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And the whole dern thing has been condemned by ’Merican Express.

I think I found this over at Geisha Asobi: Mr. Wong’s wonderful Soup’Partments, quite possibly the world’s tallest virtual building. Download a basic template (one- or two-storey models available), renovate to your liking (pixels only, please; no anti-aliasing), and email it in; Mr. Wong will find a place for you.

Which reminds me of something from back in the day: the Muckenhoupt Hotel, frequented by a large part of my circle of friends (and others, of course) at Oberlin. Now, keep in mind this was back in the late ’80s: there was no web, world-wide or not, and students bringing their own computers to school was rare. We had a couple of rooms in the library full of cheap idiot terminals all plugged into a VAX 11/780—with a separate room for some MS-DOS boxes, and, my sophomore year, the experimental Macintosh lab, full of cute little SEs. Getting email out of the local network and onto the Internet (it made more sense to capitalize it then) took a little finagling—corresponding with the Runic Robot was always something of a feat, at least for me—and when you made a post to Usenet, it could take 3 or 4 days to show up. And those cheap idiot terminals had monochrome displays: you could pick an amber-on-black or a green-on-black display. No graphics, anti-aliased or otherwise.

Each student could sign up for an email address and a directory with a couple hundred kilobytes, gratis. And we rapidly found other ways to use that k than email storage and statistical analyses—there were emailed serials (most notably the late, lamented Pulp); Infosys, the bulletin board, was full of long-winded, little-read arguments on politics and religion; and of course, games: Hack (or Rogue, or whatever) and Wumpus-hunting and IF and setting up utilities for Champions character generation.

Carl Muckenhoupt pulled an interesting experiment. He set the protections for reading and writing to his directory structure to all, wrote a text file describing the lobby of the Muckenhoupt Hotel, and threw open its doors. Anyone could set up a subdirectory under his directory, and put whatever text files they wanted in it. So people would set up their “rooms,” with text descriptions of what they looked like, and files describing various objects within the rooms. People began leaving objects in each other’s rooms, since you could set your own subdirectories to allow others to write to them (I seem to recall a minor kerfluffle over an anonymously created rose). Crude hypertext hacks allowed you to move through the directories, and even set up “secret passages” that would work in the background to move you unbidden from one room to another. Someone—Carl, I think—cobbled together an ASCII elevator that could move you from one “floor” to another.

This was all in 1987 and 1988, or thereabouts. And while he was far from the only one to come up with the basic idea, and it was terribly ad hoc—there was no coding involved beyond the operating system and the directory-shunting hacks—still, it’s worth noting: this was one of the world’s first MUSHes. (Or MUDs. Or whatever.) Proto-MUSH? Maybe?

(Confidential to Amy: Yes, it is.)

  1. Kevin Moore    Jul 24, 06:00 AM    #
    That is so geeky, it's adorable. And, ahh...college.

    (Of course, reading of such ingenuity causes some pang of regret for all those drugs....oh well....)

  2. gd    Jul 24, 07:28 AM    #
    Uh, didn't a file once appear in the lobby:


    ...or similar?

  3. --k.    Jul 24, 07:31 AM    #
    You know, one can't be bothered to keep track of every little thing that happened to one in one's youth.

  4. carla    Jul 24, 07:54 AM    #
    question (okay, nostalgia-induced question): did they still use old computer paper on the bathroom stall walls in Mudd for graffitti? the really wide light-green-and-beige striped stuff with the holes on both sides?

  5. --k.    Jul 24, 07:05 PM    #
    They were still doing that in '87 and '88; they would even now and again swap the women's and men's room sheets, so each could see what the other side was scribbling.

    Phil, who's been back recently, reports there's now not a computer or terminal to be found on A-level, much less reams of green-striped fanfold. Gad.

  6. Ampersand    Jul 24, 09:21 PM    #
    I used to sneak into the A-level women's room regularly to read the graffitti; the men's room graffitti wasn't nearly as good.

  7. Amy S.    Jul 25, 05:03 AM    #
    Bah. I'm the only normal one here. :p

  8. carla    Jul 25, 06:59 AM    #
    yeah, I knew a few men who used to sneak into the women's room (and I'd occasionally guard the door for one). I also remember when someone copied a whole section of "The Women's Room" (the book) onto the walls of the middle stall--all the way up the walls, on the back of the door, on the back wall of the stall, etc. I felt bad that someone had to clean it up, but it was a pretty dramatic statement.

  9. Avram    Jul 25, 06:45 PM    #
    Holy cow! I worked with Carl at Unplugged Games two or three years ago.

  10. Bill Humphries    Jul 28, 09:53 AM    #
    My ghod! It's the virtual Tucker Hotel (see http://fanac.org/fanzines/SF_Five_Yearly/sffy7-13.html).

  11. --k.    Jul 28, 03:06 PM    #
    It's a small world, Avram. Or at least a small 'net.

    And thanks, Bill. That's friggin' adorable. One might well note the Muckenhoupt Hotel had among its aficionados a rather higher than average number of what for want of a better word might be called "geeks" or even "fans," but one presumes this observation has already been rendered largely redundant.

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