Its Not Magic But

Back in the ancient days, when the Apple IIe was a powerful computer, when 128K was more memory than you would ever use, and when programmers believed that writing compact, efficient code was a thing of honor, I had a T-shirt that said, "I Got the Babel Fish." What this meant was that I had solved one of the most fiendishly clever puzzles in one of the most entertaining computer games ever created: Infocom's version of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Infocom games are text games, and they were among the first that were available for personal computers. You interacted with the game by typing in commands such as, "Go north," or "Throw the ax at the dwarf." What set the Infocom games apart were the depth of the descriptions, the remarkable humor which permeated each game, and the absolutely mind-numbing puzzles. These games are probably the finest exercises in creative problem solving which have ever been devised.

Activision (which now owns Infocom) has released 30 of the classic text adventures on one CDROM. Included are all the Zork games, the Enchanter/Sorcerer/Spellbreaker trilogy, and the riotous and vaguely vulgar Leather Goddesses of Phobos. This is an incredible bargain, and playing these games on a fast machine is an absolute delight. Games today may be flashier, but there are none which are finer than these "relics" from the early days of personal computing.

Two notes: If you're interested in Interactive Fiction, check out the web site at http://www.undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca/~svanegmo/if/if-archive.html. Also, the only downside to the Activision disc is that they were unable to include The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But it's probably just as well; the puzzles are so tough they would only break your heart.

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