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Wander (1974) – a lost mainframe game is found (2015) (ahopeful.wordpress.com)
95 points by bpierre 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 32 comments

The very first computer game I played in 1971 was called Colony.

Colony was someone's attempt to turn the secretary problem into a computer game. Except instead of trying to hire one secretary, you were piloting a starship full of colonists and you would visit n planets in order, whereupon you were told how suitable they were for colonization (using Star Trek like planet classes) and you got to decide how many colonists you would beam down to colonize it. At the end, you were rated on your performance.

It is the game that turned me into a hacker. Unfortunately I never got to play it again and I never found its source code nor any reference to this game. And it wasn't until I heard about the secretary problem as an adult that I figured out what the game was really about.

Where did you play it, and on what system? There might be people here who would recognize it. Another good place to ask is https://retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/

The other lost game that I played around 1977 on a PDP 11 at General Electric Research Lab is called bloodbath. It was written entirely in Pascal and I have snippets of the source code across multiple files but not the whole thing. We managed to find references to one University professor who recognized the other names but had no clue that a game had ever arisen from it. It was your standard dungeon crawl except that much like this game you could expand it. It's also chock full of in jokes between its authors and I'm not sure I was supposed to be playing it but that was over 40 years ago so I guess the statute of limitations has long since run out.

They sound really interesting. Good luck!

I believe on a PDP-11 at Clarkson college in New York state.

Loved this post but it was funny that the story is basically “game is lost, so I emailed the game’s author, who sent me a copy, game is found”.

People forget that this is possible, but it's well worth mentioning. I once got someone to release some old game assets under a real license via email (and I'm still telling the story!)

I liked this bit in the man page:

       Ho ho ho.

How does this not contain the line: "Not all those who wander are lost"?

So how does the game engine work? Anyone looked at the code and want to take a stab at describing the basic algorithm?

Its interesting to imagine asking a bunch of normal devs today to make a basic text adventure. Imagine the approaches they'd take and how lost they'd be!? :D

The very first game I played as called "L Game" on the rare (and underappreciated) RM Nimbus 80186s at high school in the UK. It was a text adventure and the rooms were forming an L. A quick googling finds a playable version online: http://bbcmicro.co.uk/game.php?id=2147 (there goes my afternoon)

The RM Nimbus machines were vastly under-rated, I agree. I loved those machines.

They're really rare now, probably because most were network-boot and couldn't be used outside of a networked environment and I guess most schools just threw them in the bin.

Very minor nitpick: Unix machines were never considered mainframes. Unix was born on small computers (legend says its name is a jab at MINIX, which ran on mainframes) and had its most impact was in mini and midrange computers before the arrival of sufficiently capable technical workstations, and only very rarely ran on the really big mainframe-class computers as their main OS.

Smaller nitpick: Unix was eventually ported to mainframes even before Linux ran on z Series hardware.


> UTS is a discontinued implementation of the UNIX operating system for IBM mainframe (and compatible) computers. Amdahl created the first versions of UTS, and released it in May 1981,[1] with UTS Global acquiring rights to the product in 2002.

I remember it. It felt more like a way to mark a checkbox for government contracts that required POSIX compliance than a real, usable tool.

I have no doubt some people abused it into being a useful tool. IIRC, it came about at the same time the 370s got vector processing that made them better suited for scientific applications.

> (legend says its name is a jab at MINIX, which ran on mainframes)

I think you mean Multics, since UNIX predates MINIX by 16-18 years.

Sorry. It’s Multics. I blame either coffee not having kicked in or the auto “correct” of the phone.

Thank you for that.

I was highly curious how it was possible to so easily compile ancient mainframe code on MacOS.

The cray x-mp and y-mp supercomputers of the 1980s, reserved for simulating nuclear chain reactions or weather or other high compute tasks, had a capacity well below a solid contemporary smart phone. Only in the late 1990s 32GB of ram became available.



For a real main frame in your pocket have a look at the Hercules mainframe emulator. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hercules_(emulator)

No but there's a unix v shell on z/os:


I found this by chance one day when poking around at work in $BIG_FIN_CORP and it made me so happy. Until I realised the only editor was... well. ed T_T

No. Just no.

Here is the pdp-11, birthplace of Unix: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/PDP-11

It's by all means a mainframe. Same goes for the vax which followed it.

"Mid range" and "Mini computers" came up in the 1980s/1990s, e.g. as Department file and print servers.

From the link:

> The PDP-11 is a series of 16-bit minicomputers

It’s a class of computers in the 1960’s that was distinct from mainframes because they were so much smaller and cheaper, even though today all 60’s computers feel equally huge.

Unix was born on the PDP-7 before being ported to the PDP-11. The DEC PDP systems were considered minicomputers. The only DEC PDP considered a mainframe was the PDP-10, but Unix didn't run on it.

The PDP range where Mini computers not Mainframes - the only mainframe class systems DEC had where the DECSYSTEM-20 / 10.

> It's by all means a mainframe.

The PDP-11 was a minicomputer. It did not have the data throughput to compete with a mainframe.

Mainframe = behemoth

Minicomputer = wardrobe/fridge size computers

Microcomputer = your idea of minicomputer

I wonder how similar these 1980 versions of Wander are to the 1974 original.

It's 2 minutes in and I allready have condoms...

Makes you proud to be Terran..

This appears to be a blog post from 2015 so maybe not as newsworthy as the headline would indicate.

You are correct, in any case there is a second post about Wander (still from 2015) here: https://ahopeful.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/wander-follow-up/ and the game seems to be still online.

The mods probably added the date to the title later to make it clear. It was discussed in 2015 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9425587 (55 points | April 23, 2015 | 11 comments)

Stories about historical artifacts are popular here and it's not unusual that they are reposted a few years later by someone that missed the original discussion.

This is news to me, and I like classic ADVENT type games. I've bookmarked it for future investigation, and maybe tackle the broken LOAD/SAVE in the pure DOS port.

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