Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hunt the Wumpus: It's all Mainframes

Everything old is new again.

Right now, I am listening to some Brown noise (it's like white noise but at a lower frequency) on my computer. My pc is getting this stream from a server somewhere. I guess if I understood Al Gore's interwebs better I could figure out where that server is. I don't know.

But here I am, on earth, with a little noise going...and it comes from somewhere else. Some hard drive or thing or alien in another state.

During unit lunch in high school...that's what they called it because it started at 11:17 AM and went to 11:47 AM (approx)...the entire school was set free to eat. It was madness. My very close friend SS and I, at times, like others who were a bit bookish and preferred things calm, would escape to the science wing and log in to the mainframe computer. It was easy to do. There was a phone, the old kind with an ear part and a mouth part, black, and it was pushed into a black soft rubber suction cup holder and this phone received all its signals from Westchester County, I think Tarrytown, and instructed our terminal what to display.

It was displayed on a dot matrix printer. Yep. No screen. Just paper.

The game we played was called HUNT THE WUMPUS, which was some sort of geometric hunt through a dodecahedron (A polyhedron with 12 equal faces and 20 vertices) and by some process of elimination, you could figure out where this wumpus was hiding. There were rules about where it could move. The secret passageways from one face to another were defined by odd and even numbers or multiples of three, I don't remember exactly. SS often killed the Wumpus. Sometimes it got away. I was hopeless. To this day, I can barely find my car in a parking structure.

But it was a fun way to kill unit lunch (if not often, too, the Wumpus). And it was all done by mainframe.

The game was written in BASIC. You can read about it here.

It was beyond thrilling to have a phone pushed into a strange device that allowed us to play this game, the dot-matrix white and green striped paper printing out our turns as we typed.

Of course, the difference with a mainframe and a pc is the mainframe does all the computing, too. But, really, it won't be long before you won't both downloading anything any longer.

And if you don't believe me, stand still long enough and the Wumpus will eat you.

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