Thursday, December 29, 2011


Merry Christmas to all and to all - well, to all a 4-day belated Merry Christmas that's what!  I've got so many gaming irons in the fire at the moment and so precious little time to play with them lately. But I will be hitting them pretty hard in the next couple of weeks so expect me to babble on about this and that with a little more regularity pretty soon.  For today, just a little rant about a ridiculous little game that everyone knows, but nobody plays - Tic-Tac-Toe. Or possibly noughts and crosses to my friends across the pond. There is a reason this game is on my mind which I will touch on in a moment, but for now a brief history.

Tic-Tac-Toe has been around forever. Invented by the ancient Egyptians - probably.  Possibly even cavemen. I really don't know and refuse to google it. But suffice to say it has been torturing human children for a long time. In the old days the ancient Egyptians had to use the sand, or possibly papyrus if you were well off, to play, but 20th century technology ushered in the fantastic new world of electronic tic-tac-toe!

1952:  "Noughts and crosses" (or OXO) was developed at Cambridge University, England for the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) computer and is widely accepted as the very first graphical computer game.  If you'd care to play a game of OXO just like it would have played on the EDSAC you can even download a program that simulates the EDSAC and try it out:

1976:  Seeing the consumer demand for a home electronic version of Tic-Tac-Toe, Fairchild Semiconductor releases the cleverly-titled "Tic-Tac-Toe" for the Fairchild Channel F video game console. But a public clamor arose - "I can't carry my Channel F around with me! Where's my portable version?!"  (I've played the Channel F version. It's Tic-Tac-Toe i.e. utterly without value).

1978:  Parker Brothers releases Merlin the Electronic Wizard - a handheld toy with six different games built into the unit.  Game #1 of course is Tic-Tac-Toe. I still have my old Merlin. Maybe it is because I was already 9 years old when I played with it, but I clearly remember thinking that Tic-Tac-Toe was completely worthless even back then. The other games were pretty cool though. As with the EDSAC and the Channel F, some clever gent has developed an online simulator that will allow you to try out a Merlin. It's actually kinda cool if you ever had one as a kid:

1980:  Finally, someone puts a new spin on the age-old game when Atari releases "3D TIC TAC TOE" for the Atari 2600. The game is almost marginally playable which puts it head and shoulders above the classic Tic-Tac-Toe. Kudos Atari!

Then companies finally realized that electronic tic-tac-toe was a supremely stupid idea so they stopped making them. Years went by which brings me to the reason for this post if anyone is still reading. For Christmas I bought my wife an iPad2 and I was on the app store downloading some apps for her when I stumbled across "Tic Tac Toe" by Optime Software LLC.  Currently version 2.17 - really?  They couldn't nail it with version 2.16??). The app weighs in at a hefty 16.1 MB. 16.1MB for tic-tac-toe!!!  Chessmaster 2000 is rolling over in his grave.

"Put away your pencil and paper - now you can play Tic Tac Toe on your iPhone or iPod Touch for free. Tic Tac Toe Free is the first full-featured, free Tic-Tac-Toe game for the iPhone and iPod Touch!"

Apparently it offers 1-player, 2-player, and network play. Network play? Wow. How incredibly bored must some sad individual be to want to jump online and fire up some good old tic tac toe?

and for only $0.99 you can upgrade to Tic Tac Toe Plus HD!!!  I'm holding out for the 3D version.

So I typed in tic-tac-toe on the search box and sure enough, the app store is LOADED with them! Many of them are free but a lot of them are actually charging $0.99 and some even more than that. Very few of them offer any new twist on the game because all of them agree that it is a "timeless classic". No. Chess is a timeless classic. Hangman is a timeless classic. Scrabble is a timeless classic. I might even be convinced that solitaire is a timeless classic. But no sir. I don't care how long it has been around. Tic Tac Toe is not a timeless classic.

So in the immortal words of W.O.P.R.

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?"

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Fallguy40 said...

We got a Kindle Fire for Christmas and you guessed it, there are Tic-Tac-Toe apps for it as well.

I can't wait to get playing.

BTW, Merlin was the bomb back in the day.

MadPlanet said...

I wouldn't even download the free versions of those things, I can't comprehend why anyone would actually pay for one.

So you had a Merlin back in the day too eh Fallguy? Nice little toy.

PungentOnion said...

I admit, years ago I had a copy of the 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe for the 2600. I would probably rate it slightly higher than 'marginally playable', but not a whole lot higher. I thought for sure I had a copy now with my old consoles, but alas it was only a fantasy. Obviously a future purchase I need to consider!!

My favorite quote from War Games: "I'd piss on a spark plug if I thought it would help."

MadPlanet said...

Well, admittedly my rating of 3D TIC-TAC-TOE was based on 1-player play. Like most Atari games, I could see where it might be a little more entertaining played as 2-player. I actually have the manual so I KNOW I had the game at one time, but I have no recollection of playing it whatsoever which probably says something about my interest level in it back in the day.

Fallguy40 said...

I don't think I had a Merlin, but I knew people who did.

For me, Tic Tac Toe is one of those games I play with the kids on the kids restaurant mat at Chili's. That's about it. And even then, I don't want to play.

MadPlanet said...

yeah I can see that - playing it to amuse a small child. But like you said even then you'd just as soon do it with a crayon on a piece of paper. Basically just a tiny step above random doodling.

Fallguy40 said...

When are you going to start Tweeting?

MadPlanet said...

Doubt that'll ever happen FG. Can't see myself being able to muster up enough interesting things to tweet!

Mik said...

Why this unwinnable game (unless your opponent is a brain-damaged mole with no paws) is still that popular in its original formula, is beyond me. I guess it's just because all you need is a writable surface and something to mark it...

Well, buon anno MadPlanet!

MadPlanet said...

yep - and I've even seen videos of chickens playing it for goodness sake! Not sure if chickens are more intelligent than moles but either way, assuming usable paws/claws it doesn't even need human-level intelligence to play.

Grazie friend Mik and a buon anno to you as well! :)