A New Dave Lebling Interview

Friday 22 August 2014, 12:47 am   ///  

USgamer features a new interview with Zork co-author and all-around Infocom implementor Dave Lebling. Very nice!

The opening flourish of the article, though, implies that in the days of Adventure, people used either green-on-black or amber-on-black video terminals to access computers, and players would see glowing letters and the “darkness of an empty command line.”

This is actually fantasy, not history. As I’ve written about in “Continuous Paper: Print interfaces and early computer writing,” as others have experienced and noted, and an amazing binder of print terminal output from an MIT student testified to me, a great deal of very early interactive fiction interaction was done on print terminals, including but not limited to the famous name-brand “Teletype.” A few people (including Lebling!) had access to top-notch video terminals, but lots of interaction was done on paper.

Will Crowther even wrote the original version of Adventure in Fortran on an ASR-33 Teletype.

So, when writing and first playing Adventure, perhaps the space that you would see on the paper is intentionally left blank – but you aren’t likely to be eaten by a grue.


  1. I can confirm this. I discovered ADVENT and DUNGEO in high school in 1979 and we played both on one of two green bar paper terminals (dialed into Milwaukee Public Schools PDP 11/70). One was a DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) LA/34 and the other was an LA/32. The 34 was a 110 baud machine. The 32 was a 300 baud machine (much sought after because of its blindingly fast speed). We also had access to thermal paper terminals which we were allowed to sign out and take home over night.

    Comment by David Cornelson — 2014-08-22 @ 1:14 pm
  2. Dave, thanks for this and for the specifics of (very low) baud rates!

    I found out that Dave Lebling gave an hour-long talk at GDC which is online – providing a post-mortem for the original Zork! Post-mortem indeed … I think of it as more of an exhumation. I think a bell, a book, and a candle were involved. In any case, here’s the link:


    Comment by Nick Montfort — 2014-08-22 @ 7:43 pm

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