Pre-Matrix Beta 1Edit
After the Machine war ended, the remaining surviving humans were taken to be studied and plugged into an initial first power plant matrix without their awareness of being plugged into that matrix.
Matrix Beta 1: The Paradise MatrixEdit
The first Matrix (the Paradise Matrix) was designed to be a perfect human world, where none would suffer and everyone would be happy. It was designed as a Utopian realm where one's desires, namely the mind connected to it, would manifest. However, human minds did not accept this construct, and scores of humans rejected the program.
Agent Smith (relating this story to the incarcerated and drugged Morpheus) noted that "it was a disaster, entire crops were lost," implying that many humans died because of their inability to accept this first Matrix as a real concept. Essentially, humans in the Paradise Matrix, even without memories or knowledge of life outside of it, could inherently tell that it was "too good to be true".
Matrix Beta 2: The Nightmare MatrixEdit
A second Matrix (known as the Nightmare Matrix) was created. This time, the Architect didn't try to make a perfect world, but one based on human history, "to more accurately reflect the varying grotesqueries of your nature". This time, the Architect inserted a primitive 'cause and effect' option into the virtual world.
The Merovingian was a proponent of 'cause and effect' and denied the reality of choice within the Matrix. He also kept henchmen who Persephone described as originating from a much older version of the Matrix. This strongly suggests that the Merovingian himself may have had a hand in the creation of the second Matrix beta. Even if he didn't have a direct role in its creation, The Merovingian was originally the Operating System of the second Matrix Beta, coordinating activity within the entire virtual world.
If the Merovingian's chateau and artifacts are any indication, while the second Matrix Beta was designed to more closely resemble real human history, it somewhat resembled a stilted soap opera or B-horror movie. Instead of a fluffy and soft "Paradise" like the previous version, the Nightmare Matrix was populated with various "Monsters" such as vampires and werewolves, as well as angels. Humans within this Matrix operated within a framework of 'cause and effect', but didn't have true choice, so much as acting out these scripts. Human minds within the second Matrix Beta could still discern on a certain level that it wasn't real. While it wasn't the catastrophic failure of the first Matrix Beta, the second Matrix Beta was still ultimately deemed to be a failure.
The Modern MatrixEdit
- "As I was saying, she merely stumbled upon a solution where nearly 99% of all test subjects accepted the program as long as they were given a choice, even if they were only aware of the choice at a near-unconscious level."
- ―The Architect to Neo [src]
The Machines' temporary solution was to actually allow some of these "red pills" to leave the Final Matrix, though hunting them with Agents and making things difficult enough for them that they thought they were escaping on their own. These human dissidents were allowed to leave and form the refuge-city of Zion, as a sort of pressure-release valve to keep the small percentage of human malcontents outside of the Final Matrix itself.
However, every hundred years or so, when the population of Zion reached about a quarter of a million free humans, it would become big enough to be a threat to the Machines, who would then launch a military attack to destroy it. At about the same time, within the Final Matrix itself, the choice-programming would lead to such a destabilization in the code of the Final Matrix that it would have to be reloaded. The sum total of this human doubt in the Final Matrix would coalesce into a human born in the Matrix known as "The One", who would ultimately have to return to the Machine mainframe computer to return the code and reboot the Matrix over again.