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Tetris Turns 25 177

Posted by timothy
from the where-were-you dept.
teh.f4ll3n writes "25 years ago a Russian (Soviet) researcher thought of one of the world's most popular games. It is now that we celebrate its 25th anniversary. 'Twenty-five years ago, inside the bowels of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow, a young artificial intelligence researcher received his first desktop computer — the Soviet-built Elektronika 60, a copy of an American minicomputer called a PDP-11 — and began writing programs for it.'"
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Tetris Turns 25

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  • Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:32AM (#28183073)
    And because the summary doesn't tell you, that researcher was Alexey Pajitnov, who, despite creating Tetris made comparatively little money off of it even though it is one of the most iconic games of all time and helped revolutionize handheld gaming.
    • Re:Summary (Score:5, Funny)

      by Millennium (2451) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:37AM (#28183165) Homepage

      One of the great travesties of gaming, that. The man got little more than a new computer and a modest bonus.

      In America, you get games and play them. In Soviet Russia, you make games and get played!

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        He also later made a pretty decent little game called Clockwerx which I enjoyed quite a bit as a kid. I highly recommend it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by 117 (1013655)
          I don't know how reliable it is, but this link [mobygames.com] mentions that Alexey Pajitnov didn't have anything to do with the making of Clockwerx, he simply "introduces" the game
      • Re:Summary (Score:5, Informative)

        by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:44AM (#28183297) Journal

        One of the great travesties of gaming, that. The man got little more than a new computer and a modest bonus.

        In America, you get games and play them. In Soviet Russia, you make games and get played!

        Uh, to be fair, it was really the British and the Hungarians that began the ruination of Pajitnov's rights [wikipedia.org]. From Wikipedia:

        The IBM PC version eventually made its way to Budapest, Hungary, where it was ported to various platforms and was "discovered" by a British software house named Andromeda. They attempted to contact Pajitnov to secure the rights for the PC version, but before the deal was firmly settled, they had already sold the rights to Spectrum HoloByte. After failing to settle the deal with Pajitnov, Andromeda attempted to license it from the Hungarian programmers instead.

        There's no way you could (at that time) stop the same thing happening to an American. I think this history of litigation and the international scene of respect for software rights had a lot more to do with it than him being Soviet. Also, note that he sold the rights to this game to Spectrum HoloByte in Russia so he got the initial money he was looking for at least for Russian distribution rights it seems. Did he really get played or just fail to realize how great his game was? Sad when someone sells oneself so short but it happens even today, doesn't it?

        • Re:Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jurily (900488) <jurily@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:13AM (#28183723)

          I think this history of litigation and the international scene of respect for software rights had a lot more to do with it than him being Soviet.

          As a Hungarian, I think if we knew he was a Russian, we'd spread it even faster across the globe. (Note this is 1985, before the fall of the Iron Curtain. We didn't like those guys.)

        • Re:Summary (Score:4, Informative)

          by asdf7890 (1518587) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:23AM (#28183831)

          Uh, to be fair, it was really the British and the Hungarians that began the ruination of Pajitnov's rights [wikipedia.org]

          It was far more complex than that. The BBC did an interesting documentary about the history and rights issues of the game a few years back (around the 20th anniversary IIRC). They got fairly frank interviews with people involved at the time (including the man himself, some of the developers and business people who were fighting for the publishing rights, and the Russian civil servant whose job it was to play all the suiters off each other). Well worth a watch.

          Search for "tetris from russia with love" - if you can't find it to purchase/rent/stream legitimately I'm sure you'll find a copy on your preferred alternative online TV source...

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Wow. What a fascinating history. Thank you for that. I knew Tetris deals had a checkered past, but did not know it was behind rise and fall of mighty companies of 80s,90s and today. And sad story too, how the inventor of the game got almost nothing out of it!
            • by asdf7890 (1518587)

              And sad story too, how the inventor of the game got almost nothing out of it!

              Aye. Though he did end up doing well enough in the end (not as well as he could have done when you consider how much various companies made, but he certainly seems comfortable be all accounts).

        • by dword (735428) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:36AM (#28183995)

          Wait a minute... are you implying that intellectual property should be considered property? People should get paid for their ideas? On Slashdot? And you're getting modded Informative? *

          * the ideas expressed in this post are not my beliefs, they are presented only for their ironic humor

          • by Spatial (1235392)

            Wait a minute... are you implying that intellectual property should be considered property?

