A Maze of Twisty Passages, All Alike

Scott Hamilton
Senior Expert in Emerging Technology

I grew up in an era where computer gaming was a brand new concept. I spent my evenings and weekends riding my bike, climbing trees, sword fighting with hickory switches and playing hide and seek in the dark. Times were different before computers and really even television began to entertain us.
I still remember the very first “computer” game I ever played. My father was a television repairman and he had a book about building your own video games. I remember reading the book when I was a teenager and being fascinated at how easy it was to control the television display with fairly simple electronics. The book was a set of instructions for building “Pong,” the first video game. I don’t know if my father built one for us or bought one somewhere, but I still remember the fascination of turning that little knob and watching the line on my side of the screen move to hit the square ball back to my opponent on the other side of the screen. We spent hours playing Pong.
A few years later the school where my father worked as a night janitor asked him to take the school’s Apple IIe computer home for Christmas break. I was allowed to play on it during the break. There were two games that fascinated me; the first was 20 questions. The computer asked you to think of an animal; it then started asking questions and tried to guess the animal. If it failed, it asked you what made your animal different from the guess. It stored the information for later and learned how to guess new animals. I probably taught it a few hundred new animals during that break.
The second one was simply called “Adventure.” It was the first of many role playing adventure games to come on to the scene. Computers in the mid-1970s did not have much in the line of graphics capabilities so all the games were played on the terminal with text. You had to use your imagination to get enjoyment from the games. The original game has been renamed “Colossal Cave Adventure” to be more descriptive, and you can still play the game today. I even found a download for it on the Google Play store.
Adventure is the game that got me started in my career of Computer Engineering. I stayed up all night, many nights, trying to find all the treasures buried deep beneath the house above the spring.
“You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully,” were the opening words of months worth of exploring the imaginative world created by Will Crowther. My friends and I would sit by the computer and explore the world together any time it was rainy, snowy, dark or cold. We drew maps on tractor-feed printer paper, especially the “Forest,” the “Maze of twisty little passages all alike,” and the “Maze of twisty little passages all different.”
We played the game over the course of a couple of years before we were able to map out the entire cave, discover all the treasure, and win the game with all 350 points. Releasing the mechanical bird from its egg was the hardest of the puzzles to solve. If you want to take a stroll down memory lane with me, download “Colossal Cave Adventure” on your favorite device, pull out a large sheet of paper and a pencil and let’s go exploring.
Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.
Scott Hamilton is an Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to shamilton@techshepherd.org or through his website at https://www.techshepherd.org.

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