATO system at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The PLATO MUDs ran on a bulletin board system or Internet server and combined "elements of role-playing games, hack and slash style computer games, and social chat rooms."

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The Interactive Text Adventure Game "Zork" 1977 – 1979

In 1977 Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling at MIT wrote the interactive fiction text adventure game Zork in the MDL programming language on a DEC PDP-10. Zork was the first text adventure game to see widespread commercial release.

The word "Zork" was originally MIT hacker jargon for an unfinished program. The implementors named the completed game Dungeon, but by that time the name Zork had already stuck.

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The First Hand-Held Entirely Digital Electronic Game 1977

Mattel Auto Race was introduced in 1977 by Mattel of El Segundo, California.  It was the first handheld electronic game that was entirely digital, without moving mechanisms except controls and on/off switch.

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The First Graphical Computer Adventure Game 1979 – 1980

In 1979 and 1980 Roberta and Ken Williams wrote Mystery House for the Apple II. Containing 70 simple two-dimensional drawings by Roberta Williams, Mystery House was the first computer adventure game with graphics.  The game was also eventually released into the public domain.

♦ Later it was converted into an ap. In December 2013 you could buy version 1.0.6 of the program in the iTunes Store at this link.

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1980 – 1990

The First Flight Simulator Program for a Personal Computer January 1980

In January 1980 Bruce A. Artwick, an engineering student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, released A2-FS1 Flight Simulator for the Apple II personal computer through his subLOGIC Corporation. This was the first flight simulator program for a personal computer. 

Artwick began the project by writing a series of articles on flight simulation using computer graphics during 1976. When a magazine editor told him that subscribers were interested in purchasing such a program Artwick founded subLOGIC Corporation to commercialize his ideas. At first the company sold simulators by mail order, but that changed with the related of Flight Simulator FS1, for the Apple II, followed by a release in March 1980 for the TRS-80 with lower quality graphics.

♦ In December 2013 a dynamic simulation of the original program was available from the Wikipedia at this link.

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Pac-Man is Introduced May 22, 1980

The arcade video game Pac-Man was first released in Japan by Namco on May 22, 1980.

"Originally launched in 1979 [sic], Namco's Pac-Man quickly became the most popular video game of all time. Pac-Man launched a global phenomenon, featuring the medium's biggest star character (and Mad Magazine's Man of the Year 1982). The title also gave birth to the 80's arcade culture while riding a wave of merchandising that reached Saturday Morning Cartoons, toys, pajamas and Pac-Man Fever, a beloved Top 40 record. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Pac-Man must have one hell of an ego -- the format was borrowed, evolved or outright stolen by dozens of imitators, and remains a staple of arcade collections and mobile time diversions today. Though its gameplay heritage doesn't influence many games anymore, it's hard to imagine another game ever having the global impact of Pac-Man" (Video-Pro.com, The 52 Most Important Video Games of All time, No. 6. accessed 04-15-2009).

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The DataGlove, a Hand Gesture Interface Device 1982 – 1989

In 1982 Thomas G. Zimmerman of Redwood City, California filed a patent (US Patent 4542291) on an optical flex sensor mounted in a glove to measure finger bending. Continuing this research, Zimmerman worked with Jaron Lanier to incorporate ultrasonic and magnetic hand position tracking technology to create the Power Glove and the DataGlove, respectively (US Patent 4988981, filed 1989). The optical flex sensor used in the DataGlove was invented by Young L. Harvill (US Patent 5097252, filed 1989) who scratched the fiber near the finger joint to make it locally sensitive to bending. 

The DataGlove is considered one of the first commercially available wired gloves. The first wired glove available to home users in 1989 was the Nintendo Power Glove designed as a gaming glove for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It had a crude tracker and finger bend sensors, plus buttons on the back. The sensors in the Power Glove were also used by hobbyists to create their own datagloves.  Both the DataGlove and the Power Glove were based on Zimmerman's original instrumented glove or wired glove.

Zimmerman, Lanier et al."A Hand Gesture Interface Device" (1987).

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The First Cheap Home Computer, and the Best-Selling Computer of its Time August 1982

In August 1982 Commodore International, West Chester, Pennsylvania, issued the Commodore 64—"the first cheap home computer" at the price of $595. The Commodore 64 looked like a bulky keyboard, but included color graphics, and excelled at playing early video games. Between 1982 and 1984 30,000,000 units were sold, making it the best-selling personal computer model of this era. Roughly 10,000 commercial programs were produced for this computer.

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Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 November 1982

Having obtained a license from subLOGIC Corporation to port Flight Simulator FS-1 to IBM PCs and compatibles, in November 1982 Microsoft released the program as Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0

♦ In December 2013 films on the history of subLOGIC/Microsoft Flight Simulator made in 2010 and 2006 were available from the Wikipedia article on the History of Microsoft Flight Simulator

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"Dial-a-Game": the Earliest Origins of America Online (AOL) 1983

In 1983 Control Video Corporation founded by William van Miester, of the Washington D.C. area, offered video games "by telephone" for Atari VCS game machine owners through a service called GameLine. Using variable speed adaptive modem technology, GameLine planned other services for the millions of game machine owners who might upgrade their units with programmable adaptors. The company nearly went bankrupt. After revamping its product line, the company changed its name to Quantum Computer Services in 1985.

In 1991 the company was renamed America Online (AOL).

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Avatar in the Context of Online Representation of a User 1985

The Sanskrit word "avatar" was probably first used to denote the computer representation of a user as the name for the player character in the computer role-playing game, Avatar IV, Quest of the Avatar, developed for the Apple II in 1985 by Origin Systems, Austin, Texas.

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Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. 1985

In 1985 Nintendo, Kyoto, Japan, introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System, and 8-bit game console. It was accompanied by Super Mario Bros., the best-selling video game as of 2008 with 40,000,000 copies sold.

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Kasparov Defeats 32 Different Chess Computers 1985

"In 1985, in Hamburg, I played against thirty-two different chess computers at the same time in what is known as a simultaneous exhibition. I walked from one machine to the next, making my moves over a period of more than five hours. The four leading chess computer manufacturers had sent their top models, including eight named after me from the electronics firm Saitek.  

"It illustrates the state of computer chess at the time that it didn't come as much of a surprise when I achieved a perfect 32–0 score, winning every game, although there was an uncomfortable moment. At one point I realized that I was drifting into trouble in a game against one of the "Kasparov" brand models. If this machine scored a win or even a draw, people would be quick to say that I had thrown the game to get PR for the company, so I had to intensify my efforts. Eventually I found a way to trick the machine with a sacrifice it should have refused. From the human perspective, or at least from my perspective, those were the good old days of man vs. machine chess" (Gary Kasparov, "The Chess Master and the Computer," The New York Review of Books 57 February 11, 2010.