            Out of curiosity, on what grounds do people say otherwise? Scarcity differences?

            Thinking about it offhand, property ownership is just as 'imaginary' as the intellectual variety when it comes down to it. Common to both is that ownership is in the mind, with only a legal construct to back it up. It just so happens that we respect each other's physical property a bit more, probably due to territorial instinct.

            [Insert a million comments correcting my ill-thought-out post]

          • by vertinox (846076)

            Wait a minute... are you implying that intellectual property should be considered property?

            Actually if they respected the intellectual property, they would have paid the Soviet Union and not the author simply because all copyrightable works were deemed property of the state who got the licensing fees.

            Of course to be fair, the Soviet government still paid you know matter what your performance was after that so its pretty much the same as what the RIAA and MPAA want for their works.... Eternal socialist gove

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        Why? I doubt that the authors of Adventure, Rouge, and Nethack got even that. Programs should be free.
        Actually I do agree with you. He should have been set for life if not filthy rich.

        • Re:Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

          by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:19AM (#28183785)

          Programs should be free.

          Yeah, it's not like they take any effort to make and it's certainly not like the creators shouldn't be compensated if they so wish.

          NetHack's DevTeam doesn't want money for what they do--awesome. Somebody else does--it's their call.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by LWATCDR (28044)

            Wow that is scary. Not only can't people tell when your kidding but they can not bother reading more than one line!!!!

          • it's certainly not like the creators shouldn't be compensated if they so wish

            You make it sound like you argue that if software writers want to be compensated for their efforts, someone should.

            I wrote `filling', http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/puzzles/java/filling.html [greenend.org.uk]. Where's my money?

            I patched Battle for Wesnoth, Nexuiz, Fluxbox, Openbox, slocate, and a buncha' other programs. Where's my money?

            I'm not entitled to any money for writing that code. I can ask people to pay me money. I can ask companies to pay me money to write whatever code they want me to write.

            If I f

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Mooga (789849)
          The original DOS version is actually available for FREE [oversigma.com]. It's worth loading up and enjoying old-school style.
    • Re:Summary (Score:5, Funny)

      by Waffle Iron (339739) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:47AM (#28183345)

      Gaming? Tetris was no game. It was a highly effective Soviet plot to destroy the productivity of Western nations. This was achieved both by direct diversion of billions of man hours of work time, and by brainwashing: replacing the normal thoughts of the workers by images of falling blocks even when they were not using the program.

      • Re:Summary (Score:5, Funny)

        by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:56AM (#28183483) Homepage

        Also, Western workers caught by it had a reduced ability to reproduce, thus making future generations smaller and weaker than their Russian and Chinese counterparts.

        • Re:Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Xaositecte (897197) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:03AM (#28183587) Journal

          Isn't this backwards science? The Western workers caught by it are, on average, smaller and weaker than their non-gaming counterparts. If they don't reproduce, then all that's left to reproduce will be the ones who value things like "outside" and "sunlight" more than video games. Their children will share those traits, and the game-players will die off as befits any evolutionary branch with a poor (nonexistent?) reproductive strategy.

          • by dkleinsc (563838)

            I was referring to "smaller and weaker" as the generation as a whole, not the average of its members. If the average person is stronger, but there are fewer of them, then the other side still has an advantage.

            Especially in the case of China, this numbers game obviously completely worked.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by oldhack (1037484)
        And don't forget its evil twin, the Rubik's Cube.
      • Re:Summary (Score:5, Funny)

        by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:23AM (#28183835) Journal

        Gaming? Tetris was no game. It was a highly effective Soviet plot to destroy the productivity of Western nations.

        Gorbachev: Ah, KGB Agent Pajitnov, how goes Projekt Tetris?
        Pajitnov: Uh, not so good.
        Gorbachev: Nyet? Why not?
        Pajitnov: Yeah you see the Tetris, it did preoccupy them but they have all developed very specialized hand-eye coordination ...
        Gorbachev: Meaning?
        Pajitnov: Well, they will be better surgeons and ...
        Gorbachev: And?
        Pajitnov: Well, our superior MIGs may have problems if they figure out how to hook them up to their F-16 fighter jets ... and also ... well ...
        Gorbachev: Yes?
        Pajitnov: I've read this new American instruction manual called Ender's Game and our problems may be much larger than we initially thought ...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        The joke's on them. I am now an expert box and grocery bag packer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Andtalath (1074376)

      Also, he's working for Microsoft.
      Talk about lousy rewards.

