Tetris: From Russia with Love

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History, Technology Documentary hosted by Dervla Kirwan, published by BBC in 2004 - English narration

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Image: Tetris-From-Russia-with-Love-Cover.jpg

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Fortunes were made and lawsuits fought as Tetris swept the world in the 1980s and killed a million conversations. But 20 years after the creation of this technological phenomenon, its creator Alexey Pajitnov is only just beginning to make any money.

Back in 1985, in the Cold War Soviet Union, the man responsible for one of the most addictive computer games in history was a jobbing scientist at the Russian Academy of Science. Where his predecessors had monitored Sputniks and calculated Soviet superpower, Pajitnov was able to indulge his love of puzzles and human psychology.

Events conspired to make Tetris the success it proved. Mikhail Gorbachev's rise to power in the Kremlin lowered trade barriers between east and west, and created a new capitalist awareness among Russians.

Game developers in the west like Atari and Nintendo were creating new portable consoles - perfect platforms for the simple design that was Tetris. At the same time, entrepreneurs like Robert Maxwell had noted the huge market potential of electronic entertainment.

All were beating a path to the door of Tetris, which meant getting the signature of one man - Evgeni Belikov at Elorg, the Russian ministry for the export of software. Pajitnov may have invented the game, but in the Soviet era there was no notion of individual copyright - the state owned all ideas.

After much dispute over the various rights to the game, Belikov finally signed the most lucrative licenses to Texan dynamo Henk Rogers, who had been entrusted with securing the rights by Nintendo, which wanted to launch Tetris as part of its new Gameboy package.

Before long, it was statistically likely that anybody with a computer game in their hands was probably playing Tetris. It proved a cross-generational, cross-gender success; its appeal variously explained by the feeling you could always do better, and the pleasure in making sense out of chaos. Many people complained of Tetris-fuelled dreams, and the shapes were even projected on to office buildings.

As Tetris reaches a whole new generation through mobile phones, with even bigger fortunes to be made, Pajitnov remains philosophical about his place as a cog in the great capitalist machinery. "You could always make a little more," he says, "but I never seriously think about this stuff. I live as I live."

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Image: Tetris-From-Russia-with-Love-Screen0.jpg Image: Tetris-From-Russia-with-Love-Screen1.jpg

[edit] Technical Specs

  • File Name ........... : BBC.Tetris.From.Russia.With.Love.2004.XviD.AC3.MVgroup.org.avi
  • Total Size (MB) ... : 699.48 MB
  • Duration .............. : 00:58:54
  • Video Codec ....... : XviD MPEG-4 codec
  • Resolution .......... : 512 x 304
  • Aspect Ratio ....... : 1.68:1
  • Video Bitrate ...... : 1276 KB/s
  • Framerate .......... : 25 FPS
  • Quality Factor ..... : 0.328 B/px
  • Audio Codec ....... : FAST Multimedia AG DVM (Dolby AC3)
  • Audio Bitrate ...... : 384 KB/s
  • Channels ............ : 2 Ch
  • Sampling Rate .... : 48000 Hz
  • Ripped by ........... : Adam Cook

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