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The First Computer Games Developers Conference 1988

In 1988 computer game designer Chris Crawford held the first meeting of the Computer Games Developers Conference in his San Jose, California living room. About 27 game designers attended.

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1990 – 2000

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is Founded 1990

In 1990 Mitchell Kapor, John Gilmore, and John Perry Barlow founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, to defend individual rights in the digital world. The three had met on The Well.

Motivation for creation of the organization was the

“massive search and seizure on Steve Jackson Games by the United States Secret Service early in 1990.” The first successful achievement of the new foundation was to lay “the groundwork for the successful representation of Steven Jackson Games (SJG) in a Federal court case to prosecute the United States Secret Service for unlawfully raiding their offices and seizing computers.”

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"Doom" is Introduced 1993

In 1993 John D. Carmack of id Software in Richardson, Texas introduced Doom, a science-fiction horror video game which popularized the genre of first-person shooter video games. 

"It is widely known as one of the most important video games of all time for having popularized the first-person shooter genre, pioneering immersive 3D graphics, networked multiplayer gaming, and support for customized additions and modifications via packaged files in a data archive known as "WADs". As a sign of its effect on the industry, first-person shooter games from the genre's boom in the 90s, helped in no less part by the game's release, became known simply as "Doom clones". Its graphic and interactive violence however, as well as its satanic imagery, also made it the subject of considerable controversy" (Wikipedia article on Doom (Video Game), accessed 10-13-2013).

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The First Defeat of a Human Champion by a Computer in a Game Compeition 1994

At the Second Man-Machine World Championship in 1994, Chinook, a computer checkers program developed around 1989 at the University of Alberta by a team led by Jonathan Schaeffer, won due to human frailty. This was the first time that a computer program defeated a human champion in a game competition.

 "In 1996 the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Chinook as the first program to win a human world championship" (http://webdocs.cs.ualberta.ca/~chinook/project/, accessed 01-24-2010).

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Nintendo's "Virtual Boy": the first Mass-Produced Virtual Reality Game System 1994 – 1996

In 1995 Nintendo introduced The Virtual Boy (バーチャルボーイ), a table-top video game console that was supposed to be capable of displaying "true 3D graphics" out of the box, in a form of virtual reality. It was the first virtual reality device produced for the mass market.In its press release dated November 14, 1994 Nintendo stated that

"The RISC-based, 32-bit system utilizes two high-resolution, mirror-scanning LED (light emitting diode) displays to produce a 3-D experience not possible on conventional television or LCD screens.

"Virtual Boy's unique design eliminates all external stimuli, totally immersing players into their own private universe with high-resolution red images against a deep black background. The 3-D experience is enhanced through stereophonic sound and a new specially designed, double-grip controller which accommodates multidirectional spatial movement.

"It will transport game players into a 'virtual utopia' with sights and sounds unlike anything they've every experienced -- all at the price of a current home video game system" (http://www.planetvb.com/modules/advertising/?r, accessed 10-13-2013).

Though 770,000 systems were sold, the Virtual Boy system was considered a failure and Nintendo quietly withdrew it from the market in 1996.

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Steve Jackson Games v. U.S. Secret Service October 31, 1994

On October 31, 1994 the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans, Louisiana, decided Steve Jackson Games v. U.S. Secret Service, 36 F.3d 457 (5th Cir. 1994).

"The narrow issue before us is whether the seizure of a computer, used to operate an electronic bulletin board system, and containing private electronic mail which had been sent to (stored on) the bulletin board, but not read (retrieved) by the intended recipients, constitutes an unlawful intercept under the Federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. s 2510, et seq., as amended by Title I of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, Pub.L. No. 99-508, Title I, 100 Stat. 1848 (1986). We hold that it is not, and therefore AFFIRM."

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PlayStation is Launched December 3, 1994

On December 3, 1994 Sony launched its first PlayStation game console in Japan.

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Kasparov Loses to Deep Blue: The First Time a Human Chess Player Loses to a Computer Under Tournament Conditions May 11, 1997

On May 11, 1997 Gary Kasparov, sometimes regarded as the greatest chess player of all time, resigned 19 moves into Game 6 against Deep Blue, an IBM RS/6000 SP supercomputer capable of calculating 200 million chess positions per second. This was the first time that a human world chess champion lost to a computer under tournament conditions.

The event, which took place at the Equitable Center in New York, was broadcast live from IBM's website via a Java viewer, and became the world's record "Net event" at the time.

"Since the emergence of artificial intelligence and the first computers in the late 1940s, computer scientists compared the performance of these 'giant brains' with human minds, and gravitated to chess as a way of testing the calculating abilities of computers. The game is a collection of challenging problems for minds and machines, but has simple rules, and so is perfect for such experiments.

"Over the years, many computers took on many chess masters, and the computers lost.

"IBM computer scientists had been interested in chess computing since the early 1950s. In 1985, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, Feng-hsiung Hsu, began working on his dissertation project: a chess playing machine he called ChipTest. A classmate of his, Murray Campbell, worked on the project, too, and in 1989, both were hired to work at IBM Research. There, they continued their work with the help of other computer scientists, including Joe Hoane, Jerry Brody and C. J. Tan. The team named the project Deep Blue. The human chess champion won in 1996 against an earlier version of Deep Blue; the 1997 match was billed as a 'rematch.'

"The champion and computer met at the Equitable Center in New York, with cameras running, press in attendance and millions watching the outcome. The odds of Deep Blue winning were not certain, but the science was solid. The IBMers knew their machine could explore up to 200 million possible chess positions per second. The chess grandmaster won the first game, Deep Blue took the next one, and the two players drew the three following games. Game 6 ended the match with a crushing defeat of the champion by Deep Blue." 

"The AI crowd, too, was pleased with the result and the attention, but dismayed by the fact that Deep Blue was hardly what their predecessors had imagined decades earlier when they dreamed of creating a machine to defeat the world chess champion. Instead of a computer that thought and played chess like a human, with human creativity and intuition, they got one that played like a machine, systematically evaluating 200 million possible moves on the chess board per second and winning with brute number-crunching force. As Igor Aleksander, a British AI and neural networks pioneer, explained in his 2000 book, How to Build a Mind:  

" 'By the mid-1990s the number of people with some experience of using computers was many orders of magnitude greater than in the 1960s. In the Kasparov defeat they recognized that here was a great triumph for programmers, but not one that may compete with the human intelligence that helps us to lead our lives.'

"It was an impressive achievement, of course, and a human achievement by the members of the IBM team, but Deep Blue was only intelligent the way your programmable alarm clock is intelligent. Not that losing to a $10 million alarm clock made me feel any better" (Gary Kasparov, "The Chess Master and the Computer," The New York Review of Books, 57, February 11, 2010).

