Memos from Digital Antiquarian Corporate Headquarters, June 2017 Edition

05 Jun

From the Publications Department:

Those of you who enjoy reading the blog in ebook format will be pleased to hear that Volume 12 in that ongoing series is now available, full of articles centering roughly on the year 1990. As usual, the ebook is entirely the work of Richard Lindner. Thank you, Richard!

From the Security Department:

A few days ago, a reader notified me of an alarming development: he was getting occasional popup advertisements for a shady online betting site when he clicked article links within the site. Oddly enough, the popups were very intermittent; in lots of experimenting, I was only able to get them to appear on one device — an older iPad, for what it’s worth — and even then only every tenth or twelfth time I tapped a link. But investigation showed that there was indeed some rogue JavaScript that was causing them. I’ve cleaned it up and hardened that part of the site a bit more, but I remain a little concerned in that I haven’t identified precisely how someone or something got access to the file that was tampered with in the first place. If anything suspicious happens during your browsing, please do let me know. I don’t take advertisements of any sort, so any that you see on this site are by definition a security breach of some sort. In the meantime, I’ll continue to scan the site daily in healthily paranoid fashion. The last I thing I want is a repeat of the Great Handbag Hack of 2012. (Do note, however, that none of your Patreon or PayPal information is stored on the site, and the database containing commenters’ email addresses has remained uncompromised — so nothing to worry too much over.)

From the Scheduling Department:

I’ve had to skip publishing an article more weeks than I wanted to this year. First I got sick after coming home from my research trip to the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York. Then we moved (within Denmark) from Odense to Aarhus, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell most of you what a chaotic process that can be. Most recently, I’ve had to do a lot more research than usual for my next subject; see the next two paragraphs for more on that. In a couple of weeks my wife and I are going to take a little holiday, which means I’m going to have to take one more bye week in June. After that, though, I hope I can settle back into the groove and start pumping out a reliable article every week for a while. Thanks for bearing with me!

From the Long-Term-Planning Department:

I thought I’d share a taste of what I plan to cover in the context of 1991 — i.e., until I write another of these little notices to tell you the next ebook is available. If you prefer that each new article be a complete surprise, you’ll want to skip the next paragraph.

(Spoiler Alert!)

I’ve got a series in the works for the next few weeks covering the history of computing in the Soviet Union, culminating in East finally meeting West in the age of Tetris. I’m already very proud of the articles that are coming together on this subject, and hope you’re going to find this little-known story as fascinating as I do. Staying with the international theme, we’ll then turn our attention to Britain for a while; in that context, I’m planning articles on the great British tradition of open-world action-adventures, on the iconic software house Psygnosis, and finally on Psygnosis’s most enduring game, Lemmings. Then we’ll check in with the Amiga 3000 and CDTV. I’m hoping that Bob Bates and I will be able to put together something rather special on Timequest. Then some coverage of the big commercial online services that predated the modern World Wide Web, along with the early experiments with massively multiplayer games which they fostered. We’ll have some coverage of the amateur text-adventure scene; 1991 was a pretty good year there, with some worthy but largely forgotten games released. I may have more to say about the Eastgate school of hypertext, in the form of Sarah Smith’s King of Space, if I can get the thing working and if it proves worthy of writing about. Be that as it may, we’ll definitely make time for Corey Cole’s edutainment classic The Castle of Dr. Brain and other contemporary doings around Sierra. Then we’ll swing back around to Origin, with a look at the two Worlds of Ultima titles — yes, thanks to your recommendations I’ve decided to give them more coverage than I’d originally planned — and Wing Commander II. We’ll wrap up 1991 with Civilization, a game which offers so much scope for writing that it’s a little terrifying. I’m still mulling over how best to approach that one, but I’m already hugely looking forward to it.

(End Spoilers)

From the Accounting Department:

I’ve seen a nice uptick in Patreon participation in recent months, for which I’m very grateful. Thank you to every reader who’s done this writer the supreme honor of paying for the words I scribble on the (virtual) page, whether you’ve been doing so for years or you just signed up yesterday.

