Last week I discovered that the batteries in my late 90’s TI-85 had leaked and corroded, and cleaning it up and turning it on first the time in years I lamented the awesome lost ZShell ASM games that I’d loaded the thing up with back in high school (that was one of the best versions of Tetris ever, right?).
And now, news that Portal has an awesome-looking unofficial TI graphing calculator port. I hope somewhere this is bringing some pleasure and enjoyment to some poor kid sitting in a boring class or study hall.
If you love the old Lucasfilm games and want a peek into how their venerable game engine worked from a very technical perspective, you should read this article that walks through a disassembled Maniac Mansion. Extra bonus: Ron Gilbert, the creator of the SCUMM scripting language, drops a lengthy note in the comments section with insider info:
One of the goals I had for the SCUMM system was that non-programers could use it. I wanted SCUMM scripts to look more like movies scripts, so the language got a little too wordy. This goal was never really reached, you always needed to be a programmer. 🙁
actor sandy walk-to 67,8
This is the command that walked an actor to a spot.
actor sandy face-right actor sandy do-animation reach walk-actor razor to-object microwave-oven start-script watch-edna stop-script stop-script watch-edna say-line dave “Don’t be a tuna head.” say-line selected-kid “I don’t want to use that right now.”
I think it’s amazing that they managed to build a script interpreter with preemptive multitasking (game events could happen simultaneously, allowing for multiple ‘actors’ to occupy the same room, the clock in the hallway to function correctly, etc.), clever sprite and scrolling screen management, and fairly non-linear set of puzzles into software originally written for the 8-bit C64 and Apple II era of computers.
Big news for high school hacker nerds everywhere who want to give their graphing calculator’s Z80 processor a better workout than just crunching algebra problems. Also a very good reminder that yesterday’s strong encryption now takes only a small bit of time to crack (in this case, one user with a dual-core Athlon about 75 days to break RSA-512). No, you can’t hide secrets from the future.
Back when I was a young’un, we didn’t have to get around signing keys to run Z80 assembly, just needed to build a serial port interface and a copy of ZShell…