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The First "Advanced" or "Freestyle" or "Centaur" Chess Event June 1998

The first Advanced Chess event, in which each human player used a computer chess program to help him explore the possible results of candidate moves, was held in June 1998 in León, Spain. The match was played between Garry Kasparov, using the German chess program Fritz 5, and Veselin Topalov, using ChessBase 7.0. The analytical engines used, such as FritzHIARCS and Junior, were integrated into these two programs, and could have been called at a click of the mouse. It was a 6-game match, and it was arranged in advance that the players would consult the built-in million games databases only for the 3rd and 4th game, and would only use analytical engines without consulting the databases for the remaining games. The time available to each player during the games was 60 minutes. The match ended in a 3-3 tie.

Since the first event Advanced Chess matches were often called Freestyle chess, in which players can play without computer assistance, or can simply follow the directions of a computer program, or can play as a "centaur", listening to the moves advocated by the AI but occasionally overriding them. In 2014 the best Freestyle chess player was Intagrand, a team of humans and several different chess programs.

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"Where's George?" Begins December 23, 1998

On December 23, 1998 Hank Estrin's Where's George?, a website that tracked the natural geographic circulation of American paper money, became operational.

"A hit is when a bill registered with Where's George? is re-entered into the database. Where's George? does not have specific goals other than tracking currency movements, but many users like to collect interesting patterns of hits, called bingos. The most common bingo involves getting at least one hit in all 50 states (called "50 State Bingo"). Another Bingo, FRB Bingo, is when a user gets hits on bills from all 12 Federal Reserve Banks.

"Most bills do not receive any responses, or hits, but many bills receive two or more hits. The average hit rate is slightly over 11.1%. Double- and triple-hitters are common, and bills with 4 or 5 hits are not unheard of. Almost daily a bill receives its 6th hit. The site record is held by a $1 bill with 15 entries.

"To increase the chance of having a bill reported, users (called "Georgers") may write or stamp text on the bills encouraging bill finders to visit www.wheresgeorge.com and track the bill's travels. Bills that are entered into the database, but not marked, are known as stealths" (Wikipedia article on Where's George, accessed 05-04-2009).

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2000 – 2005

The First Attempt to Make a Photorealistic Computer Animated 3D Feature Film July 11, 2001

Hironobu Sakaguchi

Final Fantasy game logo

Square Company, Ltd Logo

Final Fantasy movie poster

On July 11, 2001 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a computer animated (CGI) science fiction film by Japanese game designer, game director and game producer Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the Final Fantasy series of role-playing games, was released in the United States by Columbia Pictures. This film, produced by Square Pictures, Honolulu, Hawaii, was the first attempt to make a photorealistic rendered 3D feature film.

"Square Pictures rendered the film using some of the most advanced processing capabilities available for film animating at the time. A render farm consisting of 960 workstations was tasked with rendering each of the film's 141,964 frames. It took a staff of 200 and some four years to complete the film. Square intended to make the character of Aki Ross into the world's first photorealistic computer-animated actress, with plans for appearances in multiple films in different roles. 

"The Spirits Within debuted to mixed critical reception, but was widely praised for the realism of the computer-animated characters. Due to rising costs, the film greatly exceeded its original budget towards the end of production, reaching a final cost of US$137 million, of which it made back only $85 million at the box office. The film has been called a box office bomb, and is blamed for the demise of Square Pictures" (Wikipedia article on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, accessed 03-23-2012).

"Roger Ebert was a strong advocate of the film; he gave the film 3 1/2 stars out of 4, praising it as a "technical milestone" while conceding that its 'nuts and bolts' story lacked 'the intelligence and daring of, say, Steven Spielberg's A.I.'. He also expressed a desire for the film to succeed in hopes of seeing more films made in its image, though he was skeptical of its ability to be accepted" (Wikipedia article on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, accessed 05-05-2009).

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Microsoft's Xbox is Launched November 15, 2001

The original Xbox

The coverart for Smartbomb

The Microsoft logo

On November 15, 2001 Microsoft launched the Xbox game console, its first entry into the gaming console market.

"According to the book Smartbomb, by Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby, the remarkable success of the upstart Sony PlayStation worried Microsoft in late 1990s. The growing video game market seemed to threaten the PC market which Microsoft had dominated and relied upon for most of its revenues. Additionally, a venture into the gaming console market would diversify Microsoft's product line, which up to that time had been heavily concentrated on software."

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Machinima is Founded 2002

Paul Marino

In 2002 Paul Marino founded the Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences in New York.

"So, what is Machinima?

"Machinima (muh-sheen-eh-mah) is filmmaking within a real-time, 3D virtual environment, often using 3D video-game technologies. 

"In an expanded definition, it is the convergence of filmmaking, animation and game development. Machinima is real-world filmmaking techniques applied within an interactive virtual space where characters and events can be either controlled by humans, scripts or artificial intelligence. By combining the techniques of filmmaking, animation production and the technology of real-time 3D game engines, Machinima makes for a very cost- and time-efficient way to produce films, with a large amount of creative control" 

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"Second Life" is Launched 2003

Linden Lab logo

An image from the Second Life game by Linden Lab

In 2003 Linden Lab of San Francisco, California, made publicly available the privately owned, partly subscription-based, virtual world called Second Life.

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"Grand Text Auto" A Group Blog May 2003 – May 2009

Grand Text Auto logo

In May 2003 Mary Flanagan, Michael Mateas, Nick Montfort, Scott Rettberg, Andrew Stern, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin founded the group blog Grand Text Auto. It was 

"about computer mediated and computer generated works of many forms: interactive fiction, net.art, electronic poetry, interactive drama, hypertext fiction, computer games of all sorts, shared virtual environments, and more."

In May 2009 GTxA became "an aggregator for a distributed group of blogs in which we participate. The authors of these blogs work as both theorists and developers, and are interested in authorship, design, and technology, as well as issues of interaction and reception."

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2005 – 2010

Sony's Playstation and PS1 Are the First Game Console to Sell 100 Million Units March 31, 2005

The PS1

On March 31, 2005 Sony's PlayStation and PS 1 reached "a combined total of 102.49 million units shipped", becoming the first video game console to reach the 100 million mark.

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"Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!," the First Commercial NeuroGame May 19, 2005 – April 16, 2006

On May 19, 2005 Nintendo, headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, released Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day for the Nintendo DS dual-screen handheld gaming console in Japan. The game, which was also known as Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain, was released for the Nintendo DS in the United States on April 16, 2006. Though loosely based based on research by Japanese neuroscientist  Ryuta Kawashima, Nintendo made no claims for the scientific validation of the game. Brain Age may be considered the earliest commercial NeuroGame.

"Brain Age features a variety of puzzles, including stroop testsmathematical questions, and Sudoku puzzles, all designed to help keep certain parts of the brain active. It was included in the Touch! Generations series of video games, a series which features games for a more casual gaming audience. Brain Age uses the touch screen and microphone for many puzzles. It has received both commercial and critical success, selling 19.00 million copies worldwide (as of March 31, 2013) and has received multiple awards for its quality and innovation. There has been controversy over the game's scientific effectiveness" (Wikipedia article on Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day, accessed 07-31-2014).

