Happy Birthday to Tetris–The Original Handheld Video Game!

tetris birthday june 6 modern

Believe it or not, there was a time when there was no such thing as a video game. People had to leave their houses and visit arcades to play Skeeball or pinball or air hockey. And they certainly had to go out to an arcade if they wanted to play a computer game that was more complicated than Pong. Remember Pong? Oh, honey, we’re old. It looked like this:

Anyway, the whole gaming industry changed on July 6, 1984. That’s when Tetris became the first entertainment software–or, more accurately, video game–exported to the United States.

The game was originally published by Spectrum HoloByte for Commodore 64 and IBM PC home computers. Tetris soon moved on to take over the arcades at the mall, though. It had been designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov in Soviet Russia, where it first began to be known by names such as “The Tile-Matching Puzzle.”

Broken down to its basics, Tetris is just a game of stacking and shifting. You use blocks and columns, and you get 100 points every time you clear off a line. Clearing off four lines earns 800 points, but the game  becomes more difficult as lines clear. It’s tough to win as the game keeps getting faster and you have to keep your lines from stacking to the top of the video game field.

By 1989, Nintendo’s GameBoy had established its popularity largely due to Tetris. The game looked like this…

…and by 2005, Tetris had sold 100 million copies for cellphone use alone. Tetris turned on plenty of people to video games, so we’re honored to celebrate its birthday. And keep in mind that Alexey Pajitnov didn’t make much money off his original game. The copyright was held by the Soviet government–but since the collapse of the Soviets, he’s licensed his game worldwide. So this is a happy birthday for Alexey, too!