    • Re:Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TinBromide (921574) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:52AM (#28183421)
      not quite true. Since the fall of the soviet union, he moved to the united states and formed the tetris company which holds all rights and gets money from every tetris game made since 1991 or so. While the wikipedia says he didn't profit, thats just because he didn't profit from the NES or gameboy versions.
      • So what you're saying is, Wikipedia is wrong, and rather than correct it there you correct it here? For shame!

        No, wait, it's been revised...
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Chabo (880571)

          You realize that sometimes Wikijerks prevent people from revising an article to present the truth, right?

          • You realize that sometimes Wikijerks prevent people from revising an article to present the truth, right?

            Wikipedia has never cared about the truth but about verifiability. It defines an encyclopedia article to contain information that is verifiable against reliable secondary sources. And yes, the Wikipedia article mentions The Tetris Company (or should I say The TetriSCOmpany? [abednarz.net]).

            • by Chabo (880571)

              Yes, I know that verifiability is Wikipedia's standard, but there are still power-hungry, freetime-rich jerks who do everything they can to prevent "their" article from being changed from the state they want it to stay.

              These individuals, not vandals, are the most frustrating aspect of attempting to contribute to Wikipedia.

            • If only they stopped with the semi-legal wrangling [espinosaiplaw.com] in the late 90's...
    • It seems like one of the more unique situations where protections under some sort of patent law might be justifiable. There's little doubt that the idea was unique and non-obvious, but that upon release, reimplementation was trivial.

      Should Alexey Pajitnov be granted exclusive rights to release games with Tetris-like gameplay for limited time? Is it in society's best interest? Or do we benefit more by allowing the knockoffs to continue? After all, there's no clear evidence that lack of rules protectio
    • Re:Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:23AM (#28183833)
      Philo I Farnsworth got screwed out of the rights to Television. Inventors almost always get the short end of the stick, unless they sell out and become businessmen. Who's richer Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak? Edison got rich because he was a great businessman.
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:37AM (#28183161)
  • Now I'm going to have the Tetris song stuck in my head all day.

    Thanks, Slashdot.
  • 25 years of people waking up screaming in the middle of the night about those god damn Z and square blocks popping up at the most inappropriate times.
  • by tcopeland (32225) <tom@@@thomasleecopeland...com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:42AM (#28183251) Homepage

    ...seven years ago; JNLP-enabled launcher and code and whatnot are here [infoether.com].

    It was a great exercise, and among other things it taught me that just because I had skimmed through Game Programming Gems [amazon.com] I didn't really know how to code up a game.

  • BBC Documentary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Orome (159034) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:50AM (#28183391)

    I'd highly recommend getting hold of the BBC documentary "Tetris : From Russia with love". Link [bbc.co.uk]

    Also, there was a game design challenge a few years ago at GDC. Mr. Pajitnov was one of the participants (and the eventual winner I think), and I loved the way he approached the problem

    Link [gamasutra.com]

    • by mcubed (556032)

      Cool ... thx for highlighting this.

      I am not a gamer. On the plus side, that made it much easier for me to ditch Windows some years ago, since I never cared about this or that beloved game that I couldn't play without Windows. On the minus side, it means I generally skip over a lot of Slashdot articles.

      But there are two computer/arcade games I love -- Tetris and PacMan. Pong was fun for about two hours, the first time I played it on my friend's dad's Apple something back in the late '70s. I've never grow

  • I still remember L-Block winning the 2008 GameFAQs Character Battle [gamefaqs.com].

  • Pajitnov bad man (Score:3, Interesting)

    by heri0n (786437) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:01AM (#28183559) Journal
    This is also a guy who screwed his friends over once he made the big bucks. Vladimir Pokhilko [sfgate.com] eventually killed his family and himself. Vadim Gerasimov [oversigma.com] who ported the original game to MSDOS and was one of the original developers did not receive any credit for his work. I have been playing Tetris a lot lately on Nintendo DS and on Facebook and love it. However, I hate Pajitnov for not making this game more freely available. I used to play Tetris on a Korean gaming site netmarble.com (it was also available on similar site hangame.com). These versions were also highly addictive and had a huge userbase (easily over 10,000 users). They were shut down due to threats of legal action from the Tetris company... If Tetris were only released under the GPL... (Hangame has licensed tetris since)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bonch (38532)

      Uh, why should he make his game "more freely available?" Why would you hate him for protecting his property so that he can make a living?