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"The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time" February 2, 2006

The cover of the 200th issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly

A screenshot from Super Mario Bros, listed at No. 1 in the list of "The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time"

In February 2006, as part of their celebration of their 200th issue, Electronic Gaming Monthly ranked, in ascending order of importance, "The Greatest 200 Videogames of their Time."

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The "Cyber Storm" War Game February 6 – February 10, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security seal

From February 6-10, 2006 vital US infrastructure, including power grids and banking systems, were put under simulated attack in a week-long security exercise called Cyber Storm.


"The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) successfully executed Cyber Storm, the first national cyber exercise Feb. 6 thru Feb. 10, 2006. The exercise was the first government-led, full-scale cyber security exercise of its kind. NCSD, a division within the department’s Preparedness Directorate, provides the federal government with a centralized cyber security coordination and preparedness function called for in the National Strategy for Homeland Security, the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7. NCSD is the focal point for the federal government’s interaction with state and local government, the private sector and the international community concerning cyberspace vulnerability reduction efforts."

"The Scenario

"The exercise simulated a sophisticated cyber attack campaign through a series of scenarios directed at several critical infrastructure sectors. The intent of these scenarios was to highlight the interconnectedness of cyber systems with physical infrastructure and to exercise coordination and communication between the public and private sectors. Each scenario was developed with the assistance of industry experts and was executed in a closed and secure environment.

"Cyber Storm scenarios had three major adversarial objectives:

"* To disrupt specifically targeted critical infrastructure through cyber attacks

"* To hinder the governments' ability to respond to the cyber attacks

"* To undermine public confidence in the governments' ability to provide and protect service" (http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1158340980371.shtm, accessed 08-09-2009).

The Department of Homeland Security has information of Cyber Storm I here.


"The Cyber Storm exercise was a simulated exercise overseen by the Department of Homeland Security that took place February 6 through February 10, 2006 with the purpose of testing the nations defenses against digital espionage. The simulation was targeted primarily at American security organizations but officials from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand participated as well.


"The exercise simulated a large scale attack on critical digital infrastructure such as communications, transportation, and energy production. The simulation took place a series of incidents which included.

" * Washington's metro trains mysteriously shutting down.

" * Bloggers revealing locations of railcars containing hazardous materials. * The airport control towers of Philadelphia and Chicago mysteriously shutting down.

" * A mysterious liquid appearing on a London subway.

" * Significant numbers of people on "no fly" lists suddenly appearing at airports all over the nation.

" * Planes flying too close to the White House. * Water utilities in Los Angeles getting compromised.

"Internal difficulties

"During the exercise the computers running the simulation came under attack by the players themselves. Heavily censored files released to the Associated Press reveal that at some time during the exercise the organizers sent every one involved an e-mail marked "IMPORTANT!" telling the participants in the simulation not to attack the game's control computers.

"Performance of participants

"The Cyber Storm exercise highlighted the gaps and shortcomings of the nation's cyber defenses. The cyber storm exercise report found that institutions under attack had a hard time getting the bigger picture and instead focused on single incidents treating them as 'individual and discrete.'

"In light of the test the Department of Homeland Security raised concern that the relatively modest resources assigned to cyber-defense would be 'overwhelmed in a real attack' (Wikipedia article on Cyber Storm Exercise, accessed 08-09-2009).


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Checkers is "Solved" April 29, 2007

Jonathan Shaeffer with a checkers board after "solving" the game of checkers

The University of Alberta seal

Jonathan Schaeffer and his team at the University of Alberta announced on April 29, 2007 that the game of checkers was "solved". Perfect play led to a draw.

"The crucial part of Schaeffer's computer proof involved playing out every possible endgame involving fewer than 10 pieces. The result is an endgame database of 39 trillion positions. By contrast, there are only 19 different opening moves in draughts. Schaeffer's proof shows that each of these leads to a draw in the endgame database, providing neither player makes a mistake.  

"Schaeffer was able to get his result by searching only a subset of board positions rather than all of them, since some of them can be considered equivalent. He carried out a mere 1014 calculations to complete the proof in under two decades. 'This pushes the envelope as far as artificial intelligence is concerned,' he says.  

"At its peak, Schaeffer had 200 desktop computers working on the problem full time, although in later years he reduced this to 50 or so. 'The problem is such that if I made a mistake 10 years ago, all the work from then on would be wrong,' says Schaeffer. 'So I've been fanatical about checking for errors.' " (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12296-checkers-solved-after-years-of-number-crunching.html, accessed 01-24-2010).

Based on this proof, Schaeffer's checkers-playing program Chinook, could no longer be beaten. The best an opponent could hope for is a draw.

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Game-Based Learning for Virtual Patients March 2008

In March 2008 Imperial College Medical School, London, announced the development of Phase I - Game-based learning for Virtual Patients in Second Life.

"The four-dimensional framework described by De Freitas and Martin (2006), plus the learning types described by Helmer (2007), as well as the different aspects of emergent narrative described by Murray (1997) have provided the basis for the design of these game-based learning activities for virtual patients under two different categories: context and learner specification, and narrative and modes of representation. Phase I of this project focused on the delivery of a virtual patient in the area of Respiratory Medicine following a game-based learning model in Second Life."

In December 2013 a video of Phase I was available from YouTube at at this link.

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Cyber Storm II March 10 – March 14, 2008

"The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is conducting the largest cyber security exercise ever organized. Cyber Storm II is being held from March 10-14 in Washington, D.C. and brings together participants from federal, state and local governments, the private sector, and the international community.

"Cyber Storm II is the second in a series of congressionally mandated exercises that will examine the nation’s cyber security preparedness and response capabilities. The exercise will simulate a coordinated cyber attack on information technology, communications, chemical, and transportation systems and assets.

" 'Securing cyberspace is vital to maintaining America’s strategic interests, public safety, and economic prosperity,' said Greg Garcia, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications. 'Exercises like Cyber Storm II help to ensure that the public and private sectors are prepared for an effective response to attacks against our critical systems and networks.'

"Cyber Storm II will include 18 federal departments and agencies, nine states (Calif., Colo., Del., Ill., Mich., N.C., Pa., Texas and Va.), five countries (United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom), and more than 40 private sector companies. They include ABB, Inc., Air Products, Cisco, Dow Chemical Company Inc., Harris Corporation, Juniper Networks, McAfee, Microsoft, NeuStar, PPG Industries, and Wachovia" (http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1205180340404.shtm, accessed 08-09-2009).

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The TV Show "Jeopardy" Provides a Good Model of the Semantic Analysis and Integration Problem April 22, 2009

On April 22, 2009 David Ferrucci, leader of the Semantic Analysis and Integration Department at IBM's T. J. Watson's Research Center, and Eric Nyberg, and several co-authors published the IBM Research Report: Towards the Open Advancement of Question Answering Systems.

