By Harry McCracken
Since the dawn of computers, games have been an entertaining way to demonstrate a system’s capabilities. Manufacturers like DEC distributed them as early as the 1960s: They were as powerful sales tools with universal appeal. The tradition continued with some of the earliest PCs. Simple (but often addictive) games are bundled with operating systems to this day.
Here’s a look at notable games that have shipped with OSes through the ages–including ones written by a few of the most famous programmers of all time.
Operating System: Unix and descendants
The first edition of Unix, released in 1971, shipped with four games: blackjack, chess, moo (a guessing game), and tic-tac-toe. All were primitive and text-based. Since then, just about every Unix-like OS has shipped with text games to be played via a shell console. Today’s popular “bsd-games” package includes ASCII classics like Adventure, Trek (seen here), Snakes, Hunt the Wumpus, and more.
Operating System: TRS-80 Level I BASIC
The TRS-80 Model I shipped with two demo games written in BASIC and supplied on cassette: backgammon and blackjack (inset), both seen here. The backgammon board and pieces and cards had to be approximated in the TRS-80′s low-res monochrome character set. Radio Shack stores across America ran these two games as sales demos, introducing many people to computer games for the first time.
Operating System: Apple DOS 3.2
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak designed the Apple II’s specifications so he could reproduce Atari’s Breakout in software. The resulting software was “Brick Out,” a program written by Wozniak in Integer BASIC (also coded by Wozniak).
Brick Out made its informal debut on a prototype II at a Homebrew Computer Club meeting in 1976, then debuted commercially in a new version (“Little Brick Out”) programmed by Bruce Tognizzini that Apple released as part of DOS 3.2 in 1979.
[This post is excerpted with Harry McCracken’s permission from his Technologizer blog.]
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