Year fifty, the first video game

This story begins at the end of the Second World War, where the interest of radar eavesdropping, aeronautical calculations and the elaboration of the atomic bomb had required supercomputers, thus reserving this practice to the military interest.

THE EDSAC IS HUGE AND REMAINS LESS POWERFUL THAN A CALCULATOR NOWADAYS

In 1949, the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom invested in a new computer, the "EDSAC", for research purposes. It was the first electronic computer in the world, replacing the mechanical computers of the past.


Starting

THE FERRANTI MARK 1 CAN BE PRODUCED IN SERIES

In 1952, Alexander Sandy Douglas worked on his philosophy thesis "man-machine interaction". Deciding to make the computer less austere, Alexander developed a game and transposed in 1951 a prototype made by Christopher Strachey ("Checkers") but made functional by Alexander in 1952 only on a Ferranti Mark1 (the first general-purpose computer, marketable and compatible between the different units produced).


THE COMPUTER INFORMS YOU WHEN YOU ARE TOO SLOW TO PLAY

The "Checkers"


This "Checkers" is the very first game to propose a graphic interface (the fact of seeing the actions on a moving cathodic screen), a sound part (sound effects) and the first program with a completed artificial intelligence in the world. Its impact is still considerable in the history of computer science today. This title will even be broadcast on English television.


"OXO" the beginning of the adventure


Alexander Sandy Douglas not only worked on the conversion of Christopher Strachey's "Checkers" but also on his own EDSAC project, "OXO", as part of his thesis.

THE SCREENS OF THE EDSAC

Still today nobody is really able to define which is the first finished video game but despite the differences, "OXO" is the most often quoted and rightly so...

AUSTERE BUT INNOVATIVE

"OXO" is simply a tic-tac-toe game (the original name was "Noughts and Crosses") which explains its name (the cross and the circles). The game has an artificial intelligence (which does not make mistakes) and a graphic interface.


Limited to the EDSAC computer (not transportable), and therefore not accessible to the general public, its impact will be very limited.


However, researchers believe that Alexander would have presented "OXO" to Cambridge University before finalizing the adaptation of Christopher Strachey's "Checkers", making it the world's first video game.

Article by Romain Villez