Section 4.2.3. of the report included an analysis of why the television game show Jeopardy! provided a good model of the semantic analysis and integration problem.

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IBM's Watson Question Answering System Challenges Humans at "Jeopardy" April 27, 2009

On April 27, 2009 IBM announced that its Watson Question Answering (QA) System will challenge humans in the television quiz show Jeopardy!

"IBM is working to build a computing system that can understand and answer complex questions with enough precision and speed to compete against some of the best Jeopardy! contestants out there.

"This challenge is much more than a game. Jeopardy! demands knowledge of a broad range of topics including history, literature, politics, film, pop culture and science. What's more, Jeopardy! clues involve irony, riddles, analyzing subtle meaning and other complexities at which humans excel and computers traditionally do not. This, along with the speed at which contestants have to answer, makes Jeopardy! an enormous challenge for computing systems. Code-named "Watson" after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, the IBM computing system is designed to rival the human mind's ability to understand the actual meaning behind words, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant content, and ultimately, demonstrate confidence to deliver precise final answers.

"Known as a Question Answering (QA) system among computer scientists, Watson has been under development for more than three years. According to Dr. David Ferrucci, leader of the project team, 'The confidence processing ability is key to winning at Jeopardy! and is critical to implementing useful business applications of Question Answering.

"Watson will also incorporate massively parallel analytical capabilities and, just like human competitors, Watson will not be connected to the Internet, or have any other outside assistance.  

"If we can teach a computer to play Jeopardy!, what could it mean for science, finance, healthcare and business? By drastically advancing the field of automatic question answering, the Watson project's ultimate success will be measured not by daily doubles, but by what it means for society" (http://www.research.ibm.com/deepqa/index.shtml, accessed 06-16-2010).

On June 16, 2010 The New York Times Magazine published a long article by Clive Thompson on IBM's Watson's challenge of humans in Jeopardy! entitled, in the question response language of Jeopardy!, "What is I.B.M.'s Watson?."

♦ In December 2013 answers to frequently asked questions concerning Watson and Jeopardy! were available from IBM's website at this link.

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Employment in the Field of Simulation June 14, 2009

"As employment headlines go from grim to grimmer, it’s appropriate that one job category with expanding demand involves helping people avoid reality. Designers of computer simulations are sought in many fields to help understand complex, multifaceted phenomena that are too expensive or perilous to study in real life."

Bill Waite, chairman of the AEgis Technologies Group, a Huntsville, Ala., company that creates simulations for various military and civilian applications, "estimates that 400,000 people make a living in the United States in one aspect or another of simulation" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/jobs/14starts.html?8dpc, accessed 06-22-2009).

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2010 – 2012

"Whatever Happened to Second Life?" January 4, 2010

On January 4, 2010 Barry Collins, news, features, and online editor of PCPro wrote in PCPro.co.uk "Whatever Happened to Second Life?"

"Three years ago, I underwent one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life – and I barely even left the office.  

"I spent a week virtually living and breathing inside Second Life: the massively multiplayer online world that contains everything from lottery games to libraries, penthouses to pubs, skyscrapers to surrogacy clinics.

"Oh, and an awful lot of virtual sex.  

"Back then, the world and his dog were falling over themselves to “be a part of it”. Rock stars were queuing up to play virtual gigs, Microsoft and IBM were setting up elaborate pixellated offices to host staff training seminars, Reuters even despatched a correspondent to report back on the latest in-world developments.

"At its peak, the Second Life economy had more money swilling about than several third-world countries. It had even produced its own millionaire, Anshe Chung, who made a very real fortune from buying and selling property that existed only on Second Life servers.  

"Three years on, and the hype has been extinguished. Second Life has seen its status as the web wonderchild supplanted by Facebook and Twitter. The newspapers have forgotten about it, the Reuters correspondent has long since cleared his virtual desk, and you can walk confidently around tech trade shows without a ponytailed “Web 2.0 Consultant” offering to put your company on the Second Life map for the price of a company car.  "

"But what has happened to Second Life? Have the hundreds of thousands of registered players logged off and found a real life? Has the Second Life economy collapsed? And what’s become of the extroverts, entrepreneurs and evangelists I encountered on my first visit? There’s only one way to find out. I’m going back in."

"Has Second Life become a digital ghost town? Not according to its makers, Linden Labs. 'In total, users around the world have spent more than one billion hours in Second Life,' the company claimed in September 

"And it isn’t just using that big figure to distract attention from a slowing interest in the online world: 'user hours grew 33% year-on-year to an all-time high of 126 million in Q2 2009,' Linden insists."

"A little research soon reveals why Second Life seems a lot quieter than the numbers suggest. In June, the company opened Zindra – Second Life’s 'adult continent', a huge plot of the virtual universe dedicated to content rated as 'mature', 'adult' or even 'PG'.  

"Given that sex and gambling accounted for the majority of the 'most popular places' when I first visited, it was suddenly apparent why I was as lonely as a cloud in the parts of the Second Life universe that wouldn’t upset the clergy.  

"So why did Linden establish its very own red-light district? It seems the company decided it was time to clean up its act. In 2008, a management shake-up saw founder and CEO Philip Rosedale move into the role of chairman; his replacement was Mark Kingdon, a man who spent 12 years as a partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers – about as far from Linden’s 'anything goes' culture as you could possibly get."

"Kingdon apparently realised that companies such as IBM (which has more than 50 in-game properties) and Microsoft don’t want their reputations sullied by being part of a virtual world where XXX DANA’S NAUGHTY PLAYHOUSE XXX is the star attraction.

"So instead of bulldozing the sex shops and brothels, Linden decided to relocate them to their own dedicated island. Now Big Blue and the blue-movie theatres can both comfortably entertain their clients, and never the twain shall meet.

"Other vices were quashed a little less amicably. In 2007, Linden caused enormous upset after shutting down casinos and other in-world gambling dens overnight, following an FBI investigation into whether the site was breaking the US ban on online gambling. People who’d invested enormous amounts of time and hard cash into developing their own casinos found they’d literally been wiped off the map, without compensation" (http://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/354457/whatever-happened-to-second-life/1, accessed 01-27-2010).

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"The World's First Full-Size Robotic Girlfriend" January 9, 2010

On January 9, 2010 Artificial intelligence engineer Douglas Hines of TrueCompanion.com introduced Roxxxy at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

" 'She doesn't vacuum or cook, but she does almost everything else,' said her inventor, Douglas Hines, who unveiled Roxxxy last month at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"Lifelike dolls, artificial sex organs and sex-chat phone lines have been keeping the lonely company for decades. But Roxxxy takes virtual companionship to a new level. Powered by a computer under her soft silicone skin, she employs voice-recognition and speech-synthesis software to answer questions and carry on conversations. She even comes loaded with five distinct 'personalities,' from Frigid Farrah to Wild Wendy, that can be programmed to suit customers' preferences.

