02 June 2013


We networked the student lab.

Before 1988, our student lab had consisted, as I said, of 20 terminals connected to a XENIX machine.  I think it must have been in 1988 that we installed PCs and a network.  These were machines without a hard disc - twin 5.25" floppy drives only - and the network was something I have forgotten now - quite slow.  But we had one IBM XT as a stand-alone print server (walk up to it, put your floppy in, copy your file to the hard disc, and print!) - and an AT running Novell Netware as a file server.  Soon the twin-floppy PCs were replaced with IBM PS/2s with (I think) 20MB hard drives and 1MB of RAM - and 3.5" floppy.  The most wonderful thing about these machines - rather, about the Netware server software - was NSnipes.

The lab had 20 carrels, each with a separate computer connected to the network.  NSnipes was the first networked computer game - one in which separate players played against one another in a virtual space.

The NSnipes geometry was toroidal - doughnut-shaped.  A maze was imposed on the surface of this two-dimensional space (i.e. you could not burrow into the torus, only travel on the outside).  Starting the game selected at random one of a limited number different mazes.  I soon discovered that one of the mazes had a continuous corridor running continually around the torus.  If your 'man' fired a 'bullet' it went straight ahead until it hit a wall of the maze, at which point it disappeared.  A trick I enjoyed was finding the continuous corridor above-mentioned, jumping quickly into it, and rapid-firing down it, ducking back out just as the bullets came around behind you.

None of which did me much good.  Other players - particularly David - ah, I cannot recall his last name! - were much more interested in the game as competition.  I was quickly killed - but my legacy was a series of bullets that divided space into twomutually uncommunicating halves.

We had a lot more spare time on our hands in those days.

By now - 1988 or possibly 1989 - I was beginning seriously to feel a financial pinch.  My income alone seemed inadequate to support us.  We did, indeed, have the extra money from the children's (and Susan's) paper deliveries.  I think we were beginning to get some government subsidy to help with home-schooling (and soon Johnny would be leaving home-schooling to go off to college/high school - but not quite yet).  Moaning about money troubles at work, someone urged me to look for a part-time job - Saturday work.  I answered an ad.  Glenn Archibald was the response.

No comments: