Tetris on the Green Building
Pushed past the brink
"Game Over" by David Sheff
Original Tetris - Free Download
Tetris is a popular game developed in 1985-86 by Alexey Pajitnov (Pazhitnov), Dmitry Pavlovsky, and me. Pajitnov and Pavlovsky were computer engineers at the Computer Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences. I was a 16-year-old high school student. My computer science teacher Arkady Borkovsky brought me to the Computer Center of the Soviet Academy of Sciences where I worked and played with IBM PCs. I quickly learned programming and enjoyed working on various fun computer projects.
Pavlovsky noticed me when I was writing a directory encryption program for MS DOS. He told me that he liked computer games and had designed a few games himself for a mainframe computer. He asked me if I was interested in helping him to convert the games to the PC and to work together on new game ideas. I obviously was very interested. Pavlovsky showed me his games and gave the source code of one of them. The next day I made a PC version of his game. We started working together.
Very soon he introduced me to his friend Alexey Pajitnov who also was interested in making computer games. As I remember, Pavlovsky told me that Pajitnov had even managed to sell some of his psychology-related games. Pajitnov demoed his games for us; and we decided to work as a team. I worked as a PC expert, programmer, and a graphics designer in the team.
Our plan was to make about a dozen addictive computer games for the PC and put them together in one system we called a computer funfair. Pajitnov and Pavlovsky also thought about selling the games. The selling part seemed unusual and difficult because we lived in the Soviet Union. Making something privately and selling it was a highly irregular proposition. We focused on making development tools for the PC, converting earlier games by Pavlovsky and Pajitnov to the PC, and developing new game ideas.
In a few weeks we had converted most of the worthy older games and developed a good set of libraries to support graphics (4-color 320x200), text, and sound in our games. We gathered quite often to discuss new ideas, and to code the games. In a couple of months we had a nice set of games.
A few months after we started working together Pajitnov came up with the Tetris idea. Before we met he had a computer game called Genetic Engineering. In that game the player had to move the 4-square pieces (tetramino) around the screen using cursor keys. The player could assemble various shapes out of tetraminos. I don't remember the ultimate objective of the game.
At one of our meetings Pajitnov told Pavlovsky and me about his new idea to make tetramino fall into a rectangular glass. He believed the game might be successful. Shortly after discussing the idea Pajitnov made a prototype for Electronica 60, then I ported it to the PC using our development system. Pajitnov and I kept adding features to the program for another year or so.
Later Pajitnov and I also developed a 2-player version of Tetris and worked on a couple of psychological test projects. In the 2-player Tetris the glass had no bottom. The pieces for the first player move from the top, for the second - from the bottom. Two players competed for the space inside.
Pajitnov's efforts to sell the games together failed. We gave our friends free copies of a couple of the games including Tetris. The games quickly spread around. When Tetris got outside of the Soviet Union and a foreign company expressed an interest in licensing Tetris, Pajitnov decided to abandon all the games but Tetris. The decision made Pavlovsky very unhappy and destroyed our team. You can read about the business side of the Tetris story in the book "Game Over" by David Sheff.
In 1991 Pajitnov moved to the USA with his best friend Vladimir Pokhilko. Pavlovsky lives in UK since 1990.
Contrary to the claim at http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/2430/a-r1.html there were no "straightforward business arrangement" between Pajitnov and myself. In the Soviet Union, where private business was outlawed and the concept of intellectual property was not clearly defined, people could not make private business arrangements of this kind. The Computer Center of Academy of Sciences owned everything we made. Several years later the situation in the Soviet Union changed, but this was a different story. When I worked on Tetris, even a government organization could not formally hire me because I was underage. I worked on Tetris just for fun. I don't remember Pajitnov ever paying me for anything related to Tetris either. Pajitnov started fixing the business aspects of the situation a few years later when he and Henk Rogers participated in negotiations between Elorg (the only government organization in the USSR that could sell software abroad) and the game companies. Pajitnov paid me a visit at my home and asked me to urgently sign a paper "to get lots of money for us from the game companies". He didn't leave me a copy of the paper. As far as I remember the paper was saying that I agree to only claim porting Tetris to the PC, agree to give Pajitnov the right to handle all business arrangements, and refuse any rewards related to Tetris. I did not entirely agree with the content, but signed the paper anyway.
The first MS DOS version of Tetris
The first MS DOS version of Tetris was implemented a few days after Alexey put together his first prototype of the game for the Electronica 60. All three of us - Dmitry, Alexey, and I - were fans of Pascal and structured programming despite then-recently-published text "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal". We used various flavors of Pascal to implement our game ideas. Under MS DOS the development system of choice was Borland's Turbo Pascal. I started learning programming with v1.0. The last version of Tetris, we worked on together, was compiled in Turbo Pascal v3.02. In fact, I still enjoy programming in the descendant of Turbo Pascal, Borland Delphi.
We diligently implemented the MS DOS version of the game in such a way that it could run on any PC we had available. The program ran in a text mode using colored space symbols to represent squares of teraminos. The game could even automatically recognize the IBM monochrome card adjusting the way it drew (printed) on the screen. The clock-frequency race had already started with the introduction of IBM PC AT and PC clones. Many games released for the earlier PC and PC XT (4.77 MHz) models ran too fast on the newer machines. Our game was one of the first to use proper timer delays. Quite remarkably 20 years later the same program still runs without any changes, looks and feels the same (especially in the full screen DOS box).