If you’re a regular reader who hasn’t yet taken the plunge, please do think about supporting these serious long-form articles about one of the most important cultural phenomenons of our times by signing up as a Patreon subscriber or making a one-time donation via the links to the right. Remember that I can only do this work thanks to the support of people just like you.

See you Friday! Really, I promise this time…


26 Responses to Memos from Digital Antiquarian Corporate Headquarters, June 2017 Edition

  1. whomever

    June 5, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Have a great vacation Jimmy! You’ve more than deserved it. That said, the upcoming list is all great stuff; I’m especially interested in the backstory of Lemmings, a lovely and truly creative game that IMHO has aged amazingly well.

  2. Brian Bagnall

    June 5, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Glad to hear you are covering Worlds of Ultima. Sometimes those little games that no one played can be the most interesting articles of all. Have a great vacation.

  3. Carlton Little

    June 5, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I agree with the others, your vacation is well-earned.

    I still don’t know how you do it, though! I imagine this would have to be an all-encompassing thing, that you’d have to devote many hours per day, considering all the planning, researching, writing, and so on… like a genuine job. Just conjecturing, at any rate.

    Keep up the good work, and don’t forget about Mythos Software with The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes (should you find time for it!)

  4. Carl Read

    June 5, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    When Patreon alerts me of your posts via email, my mailer (Thunderbird) says “This message may be a scam.” It isn’t of course, and the message is probably due to Patreon using mandrillapp to send out emails. I always find it a bit odd though, as it’s a warning I rarely see from anywhere else.

    • Lisa H.

      June 5, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      For what it’s worth, my mail server also sometimes identifies Patreon mailings as spam. The exact SpamAssassin score varies — although the notification for this one passed through just fine.

      • Carl Read

        June 6, 2017 at 9:36 am

        I assume it’s because the link show is to here but the actual URL points to mandrillapp’s site which redirects to here.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 6, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      Unfortunately, I don’t have any control of this side of things. It may be getting flagged because I’ve taken to including a link to the article in the body of the message as well. I was getting conflicting reports before, with some people saying they were getting messages informing them of a new article with no actual link to the article. I figured it was better for some people to get two links than for some to get none at all.

  5. Soh Kam Yung

    June 6, 2017 at 1:19 am

    Thanks for the update.

    Regarding your long term plans: discovering what the Soviet Union did would indeed be interesting. I look forward to reading it. But I would also love to learn the history of computing from other areas of the world like Asia (by Asia, I mean all parts of Asia from Japan to India and the Middle-East) as well as the other continents (South America, Africa, Australia).

    If you do uncover interesting historical items of interest from these area, I’m sure your readers would love to hear about them. I would.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 6, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      I’ll keep my eyes peeled for interesting angles. Language is always a bit of a problem; it’s what’s kept me from diving deeper into Japan to date. The nice thing about Soviet computing is that there were lots of Western observers very motivated to figure out what they were up to during the Cold War, resulting in lots of reports written in English. Most other countries, not so much, and I’m afraid my skills as a linguist don’t extend beyond English, Danish, and a little German.

  6. Ricky Derocher

    June 6, 2017 at 1:40 am

    Excited about the upcoming subjects on your blog! :-)

    Kind of surprised though that there wasn’t or isn’t going to be an article on King’s Quest V? (Other than a brief mention of it in the Monkey Island article) On one side, it does have its fair share of problems with some tough and outright mean puzzles, but on the other hand it is still seen as a milestone in PC video games.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 6, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      There’s definitely more to say about King’s Quest V, but I’ll approach it more in the context of its important in Sierra’s history and as a technical milestone than as a game design. I think everyone knows all too well by this point what I think of the Roberta Williams design philosophy, such as it is, and there seems little point in beating that dead horse. I prefer to spend my time praising good games than thrashing bad ones. So I’ll probably only thrash King’s Quest V in passing. ;) But you’re absolutely right that it’s important in its way, and I’ll acknowledge that importance.

