Lunar Lander

Tagged: Game

Videogame (1969). Designed by Jim Storer. Platforms: Mainframe, Arcade, Others.

The first version of Lunar Lander, known as the Lunar Landing Game (1969 Mainframe) and designed by Jim Storer, was turn-based, using a keyboard to accept commands and a teletype printer to display the results. In an homage to the Apollo missions, players had to land a lunar module on the surface of the Moon, while conserving their limited supply of fuel. Storer was a student at a US high school when he wrote the original game; distinct versions, known as Rocket and LEM, were created in the early 1970s by other American students. Eventually the code for all three programs was published in 101 BASIC Computer Games (1974 rev vt BASIC Computer Games 1978) edited by David Ahl. An improved variant in which the player had to land the lunar module in real time on a two-dimensional visual representation of a mountainous moon was then commissioned by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), to demonstrate the capabilities of their GT40 graphics terminal. Developed by Jack Burness, this version – Moonlander – was freely distributed on DEC mainframes from 1973. In 1979 Atari Corporation converted the graphical design to a popular arcade game (see Videogames), adding more sophisticated controls and the ability to purchase extra fuel for more money. This version proved to have enduring popularity, spawning an entire genealogy of copies, clones and derivatives.

In contrast to its predecessor Spacewar (1962), the lander's movement is always modelled using realistic Physics. In fact, nature's cold equations are the player's only enemy; there are no aliens to fight, or missiles to avoid. Lunar Lander remains one of the few Videogames to be based on a real space programme, as opposed to the many games inspired by fictional forms of space exploration. [NT]

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