Feeds

Happy Birthday Tetris: It's flipping 30

Soviet bloc blockbuster

Reducing security risks from open source software

Antique Code Show Forget the oil, forget the gas – even forget the aggressive foreign policy. The commodity that granted Russia its modern day super-wealth is clearly Tetris, which clocks up its 30th birthday today.

Youtube Video

Poor old beardie Alexey Pajitnov – the title’s original designer and programmer – bashed out his first attempt on a Soviet Electronica 60 computer at the Russian Academy of Sciences, buried behind the Cold War communist curtain of 1984.

The following year, industrious 16 year-old student Vadim Gerasimov ported Tetris to the PC and, alongside Pajitnov, worked towards the final pre-commercial release. Friends outside of the academy were given copies and within a couple of weeks Tetris had spread to every computer across Moscow.

Yet Pajitnov, who’d spent many, many days perfecting his code – and allegedly smoked an inordinate number of cigarettes throughout the process – had to wait 10 full years before the Russian government would finally relinquish the game’s intellectual property back to him.

Transliterated titles were a popular way to communicate the foreign origin

Transliterated titles were a popular way to communicate the foreign origin

Well, if only the history of Tetris was as simple as that; it’s actually one of the most legally disputed videogames in existence. If Russia had been quicker to act, events may have been more straightforward.

However, it took until 1988 for the USSR to figure out exactly what videogame gold-dust it had on its hands. Consequently, a state-owned company called Elektronorgtechnica (ELORG for short) was established to negotiate publishing rights to third parties.

In the crucial few years beforehand, intrepid software houses scrabbled around Moscow attempting to gain an elusive, watertight third-party licence, planting the seed for what would become a huge mess of legal wrangling. Robert Stein, of British software house Andromeda, spotted the title’s potential after seeing unofficial ports to the Apple II and Commodore 64 in Hungary.

Another typically Russian scene on the Apple IIgs

Another typically Russian scene on the Apple IIgs

The agreement he attempted to make with Pajitnov himself led to a botched contract and subsequent miss-selling of rights to, amongst others, Robert Maxwell’s Mirrorsoft game publishing house, and its American equivalent, Spectrum Holobyte. These twin companies went on to release separate versions of the game, such was the fever to get Tetris out there.

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Next page: Rights and wrongs

More from The Register

next story
Child diagnosed as allergic to iPad
Apple's fondleslab is the tablet dermatitis sufferers won't want to take
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
For Lenovo US, 8-inch Windows tablets are DEAD – long live 8-inch Windows tablets
Reports it's killing off smaller slabs are greatly exaggerated
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Seventh-gen SPARC silicon will accelerate Oracle databases
Uncle Larry's mutually-optimised stack to become clearer in August
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.