" 'There's a tremendous need for this kind of product,' said Hines, a computer scientist and former Bell Labs engineer. Roxxxy won't be available for delivery for several months, but Hines is taking pre-orders through his Web site, TrueCompanion.com, where thousands of men have signed up. 'They're like, 'I can't wait to meet her,' ' Hines said. 'It's almost like the anticipation of a first date.' Women have inquired about ordering a sex robot, too. Hines says a female sex therapist even contacted him about buying one for her patients.

"Roxxxy has been like catnip to talk-show hosts since her debut at AEE, the largest porn-industry convention in the country. In a recent monologue, Jay Leno expressed amazement that a sex robot could carry on lifelike conversations and express realistic emotions. 'Luckily, guys,' he joked, 'there's a button that turns that off.' Curious conventioneers packed Hines' AEE booth last month in Las Vegas, asking questions and stroking Roxxxy's skin as she sat on a couch in a black negligee.

" 'Roxxxy generated a lot of buzz at AEE,' said Grace Lee, spokeswoman for the porn-industry convention. 'The prevailing sentiment of everyone I talked to about Roxxxy is 'version 1.0,' but people were fascinated by the concept, and it caused them to rethink the possibilities of 'sex toys.' '

"Hines, a self-professed happily married man from Lincoln Park, New Jersey, says he spent more than three years developing the robot after trying to find a marketable application for his artificial-intelligence technology. Roxxxy's body is made from hypoallergenic silicone -- the kind of stuff in prosthetic limbs -- molded over a rigid skeleton. She cannot move on her own but can be contorted into almost any natural position. To create her shape, a female model spent a week posing for a series of molds. The robot runs on a self-contained battery that lasts about three hours on one charge, Hines says. Customers can recharge Roxxxy with an electrical cord that plugs into her back.

"A motor in her chest pumps heated air through a tube that winds through the robot's body, which Hines says keeps her warm to the touch. Roxxxy also has sensors in her hands and genital areas -- yes, she is anatomically correct -- that will trigger vocal responses from her when touched. She even shudders to simulate orgasm. When someone speaks to Roxxxy, her computer converts the words to text and then uses pattern-recognition software to match them against a database containing hundreds of appropriate responses. The robot then answers aloud -- her prerecorded 'voice' is supplied by an unnamed radio host -- through a loudspeaker hidden under her wig.

" 'Everything you say to her is processed. It's very near real time, almost without delay,' Hines said of the dynamics of human-Roxxxy conversation. 'To make it as realistic as possible, she has different dialogue at different times. She talks in her sleep. She even snores.' (The snoring feature can be turned off, he says.) Roxxxy understands and speaks only English for now, but Hines' True Companion company is developing Japanese and Spanish versions. For an extra fee, he'll also record customizable dialogue and phrases for each client, which means Roxxxy could talk to you about NASCAR, say, or the intricacies of politics in the Middle East" (http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/02/01/sex.robot/, accessed 02-06-2010).

In December 2013 I revisited the Truecompanion.com website, which then advertised Roxxxy as "World's First Sex Robot: Always Turned on and Ready to Talk or Play." By then the company had diversified into three models of female sex robots, and was planning to introduce Rocky, a male sex robot: "Rocky is described as everyone's dream date! – just imagine putting together a great body along with a sparkling personality where your man is focused on making you happy!"

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Kinect for Xbox is Introduced November 4, 2010

On November 4, 2010 Microsoft introduced Kinect, a natural user interface providing full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition, and voice recognition, for the Xbox 360 video game platform. The device featured an "RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone running proprietary software."  It enabled users to control and interact with the Xbox 360 without the need to touch a game controller.

"The system tracks 48 parts of your body in three-dimensional space. It doesn’t just know where your hand is, like the Wii. No, the Kinect tracks the motion of your head, hands, torso, waist, knees, feet and so on" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/technology/personaltech/04pogue.html?scp=1&sq=kinect&st=cse, accessed 11-04-2010).

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IBM's Watson Question Answering System Defeats Humans at Jeopardy! February 14 – February 16, 2011

LOn February 14, 2011 IBM's Watson question answering system supercomputer, developed at IBM's T J Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York, running DeepQA software, defeated the two best human Jeopardy! players, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Watson's hardware consisted of 90 IBM Power 750 Express servers. Each server utilized a 3.5 GHz POWER7 eight-core processor, with four threads per core. The system operatesd with 16 terabytes of RAM.

The success of the machine underlines very significant advances in deep analytics and the ability of a machine to process unstructured data, and especially to intepret and speak natural language.

"Watson is an effort by I.B.M. researchers to advance a set of techniques used to process human language. It provides striking evidence that computing systems will no longer be limited to responding to simple commands. Machines will increasingly be able to pick apart jargon, nuance and even riddles. In attacking the problem of the ambiguity of human language, computer science is now closing in on what researchers refer to as the “Paris Hilton problem” — the ability, for example, to determine whether a query is being made by someone who is trying to reserve a hotel in France, or simply to pass time surfing the Internet.  

"If, as many predict, Watson defeats its human opponents on Wednesday, much will be made of the philosophical consequences of the machine’s achievement. Moreover, the I.B.M. demonstration also foretells profound sociological and economic changes.  

"Traditionally, economists have argued that while new forms of automation may displace jobs in the short run, over longer periods of time economic growth and job creation have continued to outpace any job-killing technologies. For example, over the past century and a half the shift from being a largely agrarian society to one in which less than 1 percent of the United States labor force is in agriculture is frequently cited as evidence of the economy’s ability to reinvent itself.  

"That, however, was before machines began to 'understand' human language. Rapid progress in natural language processing is beginning to lead to a new wave of automation that promises to transform areas of the economy that have until now been untouched by technological change.  

" 'As designers of tools and products and technologies we should think more about these issues,' said Pattie Maes, a computer scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab. Not only do designers face ethical issues, she argues, but increasingly as skills that were once exclusively human are simulated by machines, their designers are faced with the challenge of rethinking what it means to be human.  

"I.B.M.’s executives have said they intend to commercialize Watson to provide a new class of question-answering systems in business, education and medicine. The repercussions of such technology are unknown, but it is possible, for example, to envision systems that replace not only human experts, but hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs throughout the economy and around the globe. Virtually any job that now involves answering questions and conducting commercial transactions by telephone will soon be at risk. It is only necessary to consider how quickly A.T.M.’s displaced human bank tellers to have an idea of what could happen" (John Markoff,"A Fight to Win the Future: Computers vs. Humans," http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/science/15essay.html?hp, accessed 02-17-2011).

♦ As a result of this technological triumph, IBM took the unusal step of building a colorful website concerning all aspects of Watson, including numerous embedded videos.

