The New York Times has reported that video game pioneer and Spacewar
co-developer Alan Kotok died of a heart attack at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 26, at the age of 64.
A Philadelphia native, Kotok was accepted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he was just 16. While attending college, he worked with other MIT students who shared his interest for technology to develop the first video game, Spacewar
in 1962 as a “hobbyist project”. The game ran on a Digital Equipment PDP-1 computer, and served as a precursor to many twitch-based games to follow.
The article notes that Kotok worked in tandem with Steve Russell, Spacewar's
chief author and notorious procrastinator, and once in an effort to get the project moving, Kotok drove to Digital Equipment himself to retrieve paper tape with math routines required to write the game's movement code. Russell also commented to the New York Times that while Kotok did not write any of the game's original code, he was nonetheless “an inspiration to the group and contributed to the game's design.” However, despite its influence, neither Kotok nor Russell became wealthy off of their creation.
Kotok spent 34 years working for Digital Equipment in various roles, including the chief architect of the PDP-10 family of computers and a senior consultant to Digital's Alta Vista search engine project. Most recently he served as the associate chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium, an internet standards organization. Alan is survived by his daughter, Leah Kotok, as well as his a stepson, Daryl Beck, and stepdaughter, Frederica Beck.