Cor Series

Backspace 23 - The Adventure of a Lifetime

November 17, 2021 Vance Neudorf Season 2 Episode 22
Cor Series
Backspace 23 - The Adventure of a Lifetime
Show Notes Transcript

Kaypro 2, a floppy drive and a Colossal Cave.

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This is Backspace #23– The Adventure of a lifetime

In the very first backspace podcast, I told how Cor Series of novels got started in a hospital recovery room. The idea for the underground world of the Cor actually goes back to1982 when a friend at college decided that he just had to have the latest Apple II computer so he sold me his Kaypro 2 - the world’s first “portable” computer, although it was known by myself and other owners as a “luggable” computer for it weighed almost 30 lbs and was housed in an aluminum box, about the size of a small car tire. Still, I was quite proud of my Kaypro 2 and dutifully lugged it around the campus bragging about its incredible 64 kilobytes of RAM, yes Kilobytes. My current laptop has 16 gigabytes, the equivalent of a ¼ million Kaypro 2’s. After carrying my computer around for a few weeks, my arms got tired and my friends grew weary of listening to me brag so I decided the Kaypro deserved its own special “computing room” at home.  

 At the time we rented a shack that was originally built in 1921 as a warehouse for sacks of flour. Adjacent to the open space we used as a living room was a small storage closet and I converted that room into a study to house my new computer.

 I also inherited a shoe box full of 5 ¼” floppy drives. Flipping through the stack I found one labeled “Adventure”. I still clearly recall the night I loaded that disc into the floppy drive, dropped the latch into position and listened to the sound of it loading up, that loud clicking and grinding you swore would result in a tatter of frayed plastic when you later ejected the dist. A short time (in 1982 computer terms, time for a coffee) the small CRT screen came to life and the green letters came into focus. 

 YOU ARE STANDING AT THE END OF A ROAD BEFORE A SMALL BRICK BUILDING. AROUND YOU IS A FOREST. A SMALL STREAM FLOWS OUT OF THE BUILDING AND DOWN A GULLY. 

“I WILL BE YOUR EYES AND HANDS  - DIRECT ME.” 

 I stared at the screen, wondering how it was even possible for someone to invite me into to wander around a world they had created. I began typing one and two word directions, go south, pick up, open door and before long I was drawn deep into a world that had been modeled on Mammoth Cavern in Kentucky where the creator of the game, William Crowther, had explored for many years. He created his game for his kids and then put it out as free game on what was an early precourser to the internet. A man working at Stanford University, Don Woods, found the game on a school computer and contacted William and together they improved the game until it brought the fledgling computer industry to its knees because  the technicians who were supposed to be working on programming were instead caught up in the game and trying to solve the puzzles. 

 As I typed away in my small dark room, I was sucked into their fantasy world. My heart beat faster as I was warned

 IT IS NOW PITCH BLACK. IF YOU PROCEED YOU WILL LIKELY FALL INTO A PIT.

 But I already had enough sense to pick up a lamp that had been left on the cavern floor so I quickly typed in: LIGHT LAMP

My lamp came on and I found myself:

 AT ONE END OF A VAST HALL STRETCHING FORWARD OUT OF SIGHT TO THE WEST.  THE HALL IS FILLED WITH WISPS OF WHITE MIST SWAYING TO AND FRO ALMOST AS IF ALIVE.  A COLD WIND BLOWS UP THE STAIRCASE. 

I kept typing and moving forward but in my mind I was there. I could see the fog, feel the cold wind and creep forward to find. 

A DEBRIS ROOM, FILLED WITH STUFF WASHED IN FROM THE SURFACE. A LOW WIDE PASSAGE WITH COBBLES BECOMES PLUGGED WITH MUD AND DEBRIS HERE, BUT AN AWKWARD CANYON LEADS UPWARD AND WEST. A NOTE ON THE WALL SAYS 'MAGIC WORD XYZZY'.

 As I related earlier, I had been raised on reading science fiction books and because we did not own a TV I had developed a powerful imagination and the realistic descriptions of the cave had me so engrossed that when my wife opened the door behind me I jumped up and fell out of the closet study. 

 Readers know all too well that text on a page is a powerful catalyst for the human imagination. Even now, as I turn my novels into an audiobook I am continually asked when the written books will be available as the want to enter into the story on their own, just as I did all those years ago at my Kaypro computer. 

The difference I found that when I was fully inside the story, not sure of where it will go, unable to skip ahead to relieve the tension and completely dependent on what my next decision would reveal, it became highly addictive. I am told that when the game came out, because it was free online, it spread like wildfire and a good number of students, who only had access to a computer at school,  failed to graduate as they were to engrossed solving the puzzles to get their assignments done on time. 

 In my case the game sent me running to the college library but only to grab whatever books I could find on caves and caving. I was hooked on knowing as much as I could discover about the hidden world below our feet.  

 It has been observed that in comparison to what we have today, Adventure on my Kaypro 2 is like comparing an early biplane to a Boeing 777. That being said, I have taken a ride in a 1940 WACO open cockpit biplane and would do that again any day. 

 The game is now available as a free app is still a great adventure. Stevy Levy, the computer tech guru says, "Playing adventure games without tackling this one is like being an English major who's never looked at Shakespeare." 

This has been Backspace Podcast #21 The Story behind the Cor Series. Thanks for listening.­­