By Heath R.
[For a live demonstration of how to play Colossal Cave Adventure on our restored DEC PDP-11/70, join Living Computers’ Engineering Manager Stephen Jones on Saturday, April 4th, at 1pm PT!]
In this series we’ll be showcasing cool things that you can do with vintage computers and software even while you’re cooped up at home. Through the magic of emulation, you don’t even need to own a vintage computer to experience the magic of using one. All of the emulators and software we will feature will be readily available on the Internet for free! So if you’re finding yourself with more free time at home than you know what to do with, have some Fun With Vintage Computers!
Are you the adventurous sort? Do you often find yourself entering random caves looking for treasure? Are snakes a deal-breaker for you? Congratulations! We have found the perfect game for you: Microsoft’s very first published game, known simply as Microsoft Adventure.
Microsoft released Adventure in 1979 for the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the Apple ][. In 1981 it would be rereleased as a launch title for the IBM 5150 Personal Computer. Microsoft’s version of Adventure was written by developer Gordon Letwin, one of Microsoft’s first employees. In the iconic photo of Microsoft employees from 1978, Letwin is on the right side in the middle row, just above a bearded Paul Allen.
However, Letwin was not the original developer of Adventure. The game was the creation of Will Crowther, a developer at Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, the legendary firm that helped launch the ARPAnet. Originally called Colossal Cave Adventure and written in approximately 1400 lines of FORTRAN code for the DEC PDP-10, Crowther based the game on his explorations of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave system. Finishing the game in 1976 before going on a month-long vacation, upon his return Crowther was surprised to find that people were actually playing it! Made available via timesharing and the ARPAnet, Crowther’s game had circulated far and wide.
One of the early fans of Colossal Cave Adventure was a Stanford graduate student named Don Woods. Woods was so taken with the game that he contacted Crowther and asked for the source code. Woods modified the game, adding a scoring system and numerous high-fantasy elements based on his love of J.R.R. Tolkein. This was perhaps one of the first instances of an enthusiastic gamer “modding” a game!
Adventure was hugely influential for other reasons as well. It was the first text-based adventure game and would spawn a whole genre of popular games in the early 80s including Zork and the King’s Quest series. It was also one of the first known examples of “interactive fiction” and would directly influence later popular games like Myst. The Carmen Sandiego series of educational games would also borrow liberally from the mechanics and structure introduced by Adventure.
At Living Computers we have several versions of Adventure that we make available to visitors, including the original FORTRAN version on our DEC minicomputers as well as the Microsoft variant on several of our MS-DOS-compatible machines. You can explore the exciting and slightly snake-infested world of Adventure from the comfort of your own sofa via Living Computers’ online remote systems or through Archive.org’s browser-based emulators.
Here is the Apple ][ version of Microsoft Adventure
Or, connect to Living Computers’ remote systems and play the original FORTRAN Colossal Cave Adventure on our DEC PDP-11/70, our PDP-11/84, or our VAX 7000-640. Now you can connect to our vintage systems directly from your browser, no installation required!
Click the following link to open an SSH connection to our remote systems menu
Press “1” then “enter,” then “a” then “enter” to connect to “Miss Piggy,” our lovingly restored PDP 11/70 running Xenix, Microsoft’s early 80s variant of UNIX.
Once connected press “enter” again to be prompted for a login. Login using our guest account by typing “lcm” then press “enter.”
After the quote of the day, you should be at a “$” prompt. Type “games” and press “enter” to go to the games directory.
Load Adventure by typing “advent” and pressing return. Congratulations! You are now playing the original Colossal Cave Adventure on fully restored vintage hardware!