♦ A few of many articles on the match published during or immediately after it included:

John Markoff, "Computer Wins on 'Jeopardy!': Trivial, It's Not," http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/science/17jeopardy-watson.html?hpw

Samara Lynn, "Dissecting IBM Watson's Jeopardy! Game," PC Magazinehttp://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2380351,00.asp

John C. Dvorak, "Watson is Creaming the Humans. I Cry Foul," PC Magazinehttp://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2380451,00.asp

Henry Lieberman published a three-part article in MIT Technology Review, "A Worthwhile Contest for Artificial Intelligence" http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/guest/26391/?nlid=4132

♦ An article which discussed the weaknesses of Watson versus a human in Jeopardy! was Greg Lindsay, "How I Beat IBM's Watson at Jeopardy! (3 Times)" http://www.fastcompany.com/1726969/how-i-beat-ibms-watson-at-jeopardy-3-times

♦ An opinion column emphasizing the limitations of Watson compared to the human brain was Stanley Fish, "What Did Watson the Computer Do?" http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/what-did-watson-the-computer-do/

♦ A critical response to Stanley Fish's column by Sean Dorrance Kelly and Hubert Dreyfus, author of What Computers Can't Dowas published in The New York Times at: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/watson-still-cant-think/?nl=opinion&emc=tya1

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Texting During the Climb up El Capitan in Yosemite November 2011

Texting in Unusual Contexts:  For more than two weeks in November 2011 climber Tommy Caldwell lived on a nylon ledge hung 1,200 feet up El Capitan, the massive sweep of granite standing sentinel over Yosemite Valley. 

"One of the world’s best all-around rock climbers, he slept on the ledge, cooked on the ledge and went to the bathroom into a receptacle hanging below the ledge. And at the top of this solitary, silent sport, he was being watched by thousands of spectators around the world. . . .

"Caldwell updated his progress on Facebook using his iPhone, which he charged with portable solar panels on the wall. His fans, more than 4,000 of whom he accumulated during his climb, could follow along in real time with commentary from the climber himself. No need to wait days, weeks or months for a print article or video. The Dawn Wall, as Caldwell’s project is known, is the latest example of what has become an increasingly accepted practice among professional climbers and the wider climbing community: from-the-route social media. Observers enjoy it, sponsors encourage it and climbers get to share what is inherently a selfish pursuit" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/10/sports/as-climbers-go-text-it-on-the-mountain-reaction-is-divided.html?hp).

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2012 – 2016

The Youngest Person to Create a Mobil Game App January 17, 2013

On January 17, 2013 the Philadelphia Tribune announced that Zora Ball, a seven year old first grader at the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School in Philadelphia, was the youngest person ever to create a full version of a mobile game app. Zora created the app using the Bootstrap programming language. She unveiled the app at the University of Pennsylvania’s “Bootstrap Expo.”

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The First NeuroGaming Conference Takes Place May 1 – May 2, 2013

On May 1-2, 2013 the first NeuroGaming Conference and Expo took place at the YetiZen Innovation Lab, 540 Howard St., San Francisco. It was organized by Zack Lynch, founder of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization. Three hundred people attended.

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U.S. and British Spies Infiltrated "World of Warcraft" and "Second Life" December 9, 2013

According to classified documents disclosed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe. 

"Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.

"The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players.... Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.

"Online games might seem innocuous, a top-secret 2008 N.S.A. document warned, but they had the potential to be a “target-rich communication network” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight.” Virtual games “are an opportunity!” another 2008 N.S.A. document declared. (nytimes.com,12-09-2013,"Spies' Dragnet Reaches a Playing Field of Elves and Troves). 

♦ On December 9, 2013 The New York Times made original documents referred to in the above-mentioned story available at this link

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"The Internet Archive Console Living Room" Hosts Video Games from the '70s & '80s December 27, 2013

In December 2013 the Internet Archive opened "The Internet Archive Console Living Room," making available a very wide selection of computer video games from the 1970s and 1980s that were originally made for the Atari 2600, the Atari 7800 ProsSystem, The ColecoVision, The Magnavox Odyssey (known as the Philips Videopac G7000 in Europe), and the Astrocade. When the "Living Room" was opened the games did not feature sound, though that was expected to made available "shortly." The free service allowed the games to be downloaded or run through an in-browser emulation of the programs.


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The KUKA KR AGILUS in a Table Tennis Match Against Timo Boll February 9 – March 10, 2014

On February 9, 2014 KUKA (Keller und Knappich Augsburg), an international manufacturer of industrial robots and solutions for factory automation based in Augsburg, Germany, uploaded a video to its official YouTube channel KukaRobotGroup, teasing the audience with their new robot, the KUKA KR AGILUS, which they characterized as the "Fastest Robot on Earth." The teaser video showed a trailer of KUKA's robot competing against the German table tennis star Timo Boll at a staged match in Sofia, Bulgaria. 

The full video was available on March 10, 2014. Because the video was not a real match, but a commercial with extensive computer graphic imagery (CGI), it received strong criticism from the table tennis community. However, the "match" undoubtedly achieved its purpose, as when I checked on YouTube in May 2014, the video had been viewed more than 5 million times.

The company also uploaded a video on the making of the "commercial" :

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Facebook Acquires Oculus VR, Designer and Builder of Virtual Reality Headsets March 25, 2014

On March 25, 2014 Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook, announced in his blog:

"I'm excited to announce that we've agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the leader in virtual reality technology.

"Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we're in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.

"This is where Oculus comes in. They build virtual reality technology, like the Oculus Rift headset. When you put it on, you enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away. The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you're actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it's different from anything they've ever experienced in their lives.

"Oculus's mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences.

"Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won't be changing and we hope to accelerate. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there's a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform. We're going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games. Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook to achieve this.

"But this is just the start. After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home.

"This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.

"These are just some of the potential uses. By working with developers and partners across the industry, together we can build many more. One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.

"Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together. I can't wait to start working with the whole team at Oculus to bring this future to the world, and to unlock new worlds for all of us."

When I wrote this entry on April 6, 2014 Facebook's website stated that 195, 678 Facebook users "liked" Zuckerberg's announcement.

News media stated that Facebook paid $2,000,000,000 for Oculus VR, headquartered in Irvine, California. 

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A Computer Masters Heads-up Limit Texas Hold 'em Poker January 8, 2015

A breakthrough in artificial intelligence published in January 2015 allowed a computer to master the simplest two-person version of the poker game known as Texas Hold'em working through every possible variation of play to make the perfect move every time. When performed without mistakes, just like the childhood game tic-tac-toe, there’s no way to lose. In this case the player is Cepheus, an algorithm designed by Canadian researchers.

We have a strategy that can guarantee a player won’t lose,” said Michael Bowling, a computer scientist from the University of Alberta, who led a team working on the program. “It’s going to be a break-even game. It’s only when someone makes a mistake that they could end up losing.

