Originating in the 1970s, Snake has become a classic of simplistic video game design. With merely two controls to speak of, turning left and right relative to the direction of the main character, Snake has found its way into popular culture and ultimately our hearts.

Play is fairly straight forward. Navigate a game board without running into obstacles, such as walls and ones self. Score points by running into or “eating” pieces of food. Each piece of food accumulated causes Snake’s tail to grow, thus increasing the complexity of the game board. With no way to stop or reverse, Snake is fundamentally a game of finite length.

For some Snake might be most known as the game that comes with most Nokia phones. Debuting in 1997 on the Finnish candy-bar style 6110 series handsets, Snake consisted of monochrome squares controlled by a rudimentary D-pad. Since then Snake has found a massive audience with Nokia users with new versions including Snake EX – a 16-bit color quality versions sporting multiplayer support over IR and Bluetooth. More recently Snake has evolved to include 3D graphics on Nokia phones.

In 2005 Taneli Armanto, Nokia engineer responsible for Snake on Nokia devices, received an award and special recognition for his pivotal role in embedding Snake on the 6110 from the Mobile Entertainment Forum.

For me Snake was first known as Nibbles, a Qbasic sample program included in MS-DOS version 5.0. This ANSI color graphic Snake variant included 9 levels and featured multiplayer support where by two players could use a single keyboard to navigate individual snakes across a game board. For me Nibbles served as a gateway to programming as the source code, freely modifiable, made the game easy to hack.

Today Snake lives on in many forms. Some of my favorites include Youtube and Gmail. To play Snake on Youtube one must hold the left key for two seconds and press the up key while a video is loading. The video loading throbber will then become the familiar always hungry creature.

To play Snake in Gmail one must visit Mail Settings and activate Old Snakey from the Labs menu.

Darren Kitchen has been exploring underground scenes since his first 1200 baud modem. He first found technolust after writing a BBS dialer in BASIC on a PC-XT. Since then he has made a career of his self-taught tech skills in the field of Systems Administration. After founding Hak5 in 2005 he has become fascinated with new media. Darren also pwns you in Unreal Tournament.

40 years later, Snake still nibbling


  • Cory

    WHOA!!! Takes me back. This was my first introduction to programming as well! I remember as a second grader I modified the line reading “var lives=3”. The rest was history.

    • Olivier

      @Cory: more probably something like “DIM lives = 3” 😉

      QBasic games were fun. There was also Gorillas which was pretty cool.

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