I never heard of this gentleman, but perhaps others here have. From the NY Times:
Alan Kotok, 64, a Pioneer in Computer Video Games, Is Dead
By JOHN MARKOFF
Alan Kotok, a computer designer who helped create the first video game program as a member of a small group of M.I.T. students in the early 1960’s, died at his home in Cambridge, Mass., on May 26. He was 64.
The cause was a heart attack, his daughter, Leah Kotok, said.
As a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Kotok developed an interest in computers after joining the M.I.T. Model Railroad Club in the late 1950’s. Its membership included several other young men who shared his interest, and the organization became a kind of incubator for the computer design field.
The students were the original computer hackers, at least as they defined the term. Today it also refers to a computer outlaw, but the term originally described a member of a subculture of passionate hardware and software designers. A “hack” was a project without constructive end, according to a dictionary compiled by the Model Railroad members.
Their original video game, Spacewar, was designed in 1962 as a hobbyist project on an early Digital Equipment PDP-1 computer.
Spacewar was the original “twitch” game, requiring lightning reflexes. Each player used keyboard controls or a joystick to maneuver a tiny ship able to fire a stream of torpedoes as it slid across the screen.
The leader of the group, Steve Russell, was a procrastinator, and although the group passionately discussed a video game with a science- fiction theme, he delayed writing the necessary code until Mr. Kotok drove to Digital Equipment and returned with a paper tape containing the necessary math subroutines.
Though Mr. Kotok did not write any part of the original code, he was an inspiration to the group and contributed to the game’s design, Mr. Russell said yesterday.
Neither man foresaw the creation of an entertainment medium that would one day be a ubiquitous aspect of popular culture.
“The only money I made from Spacewar was as a consultant for lawsuits in the video game industry in the 1970’s,” Mr. Kotok said in an interview in 1990. “I have all this fame, but it’s in a very narrow circle.”
Mr. Kotok was born in Philadelphia. He entered M.I.T. as a 16-year old prodigy, having skipped two grades. He received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in electrical engineering there. As an undergraduate he was involved in the design of chess-playing computer programs with the computer scientist John McCarthy, and his work became the basis for his thesis.
He went on to spend 34 years at Digital Equipment in a number of roles. He was the chief architect of the PDP-10 family of computers and a senior consultant to Digital’s Alta Vista project, an early Internet search engine. More recently he was the associate chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium, an Internet standards organization.
Besides his daughter, of Ashburnham, Mass., he is survived by a stepson, Daryl Beck, of Greenfield, Mass.; and a stepdaughter, Frederica Beck, of Prescott, Ariz.