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Internet Game Timeline

The History of Online Gaming 1969 - 1990


Updated May 15, 2014

This is timeline of key events in the history of Internet gaming. It includes significant developments in computer games, console games, and Internet technology. It is a work in progress, so if you see an error or you feel something important has been overlooked, please feel free to email me with the details.

ARPANET, a network with nodes at UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, the UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah, is commissioned by the Department of Defense for research purposes. Leonard Kleinrock at UCLA sends the first packets over the network as he tries remotely logging into the system at SRI.

ARPANET grows to 15 nodes and an email program to send messages across a distributed network is invented by Ray Tomlinson. The possibilities for speeding up games being played by snail-mail at this time are immediately obvious.

Ray modifies the email program for ARPANET where it becomes a quick hit. The @ sign is used to specify a string as an email address.

Atari is founded by Nolan Bushnell.

Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax sell their first typewritten copies of Dungeons and Dragons, a game which continues to inspire both tabletop and computer RPGs to this day.

Will Crowther creates a game called Adventure in FORTRAN on a PDP-1 computer. Don Woods later puts Adventure on a PDP-10 several years later and it becomes the first widely used computer adventure game.

Telenet, the first public packet data service, a commercial version of ARPANET, makes its debut.

Apple Computer is founded.

Radio Shack introduces the TRS-80.

Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, Tim Anderson, and Bruce Daniels, a group of students at MIT, write Zork for the PDP-10 minicomputer. Although, like Adventure, the game is single-player only, it becomes quite popular on ARPANET. Several years later, Blank and Joel Berez, with some help from Daniels, Lebling, and Scott Cutler, produced a version for the company Infocom that ran on the TRS-80 and Apple II microcomputers.

Roy Trubshaw writes the very first MUD (multi-user dungeon) in MACRO-10 (the machine code for DEC system-10's). Although originally little more than a series of locations in which you could move and chat, Richard Bartle takes an interest in the project and the game soon has a good combat system. Roughly one year later, Roy and Richard, at Essex University in the UK, are able to connect to ARPANET in the USA to conduct an international, multiplayer game.

Kelton Flinn and John Taylor create Dungeons of Kesmai for Z-80 computers running CPM. The game uses ASCII graphics, supports 6 players, and is a little more action-oriented than the early MUDs.

The first definitions of the term "Internet" surface.

Intel introduces the 80286 CPU.

Time magazine calls 1982 "The Year of the Computer."

Apple Computers unveils the Lisa. It is the first personal computer sold with a graphical user interface (GUI). With a 5 MHz processor, an 860 KB 5.25" floppy drive, a 12" monochrome screen, a keyboard, and a mouse, the system cost $9,995. Even though the Lisa came with an astounding 1 Megabyte of RAM, it is a financial disaster and the home computer does not get revolutionized until the release of the Mac OS 1.0 about a year later.

The first Microsoft Mouse was introduced concurrent with Microsoft Word. About 100,000 units were built, but only 5,000 were sold.

CompuServe hosts Islands of Kesmai, a reinvention of Dungeons of Kesami, on its network. The cost of participation is a whopping $12 per hour! The game lasts, in various iterations, right up to the turn of the century.

MacroMind, the company that would eventually evolve into Macromedia, was founded.

On March 15, Symbolics.com becomes the first registered domain.

Microsoft Windows hits store shelves.

QuantumLink, the predecessor to AOL, launches in November.

Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar at Lucasfilm develop Habitat, a multiplayer online adventure game, for QuantumLink. The client runs on a Commodore 64, but the game doesn't make it past beta in the US because it is too demanding for the server technology of the time.

The National Science Foundation creates NSFNET with a backbone speed of 56 Kbps. This allows a large number of institutions, especially universities, to get connected.

Jessica Mulligan starts Rim Worlds War, the first play by email game on a commercial online server.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is introduced by Jarkko Oikarinen.

AberMUD is born at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Club Caribe, a derivative of Habitat, is released on QuantumLink.

James Aspnes writes TinyMUD as a simple, compact multiplayer adventure game and invites fellow CMU graduate students to play on it. Adaptations of TinyMUD remain in use on the Internet to this day.

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