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June 6, 2020

The Very First Version of Tetris Was Released Into the World on June 6, 1984

Tetris was created in June 1984 by Alexey Pajitnov, an artificial intelligence researcher working for the Soviet Academy of Sciences at their Computer Center in Moscow. Pajitnov chose the name “Tetris” after “tetra”, the Greek word for four, and tennis, his favorite sport. The game proved popular with his colleagues. Academy of Sciences co-workers Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov ported the game to the IBM PC. From there, the PC game exploded into popularity, and began spreading all around Moscow.

Tetris, prototype screenshot (1984)

Tetris, first version screenshot (1984)

Tetris, English version screenshot (1984)

In 1986 Mirrorsoft, a British-based company, signed a deal to produce the game in the United Kingdom. In 1987 Spectrum HoloByte company released its IBM PC version of Tetris in the United States, where the game’s popularity was tremendous.

Tetris was the first entertainment software to be exported from the USSR to the US. Because the idea of intellectual property rights did not exist in Soviet Russia, as anything Pajitnov had made belonged to the state, he did not receive even a bonus for his work.

Tetris, MS-DOS version screenshot (1986)

Tetris by Atari, advertising (1988)

Tetris, arcade version cabinet by Atari (1988)

In 1996, the rights to the game reverted from the Russian state to Pajitnov himself: The Tetris Company was founded, claiming to hold copyright registrations and taking out trademark registrations for Tetris in almost every country in the world.
“I never imagined Tetris was going to be this successful. But the simple, yet addicting nature of Tetris still has me playing it a few times every week.” –– Alexey Pajitnov.
Tetris was inspired by the puzzle board game pentominoes (a pentomino is a plane geometric figure formed by joining five equal squares edge to edge), but its inventor Alexey Pajitnov felt that it might have been too complicated with twelve different shape variations, so switched to tetrominoes, of which there are only seven variants.

Tetris designer Alexey Pajitnov and son holding early copies of Tetris (1989)

“Tetriminos” are game pieces shaped like tetrominoes, geometric shapes composed of four square blocks each. A random sequence of Tetriminos fall down the playing field (a rectangular vertical shaft, called the “well” or “matrix”). The objective of the game is to manipulate these Tetriminos, by moving each one sideways (if the player feels the need) and rotating it by 90 degree units, with the aim of creating a horizontal line of ten units without gaps. When such a line is created, it disappears, and any block above the deleted line will fall. Points are awarded for each Tetrimino successfully dropped into place. When a certain number of lines are cleared, the game enters a new level. As the game progresses, each level causes the Tetriminos to fall faster, and the game ends when the stack of Tetriminos reaches the top of the playing field and no new Tetriminos are able to enter.

The prototype, programmed in Pascal on an Elektronika 60 - a Soviet clone of a Digital Equipment Corp. PDP-11 computer - features monochrome graphics, and the blocks in the tetrominos are represented by a pair of delete/rubout characters (character code 177); a later revision was made where the blocks are represented by a pair of square brackets instead.

(via First Versions)


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