One Of the Lost Mainframe Games Found   3 comments

Two years ago I blogged about lost mainframe games, including this one:

LORD (1981, Olli J. Paavola)

I’ve got dual interest in this one, not only from it being a mainframe game from Finland (it was written while Olli was at the Helsinki University of Technology) but also for being allegedly the first interactive fiction book adaptation.

With 550 separate locations, this game is huge by most standards. It does not really try to be completely consistent with Tolkien but mixes elements from many other sources. It is clear, however, that it is made with a great love for and knowledge of Tolkien’s books.

I got a couple emails (by both Anthony Hope who helped unearth Wander, and the journalist Jukka O. Kauppinen) letting me know that the source has been found (by Mr. Paavola himself) and is currently at exhibit and playable at the Finnish Museum of Games.

Unfortunately, playing it means physically being in Finland; there’s no general release. Anyone in that neck of the woods?

The museum has on display one more text adventure I’d never heard of before — Aikaetsivä! (1986) by Jukka Tapanimäki:

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Posted March 8, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

3 responses to “One Of the Lost Mainframe Games Found

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  1. This caught my eye, because I’m planning to go to Helsinki this summer for the World Science Fiction Convention (http://www.worldcon.fi/ ). Unfortunately, it looks like the museum is around a 2 hour drive or a 3 hour bus ride from Helsinki, which is probably a bit much to fit into our current schedule. Maybe some others would like to try to combine those trips, though.

  2. A game with 550 rooms must have been tough to program back in 1981. I wonder if these are unique locations, or a lot of them are empty, and if they slow down the game?

    • @IHateDavidCage: Keep in mind that the game was running on a machine that was classified as a (small) mainframe, which means that it had hardware resources that dwarfed anything available on micro machines for close to a decade. Megabytes of main memory, hundreds of megabytes of online hard drive space per drive (and mainframes typically could have several drives attached – I’m not sure how many a typical DEC-20 would have). Individual users would probably have quotas on how much they could use at a time, but the machine itself would have no trouble keeping up. For a text adventure without graphics, the storage occupied by 550 rooms should not be a problem for a 1981-era mainframe. If you assume 1000 bytes per room, which is generous (that would cover 10 80-byte lines of long description, a short description, and various data involving connectivity, special properties, and so on), the whole data structure would take up half a megabyte, which could easily fit in main memory. It would probably be smaller than that – a lot of rooms aren’t going to need that much long description.

      For DEC-20 memory capacity, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DECSYSTEM-20 (keep in mind that each 36-bit word was 4 9-bit bytes, so you need to multiply word counts by 4 to get equivalent bytes. 1024 kilowords would be 4 Megabytes.) For DEC disk drive capacities from 1981, see http://www.inwap.com/pdp10/hardware/disks-1981.html .

      The main limitation would probably be on the designer’s time to create and write descriptions for each room, and figure out how they connect up. But that would be true in any era.

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