The Filing Cabinet, the Imp, and the Greek (March 2004)

[This post - on archives (and their ultimately inconsequential gaps), the mathematical quirks of unexpected hangings and “The Bottle Imp” by Robert Louis Stevenson, and seeing El Greco at the National Gallery - was originally published on LiveJournal on 23 March 2004 and is re-posted here as part of a migration from Livejournal. It has some minor editing, interjections from 2022, and fixing/replacement of broken links - not everywhere has been able to follow Tim Berners-Lee’s 1998-and-still-there advice that Cool URIs don’t change.]

[Read More]
maths  art 

Games of cooperative counting (Part 2): The Mind

Over the last couple of years I have been introduced to two card games with a similar theme - co-operating to play numbered cards in an increasing sequence - but with very different approaches. This article considers The Mind, a game of group rapport and intuition, where players must sense the right moment to play their cards. Hanabi, described in Part 1 of this series, is a game of deduction.

[Read More]

The lost delights and challenges of type-in programs

I was reminded of the delights and challenges of type-in programs from decades past - listings printed in books and magazines for the reader to type in at home - which I suppose could be considered an ultra-low-bandwidth, high-error-rate method of software transmission via the printed page, eyeballs, and fingers - by this tweet about old computer magazines: https://twitter.com/cyb3rops/status/1476122483308875778

[Read More]

Book Closing Lines Quiz (October 2021)

Book Closing Lines Quiz (October 2021)

In May 2020 I compiled a quiz based on the openings of a variety of books on our bookcases - a mixture of the well-known and the slightly obscure, the literary and the popular, with a dusting of SF/fantasy sprinkled in. I’ve now put together a second quiz, this time on book endings.

This page has the book endings but not the answers - there is a version with answers also available.

[Read More]

Book Closing Lines Quiz (October 2021) - with answers

Book Closing Lines Quiz (October 2021) - with answers

In May 2020 I compiled a quiz based on the openings of a variety of books on our bookcases - a mixture of the well-known and the slightly obscure, the literary and the popular, with a dusting of SF/fantasy sprinkled in. I’ve now put together a second quiz, this time on book endings.

This page includes the book closing lines and the answers: there is a spoiler-free version with only the questions also available.

[Read More]

Games of cooperative counting (Part 1): Hanabi

Over the last couple of years I have been introduced to two card games with a similar theme - co-operating to play numbered cards in an increasing sequence - but with very different approaches. Hanabi, described in this article (Part 1), is a game of deduction - it echoes classic puzzles featuring multiple logicians reasoning not only about what they know themselves, but what they can deduce about what the others know based on what they say or do. The Mind, on the other hand, is a game of group rapport and intuition, and will be discussed in Part 2 of this article.

[Read More]

A Mini adventure in Inform 7

I recently discovered Inform 7, a tool for creating text adventure games easily in (semi-)natural English - in this article we see how Inform 7 can be used to implement a small text adventure, and some interesting features of the language along the way. The game is based on MINI, an example adventure in Peter Killworth’s How To Write Adventure Games for the BBC Microcomputer Model B and Acorn Electron (1984). And, after the discussions on how to fit games into small amounts of RAM in my previous article, we shall see how the size of the game varies between BBC BASIC and Inform 7.

[Read More]

Adventures in accidental and essential complexity

I recently picked up my battered copy of Peter Killworth’s How To Write Adventure Games for the BBC Microcomputer Model B and Acorn Electron (1984) from my bookshelf. This was intended to allow the reader to write text adventure games of the style “GO NORTH”, “TAKE SWORD”, “THORIN SITS DOWN AND STARTS SINGING ABOUT GOLD” - a genre nowadays generally referred to nowadays as interactive fiction. But looking at it now reminded me of the challenges of writing these adventures then, and prompted me to explore how these have changed in the intervening decades (especially with increasingly sophisticated authoring tools) - and how these challenges relate to the concepts of accidental and essential complexity in system design.

[Read More]