In the early 80s, several things came together at once: the computer I was learning BASIC on in Middle School, the computer I learned Extended BASIC and Assembly Language on at home, my love of fantasy fiction, and the concept of text-based adventure games. I struggled for years learning how to make my own, and while they all sucked grueballs, I did learn how to program other things (especially after I plugged into the Internet in the late 80s) and, well, I like to think I learned how to write as well. Still, every time a new RAINBOW magazine came out with a text adventure inside (more often than not some sort of fantasy-based game) I’d put it on my computer, play it, and modify it. I didn’t have a PC, so I was a little behind the curve with commercial software; still, I was able to find a port of Zork, and the TRS-80 game Pyramid 2000 was essentially a stripped-down clone of Adventure. I shied away from graphics games back then, since I thought the graphics were nearly always disappointing (Dungeons of Daggorath is a quite blatant exception), plus they slowed down the game and limited the player interface. Also, then as now, my hand-eye coordination was, shall we say, lacking? Typing was easy. Doing anything as complex as walking and thinking at the same time always caused problems.
Then, in or around January of 1987, after a meeting of a computer club that I went to in Saginaw on the weekends (I was kind of a nerd back then, before I grew into the ultra-suave and sophisticated man of mystery and imagination that I am today), I was able to get my hands on a legend, a game I didn’t even know was available for my humble Color Computer 2. The minute I got home, I called a friend up and we spent the weekend working our way (somewhat) through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. We had both read the book but had only heard rumours of the game… things like “it lies to you” and “watch out for the poetry” and “good luck with the babelfish.” If I hadn’t already been hooked on puzzle games, that would have done it.
Of course, I’m still more of a writer than a programmer, and I think anyone who hasn’t read at least the first book of the ‘trilogy’ should take a few hours out of his or her day NOW and read it. But if you’ve never experienced the game, well… courtesy of a link from bOINGbOING, here’s the 30th anniversary port.