How About a Nice Game of Chess – on the Actual WarGames Computer?


Greetings, Professor Falken wanna-be. The IMSAI 8080, created by Todd Fischer to be the PC that hacks into NORAD for the movie WarGames, is for sale. The computer is in working condition, and valued at over $25,000. Unlike in Global Thermonuclear War, the only winning move here will be to play…the bidding game. Fischer is accepting serious offers at [email protected].

Along with the pitch comes some amusing, geek-level trivia/nitpickery by Fischer about his initial read of the script:

A few items struck me as lacking credibility. First, the central character (Matthew Broderick) would access a military computer (the visually delightful W.O.P.R. in the movie) using his home computer connected to an acoustic coupler and his telephone handset. At that time, acoustic couplers had a maximum communications rate of 300 baud (ridiculously slow then, and now by today’s standards).

The requirement of an acoustic coupler was mandated more for visual effect than for reality. I resolved the credibility issue by providing the only IMSAI 212A modem ever made (actually, a Cermetek 212A modem that I was evaluating as a possible addition to our product line). By repainting the front panel and carefully applying press-on lettering, I provided a plausible, if unstated high-speed data link (at a blazing 1200 baud!) for the movie’s plot. An acoustic coupler was still used to satisfy the visual effect in the movie.

Another thing was apparently missing from the initial script. How was this young lad going to load software into his computer? I called Mike Fink to discuss this and he admitted that the issue never even came up. I suggested an IMSAI FDC-2 (the dual Calcomp 142 8″ floppies in an enclosure similar to the 8080), and he readily accepted the offer. The loading of one of those 8″ disks (about 1 meg of storage in double density format) is one of the few equipment close-ups that made the final cut of the film.

It probably won’t run many games you ‘d want to play today, but I hear it does a pretty mean Tic-Tac-Toe.