The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

12:15pm on Monday, 28th March, 2005:



The trade-off between effort and irritation finally tipped: today, I modified a page on Wikipedia that had been bugging me for ages. OK, so it was the entry for me, but still...

What I changed was the date of the first MUD. It said 1979; I changed it to 1978. To be fair, the 1979 date was quoted from a Usenet posting that I myself wrote in 1990, so you can't blame anyone for thinking that. The Usenet posting is wrong, though: it gives the date of the first MUD as Spring 1979 because that was the earliest date I had on a print-out of it. Actually, it was more like November 1978.

When I went to Essex University, I signed up to do Mathematics. However, because it had a common first year, I also took Computer Science and Physics. Being a campus university, Essex had a thriving collection of student societies, but at the Societies' Bazaar I somehow missed the one for CompSoc (the Computing Society). The chairman of this was a second-year undergraduate, Nigel Roberts, and the secretary was his best friend, Roy Trubshaw. I kept hearing from other students doing the Computer Science course that it was worth joining because you got free computer time to do anything non-academic that you wanted. I went to see Nigel Roberts to sign up, and he suggested that we talk while standing in line for the free tickets that the Student Union was giving out for a Lindisfarne Christmas gig. We got there fairly early (we were within 20 people of the front), and chatted about the kind of things that CompSoc did. I wanted to know if it allowed games, and Nigel said yes, it did. I showed him a transcript of a computer game I'd seen in a postal games magazine called Bellicus. "That's ADVENT", said Nigel. "You should speak to Roy about MUD". I vaguely recall that Roy did show up briefly to give Nigel his registration card so he could get him a Lindisfarne ticket too, but he was in a hurry to get over to the "open shop" in the Computing Department and would meet us there later.

We picked up the tickets, went over to the open shop and looked for Roy. He wasn't there — he'd gone back to his flat to pick up some program listings — but a third-year undergraduate friend of his and Nigel's, Keith Rautenbach, was. Keith was interested in what Roy had done (at a technical level), and had been making some adjustments to the code (a print-out of his version is the oldest artefact from MUD in existence, and currently resides in the History of Science and Technology Collections at Stanford University; it's from this that the 1979 date came). Keith showed me MUD in action, commandeering 3 or 4 teletypes (yes, teletypes) to do so. Keith envisaged MUD as a game where you told characters to do something; you didn't enter the game world yourself, you controlled an ostensibly independent entity ("I am the genie of the watering can"). This was probably due in part to how ADVENT started up. I didn't see it that way at all, though. I saw it as a way for me to enter a completely new world. Better, I saw it as a way for me to create worlds for other people to enter.

Roy showed up, carrying the familiar wad of 11"x15" green-screen paper under his arm that was the then sign of a programmer. He explained that he'd given Keith the old code to comment and play with because he himself was working on MUD version 2. Version 1 was merely a proof of concept; he was going to turn it into a fully-fledged game. I sought reassurances that it would refer to the player as "you" rather than "I", and Roy agreed that it should. So, did I know anything much about games, then?


Referenced by General Knowledge.

Referenced by Rock Went to College.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).