Computer games have been around a long time. Accounts dating as far back as 1952 mention a tic-tac-toe program called OXO (or Noughts and Crosses) that was part of Alan S. Douglas’s University of Cambridge PhD thesis on human-computer interaction. Other early efforts include William Higinbotham’s Pong ancestor, Tennis for Two at New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1958 and Spacewar! (a galactic shoot-'em-up by Stephen Russell at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1962).
While the concepts behind all these games live on well into the 21st century, the hardware to play them on has gotten smaller, faster, and much more powerful. In 1960, the PDP-1 computer that ran Spacewar! was eight feet tall, weighed 1,200 pounds, and cost $120,000. Compare that to a midsize $300 netbook today that weighs 2.5 pounds and can get lost in a tote bag. Not only do you get more bang for your buck in the memory and processing departments, the graphics have gotten waaaaayyyy better, too.
Granted, a netbook is not an ideal gaming machine for serious connoisseurs of pristine 3-D graphics with surround sound. But there are plenty of other fantastic games out there—online and off—to challenge your reflexes and wits. This chapter introduces you to some of them.
Today’s computers never let you run out of ways to amuse yourself. If music, video, pictures, and the Internet get boring, you can always play a game. Most of the games included ...