      • AguyinaRPG

        June 7, 2017 at 2:21 pm

        We are doing our best on the Japan front! I’ve got a system now for roughly translating passages in Japanese computer magazines and I’ve found some documentation projects which are helping with some of the broader strokes. If you are looking into anything particular, let me know.

        I am really looking forward to the Tetris article. There is an enormous gap in the story in between the Academy of Science and Mirrorsoft that I have wanted to delve into myself. The general state of the computer industry in the mid 1980s will be extremely useful context for me.

        Best of a holiday to you!

      • Alex Freeman

        June 8, 2017 at 2:19 am

        I hope you do Police Quest 2 too. I know it’s not as historically significant as KQ5, but I think you might be pleasantly surprised by how much better it is than PQ1.

        • Jimmy Maher

          June 8, 2017 at 7:11 am

          The Police Quest series will get the most coverage a little later, with the first Daryl Gates game, a 100-car pileup of game-industry obliviousness, coming as it did right on the heels of the LA riots that Gates’s policies did so much to exacerbate. I’m sure there’ll be some “what came before” in that article, but no, I don’t have any game-by-game coverage of Police Quest planned.

          • Alex Freeman

            June 8, 2017 at 6:05 pm

            Oh, well, enjoy your vacation anyway!

  7. Paulo Tavares

    June 6, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Hi, and enjoy your well-deserved vacation :)

    Just a small heads up that the ebook library page doesn’t seem to be showing any books at the moment. Reading through the javascript code it’s easy to gather what the right path for the new book is, for download, but thought I’d give you the heads up in case it’s something that needs to be fixed for others.

    Best, and looking forward to the upcoming content, in particular the Psygnosis and Lemmings ones :)

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 6, 2017 at 4:09 pm

      Hmm… the page works fine for me.

      • Lisa H.

        June 6, 2017 at 6:23 pm

        I also see blank after the text at the top (ending with “whatever you can spare and whatever it’s worth to do you”), in both Pale Moon and Chrome.

        • Jimmy Maher

          June 6, 2017 at 7:21 pm

          Okay, should be fixed now. Sorry about that!

  8. Martin

    June 6, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    From the Peanut Gallery Department:

    We thank you for all your efforts and look forward to whatever you post, whenever you find time to post it.

  9. Captain Kal

    June 7, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    >>>I’m planning articles on the great British tradition of open-world action-adventures

    Is Mike Singleton’s Midwinter Trilogy, in your plans? Even though the inteface was akward, I loved these games!! (and still do!!).

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 8, 2017 at 7:06 am

      No, sorry, don’t think I quite have a place for them.

  10. Captain Kal

    June 7, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Oh! And have a nice holiday!!

  11. Jason Scott

    June 8, 2017 at 1:57 am

    The guy that owns PSYGNOSIS.ORG (me) is happy to help wherever you need it.

  12. Ibrahim Gucukoglu

    June 13, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Hi Jimmy. Firstly, have a truly fabulous break and thank you for all the great articles coming our way, though sadly, the text adventure elements are games are all the ones I can really play. Lemmings was a big hit when I was at school, I still hum the theme music from time to time, it’s one of those pieces that never leaves you, just like the tetris theme. I think I’ve played just about every text adventure worth its salt from the Ameture IF scene from the early to late nineties and those comircial games I’ve been able to get my hands on. and of course, I’m not looking at these from a scollarly viewpoint, I’m in it for the thrill and enjoyment factor as much as one can enjoy a text-only adventure these days. Anyway, would be good to read your views on the ameture IF scene from the early nineties so keep up the good work and I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

  13. DZ-Jay

    July 1, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    It’s been several months, but I’m finally catching up with the current timeline of your posts! Yay! I’ve enjoyed most of them and its certainly been a ride.

    I’m looking forward to your future articles on the early WWW and 1990s games, which comprise my “second” computing awakening — following my wilderness years after I left microcomputers in the late 1980s to pursue music, girls, parties, girls, and other adoloscent interests. And girls.



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