Features

Classic challenge

National

Issue: "Terror on trial," Oct. 18, 2003

WHEN MICROSOFT'S SPECIAL X-BOX BUNDLE HITS stores this week, it will feature an updated version of a game that is hardly new: Tetris. Nearly two decades after its creation, Tetris continues to attract millions of gamers.

Tetris is both an intellectual challenge and a symbol of the Cold War's last days. Mathematician Alexey Pajitnov invented the game at the Soviet Academy of Sciences by adapting an old puzzle called Pentomino to fit the limitations of the available technology. The game exploded across Europe and media mogul Robert Maxwell helped bring it to the West. It's been a gaming standby ever since.

Tetris has been translated to numerous computer systems from old Ataris and Commodores to Mac and Windows. Countless clones and imitators have copied Mr. Pajitnov's game or added variations. That the game managed to stay popular so long is amazing, especially since most games are considered old hat after just a few months.

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Today's Tetris, sold by a company called THQ under the name "Tetris World," still resembles the version that leaked out of Moscow in the mid-1980s. The graphics are vastly better and variations abound, but the classic challenge remains.

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