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Tech Culture: Tales of Silicon Valley: The original FPS
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Tech Culture: Tales of Silicon Valley: The original FPS

2:37 /

Bruce Damer tells the story of how his knowledge of the original first-person shooter avoided patent nightmares in this episode of Tales of Silicon Valley. <br> <a href="http://www.digibarn.com/history/04-VCF7-MazeWar/index.html">DigiBarn Maze War 30-year retrospective</a>

>> Silicon Valley is full of stories. Some pretty, some not. This is one of those stories. ^M00:00:07 [ Sound effects ] ^M00:00:10 >> Bruce Damer, curator of the DigiBarn tells how he effectively open sourced the idea of a first-person shooter for everyone. >> I was given a piece of paper that had this -- it was a black and white print out that showed this eyeball in this long hallway. And I asked the guy what this was and he said, that's Maze War on the Xerox Star Workstation. I said that looks like a multi-user game and I'm an Avatar guy. I wrote a book about Avatars and I know a lot about it. And he said what year was that? It was early eighties, but that was invented in the seventies. I said there's nothing on that in the history books, but it's actually a first-person shooter. You're running around multi-user on the ARPAnet seeing other people in this maze and shooting at them. It turns out that there are back players, there were levels. There was instant messaging, spoofing, all that stuff -- building inside these mazes and I dug out the original artwork on this. We found the guy with the original Imlac PDS-1 machine from 1972, got it restored followed a listing for Maze word, MIT or somewhere. Shift the machine out here, did an event in 2004 to bring Maze War back to life. So, you could play Maze War on the original Imlac machine, which looks like a Hell 9003 -- weird. And play it with modern computers with the new version of Maze on it. So, we did this whole event, it was like the Maze War's 30th birthday party, brought it back to life and put all the stuff on the web and then we had a call from several law firms. And the law firms said this prior art is so compelling that it has virtually destroyed the entire patent protection regime around multi-player gaming specially around first person shooter because it's so compelling priority we didn't know about decades before these patents were filed. And I said, what -- hallelujah, what we've done is open sourced effectively -- made into public domain the idea of a shared visual cyberspace with players. And I said, this was worth all these effort. So, by digging up all these old history, you basically throw away the ability for people to own the invention. >> Uh-huh. >> And so that's becomes a kind of function of the DigiBarn. >> Look for more tales of Silicon Valley at CNET TV.com

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