Developer: James A. Storer (Programmed by)
Release date: 1969
Platform: Mainframe (DEC PDP-8)
Type: Space flight
More info: Technologizer
Related games: –
Alternate title: Rocket
Lunar is the original Lunar Landing game. The player’s aim is to successfully land a lander on the moon’s surface. The game plays in turns which represent one second and is completely text based. In each turn the player is asked to determine the rock fuel burn rate, which can be between 0 and 200. The velocity, height above surface and remaining fuel is reported back to the player.
The aim is to have a controlled landing and the player must make sure his velocity was not too high when the surface approaches and thus not run out of fuel prematurely. When the surface is reached the player is shown his remaining fuel and landing speed. If the player runs out of fuel the game continues with second to second updates, but no longer accepts input from the player.
He was just a high school student…
The game created by James A. Storer, a 17 year old Massachusetts high school student.
Storer wrote his new program, “Lunar Landing Game,” in FOCAL, a programming language for the PDP-8 that was similar in some ways to BASIC (both were introductory languages known for their ease of use).
Along the way, Jim Storer created one of the earliest computer games–one of a handful of text-based PDP-8 games of the 1960s, and one of the first computer simulation games ever. In less than 50 lines of code, Storer captured the imaginations of an entire generation of programmers with a gripping space drama composed of nothing more than simple text statements.
Storer submitted his game to PDP-8 maker DEC, which was always looking for innovative and interesting uses of its computers. The programs were usually distributed for free or used as demonstrations to potential clients, serving as a powerful marketing tool. At DEC, an employee named David H. Ahl translated Storer’s Lunar Lander into the BASIC language, which soon overtook FOCAL as the most popular introduction to programming. From there, both the FOCAL and BASIC versions of Storer’s simulation spread to other PDP-8 users through DEC’s EDU newsletter and through distribution by DEC’s Education Product Group.
After that, Storer forgot about the game. Life went on. He never sold it, and never followed the progress or influence of its imitators as they echoed down through the years. “After leaving high school I never thought about the game again,” says Storer. “Until about a couple of months ago when someone e-mailed me about this, I was completely unaware of any Lunar Lander game other than the one I wrote in high school.”
But Storer’s computer experiences in high school shaped the rest of his career: “I became interested in computer science as a result of taking that computer class and doing programming on the PDP-8.” Storer later studied computer science as an undergraduate at Cornell University and then received his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Princeton University. He is now a professor of computer science at Brandeis University.