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9:58am on Saturday, 20th October, 2018:

Happy Fortieth, MUD


Today is the fortieth birthday of MUD.

On 20th October, 1978 (possibly two or three days earlier, we're not exactly sure) Roy Trubshaw sat down at a computer terminal at Essex University and coded the first version of a program he called MUD, the Multi-User Dungeon. Little was he to know that from this innocuous beginning would grow an industry worth tens of billions of pounds a year.

Most of today's players don't know what a MUD is, let alone what MUD was. Some few do, but among those there's probably a majority that think the D stands for "Dungeons and Dragons" or "Dimension" or something else that's not "Dungeon". Of the ones who do have it right, they may know MUD was written in 1978, or they may believe 1979 (which is partly my own fault) or they may even go with 1980 or 1981. As for the exact date, well even we didn't remember that so had to reconstruct it from the evidence (hence the "possibly two or three days earlier" above).

Some people do know the date of 20th October. I do, I'm pretty sure Roy does, and there are players of MUD2 who do. It could be that some of the people who've read the date in my books might be able to bring it to mind, too.

Nevertheless, I'm confident that the occasion of this anniversary would have passed entirely without comment if I hadn't posted this. It happened with the thirtieth anniversary, so it's not too big a risk to extrapolate. Besides, this way I can help game historians from the future (hi folks!) looking for primary sources to cite in their research.

The reason that no-one other than me is likely to remark about MUD's birthday is that it's unimportant. No-one needs to know it, so they don't. Its only use is as a question someone might put in a videogame trivia contest so they can feel smug that no-one will know the answer. If some of those billions that MUD led to had come our way then doubtless there would be fanfares, but if we were the kind of people who were programming to make money then it wouldn't have been the progenitor of the industry anyway.

I was hoping to organise a MUDmeet at Essex University so that MUD2 players could come and play on the university's computers sitting next to each other. That would have been nice, but when I looked into how to do it I found that the university's systems aren't set up for that kind of project so I couldn't. Sigh. It's a shame, because I'm due to retire in 2027 so won't be able to try again for the fiftieth anniversary in 2028.

Oh well.

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