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found this gem in the great newsletters that the Recipe du Jour
Trio put out, written by Simply Tim, and printed by permission.
Tim's photo at right; click to enlarge. I can relate to Tim's
STICK SWORD IN EAR
By Tim Lee -
Recipe du Jour
Needless to say, the holiday season brings all of
the toy manufacturers out of the woodwork and onto the television screen.
And whenever I see an advertisement for computer games, I can't help but slip
back to the early 1980's when I bought my first computer. It was a Radio
Shack Tandy Model 4. In those days there were no hard drives; a lot of memory
was considered to be 64-K (bytes). [1,000 K = 1-KB (kilobyte); 1,000 KB = 1-MB
Relax. To put all of this gobbledygook in perspective - - if my math is correct - - it
would take nearly 16 MILLION Radio Shack Model 4 computers to equal the mnemonic
power of a single modern computer's standard 1-GIGABYTE (one BILLION bytes!) of
memory, and you can bet modern computer games use every bit of it.
But 64-K of memory was enough the night I slipped my first computer-game
diskette into the Model 4's floppy drive. The game was called ZORK.
There were no graphics, no colors, no such thing as a mouse. Not even
Windows. There was only a keyboard and a black and white screen.
The game was a TEXT-only fantasy game, meaning you were presented with a
descriptive paragraph to which you would type in an appropriate response.
The response directed you to another paragraph of text. For instance:
"You are standing in a mountain field. To the East is a stone farmhouse.
To the South is a meandering brook. To the West you can barely make out a
pathway that leads to a dark forest. To the North is a. . ."
You type: "GO EAST" and hit the <Enter> key.
"A rusty gate bars your way to a two-story farmhouse. Just inside the gate
on a cobblestone walkway you notice a paper bag. The walkway disappears on
the West side of the house, where a rope swing is tied to an old and gnarled oak
You type: "Pick up paper bag."
"You can't do that. A rusty gate bars your way."
You type: "Open gate."
"The gate is now open."
You type: "Enter."
"A nasty Troll leaps from behind an unnoticed bush and cuts off your head with a
very dull sword. You are dead. Would you like to restart?"
As a serious player I eventually
learned to draw maps and save my game location frequently, so I could return to
the moment of safety just prior to being destroyed by a host of critters far
nastier than a meager troll. I played right through that first night until
- - all of a sudden - - the sun was peeking through my kitchen window. How
did that happen? Undaunted, I put on a pot of coffee, called work,
slathered a few choice, flu-like symptoms into the phone, took a day of sick
leave, and played ZORK non-stop for another eighteen hours.
"You are standing in a cold, dank cave. You are holding a lantern whose
yellow light barely illuminates the cavern. You own a sword, a magic
amulet, a section of rope, a clove of garlic, a rubber raft, and a bicycle pump.
From the East you feel a chilly breeze. To the South you hear the faint
fluttering of wings. Large stones block your way to the West and to the
You type: "Raise lantern."
"Vampire Bats descend. You drop the lantern In the sudden darkness
you feel teeth tearing at your face. Tiny bat-paws are clinging to your
You frantically type: "THROW CLOVE OF GARLIC!"
"It is dark. You can't find the garlic. Stinky bat-tails are
wriggling up your nostrils. A bat has grabbed hold of your tongue.
You are on the verge of blacking out."
Copyright Tim Lee 2003
More about early computers:
The Commodore and