Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Intelligent design


This made me think; these religious types with their god created the universe in 6 days and all that bollocks, where did their god get his development gear from? Who calibrated it?

In the beginning was the word? Like hell. In the beginning was the RS order, or in the beginning was the AVO meter.

And God looked on the face of the meter and said "Fuck me, this isn't even a model 8..."

Ruminations : Invasion of the Body Snatchers

[copy of a recent email]

Many years ago, back in the dark ages of 8-bit games machines, there was a game called Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Here are my ruminations on all the high score changes in Invasion. When I can work up the energy I'll do the same for the other games.

First there was a list of various friends, etc.

"andym" is changed to "A.Machin"
Andrew Machin was a friend, and also author of the LERM tape copier. Met him through my brother, who was a teacher at the same school as Andrew. I wandered in there one day and was stuffed in front of a class and had to give an impromptu lecture in games design... Petty much my idea of hell ;)

"chewrubba" is changed to "The Thing"
I was occasionally called chewrubba. Reference to a hairy character from Star Wars and the Spectrum keyboard, as if anyone couldn't work that out.

"motty" is changed to "N.Pottingshed".
Reference to Neil Mottershead. I doubt he ever bothered to play it to find this...

"krdt" is changed to "K.R.D.Terry".
Keith Terry is one of my oldest friends, who probably hated the game ;)

"alanw" is changed to "A.Walker"
One of my earliest friends.

"rozzer" is changed to "R.Walker"
Rosalind Walker... Sigh. Alan's beautiful sister, the first girl I kissed seriously. God, I wanted her... Hell, I still want her ;)

"johnl" is changed to "J.Lawrence"
And another very old friend, who I have completely lost touch with...

"meb" is changed to "Hello Maria !"
MEB were the initials of Maria, Martin Horsley's girlfriend. Neil and I lusted after her as well... (Martin, Neil and I had previously written Halls of the Things).

"maria" is changed to "Programmers in general eh ?"
Maria again - I once asked her at a party if she was interested in Martin or just programmers in general. She said programmers in general, but she was only trying to fend off my drunken advances. Hang on... Sounds like she was encouraging them... Blast! Where's my bloody time-machine? [later-earlier-later again] Nope, fending off it was...

"mash" is changed to "Smart arse"
Mash was Martin Horsley's nom-de-high-score table. I suspect this entry has something to do with his relationship with Maria, the lucky bastard. Might also be a reference to "Rommel's Revenge", which he was developing at the time. I can't be sure now...

"dave" is changed to "The cardboard box !"
This is (a) a reference to comic sketches in one of Jasper Carrot's series. Googling will tell you more.But it's really intended as (b) a way to take the piss out of a friend of Neil's who was called Dave, surprisingly enough. Any other Daves are collateral damage and I apologise profusely...

"jdg" is changed to "Hi Jim !"
JDG were the initials of James Garside, another old friend. Jim and I had been sharing a flat while we were at university. It was where most of Halls was written.

"c.c.c" is changed to "Chrisipoos"
C.C.C. -> Christopher Charles Clark, I think. Chris was one of the founders of Crystal Computing. I'm not sure if we were getting on well at this point, a bunch of us were about to stage a revolution and set up our own software house (Design Design).

Then there are a few HHGTTG-ish references.

"whatisthe" is changed to "42 of course !"
"marvin" is changed to "Life don't ...."
"zaphod" is changed to "It's easier with three arms I suppose"

Then there are a few general references.

"kickaha" is changed to "P.J.Finnegan"
Kickaha is the name used by the character "P.J.Finnegan" in Philip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers series of fantasy books. But it's a reference to a reference, because "P.J.Finnegan" has the initials "PJF", the same as "Philip Jose Farmer", so Kickaha is a reference to Farmer as he'd like to be, as indeed would I. That series were and still are some of my favourite books... Kickaha was also the default name we used for the initial high-score in Halls of the Things, and I suspect there are other references to The World of Tiers series in the other games.

(Kickaha is a native american name for a trickster, to put it very loosely. A role I'd relish if I were only cunning enough ).

