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Source Code for Seminal Adventure Game Zork on Dead Mainframe Exhumed Onto GitHub

Accepted submission by upstart at 2020-05-08 14:54:13
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Source code for seminal adventure game Zork on dead mainframe exhumed onto GitHub [theregister.co.uk]:

Source code for seminal adventure game has been Zork recovered and published on GitHub [github.com].

While classic adventure games (aka interactive fiction) are well represented in the Internet Archive - there’s plenty of playable Zork versions here [archive.org] - this new trove is source code that’s been retrieved from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tapes of Tech Square (ToTS) collection [mit.edu] at the MIT Libraries Department of Distinctive Collections (DDC).

If you access the repo and its README you’re told the source was written “in the MDL programming language written on a PDP-10 timeshare computer running the ITS operating system”.

Dungeon-exploration adventure games existed before Zork, but the game’s four developers advanced the genre beyond simple noun-plus-verb commands to allow reasonably complex statements involving multiple in-game-objects. That made it more playable, which generated interest and eventually saw the code make it onto ARPANET where it found an appreciative audience.

The game’s developers eventually created Infocom, a software company that did not set out to champion text adventures but became synonymous with them as it spawned numerous Zork clones sequels and spin-offs. Zork therefore acquired something of a cultural footprint. Classic lines from the game such as “It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a Grue” were geek identifiers years before “The cake is a lie” took on the same role.

The code in the repo comes from 1977, before the game was commercialised but at a time it was informally distributed.

If you get it running, let us know how you go – with the reproduction of the PDP-10 environment and the game! ®

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