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For other uses, see Oxo (disambiguation).
OXO emulated screenshot.png
OXO played in an EDSAC simulator
Designer(s) Alexander S. Douglas
Platform(s) EDSAC
Release date(s) 1952
Mode(s) Single player

OXO was a computer game created by Alexander S. Douglas in 1952 for the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) computer, which simulates a game of tic-tac-toe. Douglas programmed the game as part of his Ph.D. thesis on human-computer interaction for the University of Cambridge. OXO is the earliest known game to display visuals on a video monitor, though is not generally considered to be the first video game due to its lack of moving graphics.


The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) mainframe computer was built in the University of Cambridge's Mathematical Laboratory between 1946 and 6 May 1949, when it ran its first program,[1][2] and remained in use until 11 July 1958.[3] The computer filled an entire room, and included three 35×16 dot matrix cathode ray tubes to graphically display the state of the computer's memory.[4] As a part of his 1952 Ph.D. thesis on human-computer interaction, Alexander S. Douglas used one of these screens to portray other information to the user; he chose to do so via displaying the current state of a game.[5] He used the EDSAC to simulate a game of noughts and crosses, also called tic-tac-toe. Douglas did not give the game a name beyond "noughts and crosses"; the name OXO first appeared as the name of the simulation file created by computer historian Martin Campbell-Kelly while creating a simulation of the EDSAC several decades later.[6] OXO is the earliest known game to display visuals on a video monitor.[7] Despite running on a computing device and using a graphical display, OXO is not generally considered the first video game due to its lack of moving graphics.[8]


Each game was played by one user against an artificially intelligent opponent, which could play a "perfect" game. The player entered input using a rotary telephone controller, selecting which of the nine squares on the board they wished to move next. Their move would appear on the screen, and then the computer's move.[6] The game was not available to the general public, and was only available to be played in the University of Cambridge's Mathematical Laboratory, by special permission, as the EDSAC could not be moved.[4]


  1. ^ Wilkes, M.V. (January 1997). "Arithmetic on the EDSAC". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing (IEEE) 19 (1): 13–15. ISSN 1058-6180. 
  2. ^ "Pioneer computer to be rebuilt". Cam 62: 5. 2011. 
  3. ^ "EDSAC 99: 15–16 April 1999" (PDF). University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory. 1999-05-06. pp. 68–69. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  4. ^ a b Baker, Kevin (2013-05-23). The Ultimate Guide to Classic Game Consoles. eBookit.com. pp. 7–8. 
  5. ^ Kurosu, Masaaki, ed. (2014-06-09). Human-Computer Interaction Applications and Services: 16th International Conference, HCI International 2014, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, June 22-27, 2014, Proceedings, Part 3. Springer Publishing. p. 561. 
  6. ^ a b Hey, Tony; Pápay, Gyuri (2014-11-30). The Computing Universe: A Journey through a Revolution. Cambridge University Press. p. 174. 
  7. ^ Sfetcu, Nicolae (2014-05-04). "History of Computer and Video Games". Game Preview. Sfetcu. 
  8. ^ Kowert, Rachel; Quandt, Thorsten (2015-08-27). The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games. Routledge. p. 3. 

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