"cheesecake" is changed to "Greens Original"
Neil was officially the catering manager - this is true, we had one for some arcane reason or other - glomming free food, I'd imagine, and in this role he often made chicken curries to a recipe that his mother had given him. They were excellent. Afterwards, well frankly after any possible excuse, we would have a Greens Original cheesecake. In fact, I'm tempted to go and have one now... There were other references to these scattered about.

"6502" is changed to "Crappy processor"
Need I say any more? I have designed better processors in an afternoon. So have random CAD system crashes...

"darthvader" is changed to "Boring tit !"
God knows. I can only surmise that someone I've forgotten used to enter "darth vader" in high scores...

"xyzzy" is changed to "Wrong game !"
xyzzy was a magic word in one of the first text adventure games (Colossal Cave).

"blach" is changed to "Bells ring etc ."
I suspect this is a reference to a bug in the spectrum game "The Hobbit", but I couldn't swear to it now. I'd try entering it into The Hobbit and see if bells ring, etc...

"sex" is changed to "Yes please !"
"fuck" is changed to "Like too !"
Ah, the depressed innocence of youth. If only we'd known then what we know now. But don't get me started on sex ;)

"cheese" is changed to "Cheese ?"
This is obscure. The first version of the high-score table code, which few people ever saw, didn't recognise all these text entries and change them individually, it just recognised the word "cheese" followed by a number and then it outputted different messages. This is a reference to that early phase of the code. And to our, well, frankly our obsession with cheese. Ok, ok - my obsession with cheese. Cheese and sex, sex and cheese, how could this combination be improved upon? Very easily.

"lavinia" is changed to "She's moved to 061-205-6603"
In Halls there's a reference buried in the code (for hackers to find) to "Lavernia's Massage Parlour" which gave the telephone number of the flat I was living in (sharing with JDG) at the time it was written. There was no actual lavinia, but there were a couple of sisters living upstairs that we used to dream about. One was called Sylvia and I'm sorry but I forget the name of the other. For some reason Sylvia lent me her copy of "More Joy of Sex", which was an evil thing to do to a desperate virgin; almost, but not quite as evil as having her bloody bedroom right over mine and having a bed that squeaked. Gah... Somehow their flat became known as "Lavinia's Massage Parlour"... Ah, but they were far too sophisticated for the likes of us, penniless students as we were...Sylvia's boyfriend had a BMW, for gawd's sake. What chance did we have? Sob...
On one memorable drunken evening I'd rigged up my development machine so it would record audio and play it back backwards. (This was advanced stuff for 1982, or at least it seemed like it then) and Martin, Neil, Jim and I sat in my room thinking of things to say and trying to learn how to say them backwards. Don't ask me why but Martin came up with "Sylvia has big nipples" and then spent a good half an hour learning how to say it so that when it was reversed it was perfectly legible. What with this and the coke-bottle fights (the flat was full of 1.5-litre plastic coke bottles) where everyone took turns to throw coke bottles at everyone else let it not be said that we didn't know how to have a good time...

Where was I? Ah. Yes. Sorry.

"speakertoanimals" is changed to "Chmee"
A reference to a character from Larry Niven's Ringworld series. Some more of my/our favourite books.

"spectrum" is changed to "Ghastly rubber thing"
We didn't much like the Spectrum, in fact I probably like it more now than I did then - twenty more years of the computing industry have significantly lowered my expectations.

"crystal" is changed to "Design Design Software"
And very soon after this was published, it did..

"hott" is changed to "Halls"
I didn't particularly like "hott" as a name for "halls", it has grown on me, I suppose.

"tony" is changed to "A blaze of trumpets & singing angels"
This is a reference to the first published review of "Halls" which was probably the most accurate and interesting review we ever received for any of our games. Tony is Tony Hawks - the reviewer, if I remember correctly. He used the phrase in the review...

There are more jokes in there and it would be interesting (for vanishingly small values of interesting) to discuss the initial entries in the high-score tables, but that excitement will have to wait for another time. As you might be able to tell from the lousy text I'm not feeling particularly alert today...