Michael BowlingNeil BurchMichael JohansonOskari Tammelin, "Heads-up limit hold'em poker is solved," Science 347, no. 6218 (2015) 145-149 

"Poker is a family of games that exhibit imperfect information, where players do not have full knowledge of past events. Whereas many perfect-information games have been solved (e.g., Connect Four and checkers), no nontrivial imperfect-information game played competitively by humans has previously been solved. Here, we announce that heads-up limit Texas hold’em is now essentially weakly solved. Furthermore, this computation formally proves the common wisdom that the dealer in the game holds a substantial advantage. This result was enabled by a new algorithm, CFR, which is capable of solving extensive-form games orders of magnitude larger than previously possible" (Abstract).

See also: http://news.sciencemag.org/math/2015/01/texas-hold-em-poker-solved-computer, accessed 01-14-2015.

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2016 – Present

DeepMind's AI Algorithm Masters the Ancient Game of Go January 27, 2016

On January 27, 2016 the artificial intelligence company DeepMind, a division of Google based in London, announced that its AI progam AlphaGo mastered the ancient Chinese game of Go.

"Traditional AI methods—which construct a search tree over all possible positions—don’t have a chance in Go. So when we set out to crack Go, we took a different approach. We built a system, AlphaGo, that combines an advanced tree search with deep neural networks. These neural networks take a description of the Go board as an input and process it through 12 different network layers containing millions of neuron-like connections. One neural network, the “policy network,” selects the next move to play. The other neural network, the “value network,” predicts the winner of the game.

"We trained the neural networks on 30 million moves from games played by human experts, until it could predict the human move 57 percent of the time (the previous record before AlphaGo was 44 percent). But our goal is to beat the best human players, not just mimic them. To do this, AlphaGo learned to discover new strategies for itself, by playing thousands of games between its neural networks, and adjusting the connections using a trial-and-error process known as reinforcement learning. Of course, all of this requires a huge amount of computing power, so we made extensive use of Google Cloud Platform.

"After all that training it was time to put AlphaGo to the test. First, we held a tournament between AlphaGo and the other top programs at the forefront of computer Go. AlphaGo won all but one of its 500 games against these programs. So the next step was to invite the reigning three-time European Go champion Fan Hui—an elite professional player who has devoted his life to Go since the age of 12—to our London office for a challenge match. In a closed-doors match last October, AlphaGo won by 5 games to 0. It was the first time a computer program has ever beaten a professional Go player. You can find out more in our paper, which was published in Nature today....

"We are thrilled to have mastered Go and thus achieved one of the grand challenges of AI. However, the most significant aspect of all this for us is that AlphaGo isn’t just an“expert” system built with hand-crafted rules; instead it uses general machine learning techniques to figure out for itself how to win at Go. While games are the perfect platform for developing and testing AI algorithms quickly and efficiently, ultimately we want to apply these techniques to important real-world problems. Because the methods we’ve used are general-purpose, our hope is that one day they could be extended to help us address some of society’s toughest and most pressing problems, from climate modelling to complex disease analysis. We’re excited to see what we can use this technology to tackle next!. Posted by Demis Hassabis, Google DeepMind" (https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2016/01/alphago-machine-learning-game-go.html, accessed 02-09-2016).

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What Google's DeepMind Learned in Seoul with AlphaGo March 16, 2016

What we learned in Seoul with AlphaGo

March 16, 2016
Go isn’t just a game—it’s a living, breathing culture of players, analysts, fans, and legends. Over the last 10 days in Seoul, South Korea, we’ve been lucky enough to witness some of that incredible excitement firsthand. We've also had the chance to see something that's never happened before: DeepMind's AlphaGo took on and defeated legendary Go player, Lee Sedol (9-dan professional with 18 world titles), marking a major milestone for artificial intelligence.
Pedestrians checking in on the AlphaGo vs. Lee Sedol Go match on the streets of Seoul (March 13)

Go may be one of the oldest games in existence, but the attention to our five-game tournament exceeded even our wildest imaginations. Searches for Go rules and Go boards spiked in the U.S. In China, tens of millions watched live streams of the matches, and the “Man vs. Machine Go Showdown” hashtag saw 200 million pageviews on Sina Weibo. Sales of Go boards even surged in Korea.

Our public test of AlphaGo, however, was about more than winning at Go. We founded DeepMind in 2010 to create general-purpose artificial intelligence (AI) that can learn on its own—and, eventually, be used as a tool to help society solve some of its biggest and most pressing problems, from climate change to disease diagnosis.

Like many researchers before us, we've been developing and testing our algorithms through games. We first revealed AlphaGo in January—the first AI program that could beat a professional player at the most complex board game mankind has devised, using deep learning and reinforcement learning. The ultimate challenge was for AlphaGo to take on the best Go player of the past decade—Lee Sedol.

To everyone's surprise, including ours, AlphaGo won four of the five games. Commentators noted that AlphaGo played many unprecedented, creative, and even“beautiful” moves. Based on our data, AlphaGo’s bold move 37 in Game 2 had a 1 in 10,000 chance of being played by a human. Lee countered with innovative moves of his own, such as his move 78 against AlphaGo in Game 4—again, a 1 in 10,000 chance of being played—which ultimately resulted in a win.

The final score was 4-1. We're contributing the $1 million in prize money to organizations that support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and Go, as well as UNICEF.

We’ve learned two important things from this experience. First, this test bodes well for AI’s potential in solving other problems. AlphaGo has the ability to look “globally” across a board—and find solutions that humans either have been trained not to play or would not consider. This has huge potential for using AlphaGo-like technology to find solutions that humans don’t necessarily see in other areas. Second, while the match has been widely billed as "man vs. machine," AlphaGo is really a human achievement. Lee Sedol and the AlphaGo team both pushed each other toward new ideas, opportunities and solutions—and in the long run that's something we all stand to benefit from.

But as they say about Go in Korean: “Don’t be arrogant when you win or you’ll lose your luck.” This is just one small, albeit significant, step along the way to making machines smart. We’ve demonstrated that our cutting edge deep reinforcement learning techniques can be used to make strong Go and Atari players. Deep neural networks are already used at Google for specific tasks—like image recognitionspeech recognition, and Search ranking. However, we’re still a long way from a machine that can learn to flexibly perform the full range of intellectual tasks a human can—the hallmark of trueartificial general intelligence.
Demis and Lee Sedol hold up the signed Go board from the Google DeepMind Challenge Match

With this tournament, we wanted to test the limits of AlphaGo. The genius of Lee Sedol did that brilliantly—and we’ll spend the next few weeks studying the games he and AlphaGo played in detail. And because the machine learning methods we’ve used in AlphaGo are general purpose, we hope to apply some of these techniques to other challenges in the future. Game on!

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