      • Once I heard someone say on a discussion about a game that were leaving free beta and going to payed production:

        - Noone should pay for entertainment. It should be free for all.

        I have never been so amused and sad when I realized he wasn't a troll.

      • Uh, why should he make his game "more freely available?" Why would you hate him for protecting his property so that he can make a living?

        But what exactly is his property? Had Pajitnov patented Tetris, it would have expired by now. Copyright is not intended to protect game rules [copyright.gov], and I don't see how trademark would apply to games with names like Lockjaw [pineight.com]. The Tetris Company's claim that other tetromino games are copies of Tetris starts to sound like SCO's claim that Linux is a copy of UNIX.

      • by dwpro (520418)

        Your sig is evidently not true.

  • Tetrinet, anyone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:11AM (#28183671)

    And who can forget the years lost playing Tetrinet [wikipedia.org]?

    Nothing like playing with a bunch of friends over a LAN or the Internet... Heck, I still remember some of the crazy cheats that were possible by misusing the text box. (They don't work anymore, and most servers will kick you if you try).

    I had some nice Tetrinet themes (a few MIDs of the Tetris music, plus a nice "cheater" skin...).

  • Tetristory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:28AM (#28183911) Journal

    Two uses Tetris has been put to over the years:

    Training through Neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) kids with ADD to be able to maintain attention despite distractions.

    Preliminary testing of helicopter pilot trainees in the Hungarian air force; testing ability to maintain attention with increased activity. EEG was used to validate the early results, but the after that the game score itself was adequate.

    As for Pajitnov not getting his due, it was after all, Soviet Russia. Nobody got, or could even expect, getting something due them across the Iron curtain. This was only a game. There was an complete cyrillic based Apple //e system produced over there for years. The major stimulus for that? AppleWorks 1.3 was being used as the primary inventory data handling app by the Red Army from the unit level up. Version 1.4 was hacked to work on their cyrillic machine. Apple never saw dime one from any of that.

  • by jsnipy (913480) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:54AM (#28184271) Journal
    Did Tetris' auto insurance rates go down?
  • by sw155kn1f3 (600118) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:55AM (#28184287)

    Not sure if this game was any popular in US or Europe, but it was quite popular in USSR circa 80s (for small kids of course). I had the game and very much enjoyed it.
    I still have it at my mother's.

    Here's the link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentomino [wikipedia.org]

    So it's not very hard to guess where the guy got idea from. Of course this takes a lot of luck and genius to turn into addictive game ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      Pentominos were a prominent plot device in Arthur C. Clarke's Imperial Earth [wikipedia.org], published in 1975.
    • by radarsat1 (786772)

      Interesting, I remember playing that when I was younger on my game boy [wikipedia.org].

      Kind of makes sense.. take a board game that is based on pure, off-line (that is, non-timed) thought, make it a bit easier but add a time limit and an element of chance, and you have the recipe for an addictive game.

  • A documentary was made about Tetris a number of years back... http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/tetris.shtml [bbc.co.uk] Very interesting watch. Here's the torrent... http://www.mininova.org/tor/1010798 [mininova.org] Enjoy.
  • Tetris is still simply amazing. It's a shame the guy got screwed out of a load of money because you just knew that nothing he'd create afterwards would reach the awesomeness of Tetris.
  • Hum (Score:4, Funny)

    by KlaymenDK (713149) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @01:38PM (#28185743) Journal

    I was going to say something witty, but the characters of the two-liner matched up so perfectly that they disappeared in a puff of points.

  • by domatic (1128127)

    http://fph.altervista.org/prog/bastet.html [altervista.org]

    There was a /. article about it a few years back. It always tries to choose the worst possible block for the next block coming up. Need that long 4 square block? You'll get a evilly oriented z-block....

  • Tetris is nice, but I'd take Puyo Puyo or Columns over it any time.

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