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simply_tim.jpg (10210 bytes)ZORKAHOLICS GALORE...    By Tim Lee    Continued    ...<<<Back

My heart is racing.  I am actually SWEATING . I save the game location with a practiced keystroke, and just for the heck of it, I type: "%!&# you!"

The floppy's busy-light flickers, the disk whirls.  Computer byte-brains are flying out of the floppy drive's bay door.  Then, the mighty ZORK responds:

"I am sorry, but I do not understand the word 'YOU'."

It is too late, anyhow.  I crack up laughing.

"You smell like bat guano.  Your tongue looks like spaghetti.  You are drained of blood.  You are dead.  Would you like to restart?"

ZORK was a wonderful game whose days were numbered in the same short moments as those sound-effect-ridden Radio Day shows.  Gone forever and - - if my math is correct - - remembered by few.
Usually it's the off-the-wall Simply Tim yarns that draw so many reader responses. I'm amazed. Tuesday's "STICK SWORD IN EAR" story was one of them. Most folks wrote about how nice it was to have tripped back down memory lane; how the old game of ZORK had also drawn them into its rich tapestry of intrigue; how they, too had called in sick and had forever fallen under ZORK'S mysterious spell; how old-fashioned IMAGINATION was lacking in today's modern computer games; how kids can't enjoy PURE music anymore without accompanying videos; how the act of reading a book is disappearing from our culture; how no one sends bona fide, handwritten letters nowadays. . .

You get the idea.

By golly, let's get back to ZORK - - what an adventure! So many ex-ZORK folks replied to Tuesday's story I decided to search Google for ZORK+DOS just for the fun of it. Incredibly, ZORK is apparently alive and well as I soon discovered at this site where you can find info and downloads:  Wikipedia

The extremely small <!> downloadable ".exe" file walks you through a very quick installation, during which process I recommend creating a new "ZORK" folder for installation rather than the default "desktop" setting.

After installation, the game is started by going to that new folder and clicking on the "ZORK1.BAT" file. ZORK will then open in a typical old-fashioned DOS window (at least in Win 98 or below), although I'm not sure about Windows XP. When I playfully called ZORK up and caught sight of the opening prompt after so many years, the hairs on the back of my neck bristled with anticipation.

Very cool.

If you are interested in downloading and playing the game, or just looking at a bit of computer history check out InfoCom - Zork Downloads .

I am not going to tell you anything further about ZORK. Uh, ah, er - - ARGHhh! Okay, I lied. I will tell you ONE thing more about ZORK: from time to time you will have the occasion to pick up a great deal of curious "items" along the way. But you cannot possibly carry ALL of them without putting them INSIDE something else. Got that? Okay, I'm going to lie again: use the SAVE command often, so you can return to your last point of demise.

Go ahead - - download and PRINT the skimpy instruction manual, put on a pot of coffee, unplug the phone (after calling in sick!), crank up ZORK and slip into the bygone world of text-driven fantasy.

And, oh, yeah - - beware the trolls! 

Copyright Tim Lee 2003

More about early computers:  The Commodore and the Kaleidoscope.

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