Confusion & MDL Zork

I don’t know how I missed this, but there is a MDL interpreter that can run MDL Zork!

This Zork created December 2, 2015.
West of House
This is an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
A rubber mat saying ‘Welcome to Zork!’ lies by the door.
> open mailbox
Opening the mailbox reveals a leaflet.
> take leaflet
> read leaflet
ZORK is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it you
will explore some of the most amazing territory ever seen by mortal
man. Hardened adventurers have run screaming from the terrors
contained within!

In ZORK the intrepid explorer delves into the forgotten secrets
of a lost labyrinth deep in the bowels of the earth, searching for
vast treasures long hidden from prying eyes, treasures guarded by
fearsome monsters and diabolical traps!

No PDP-10 should be without one!

ZORK was created at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, by
Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling. It was
inspired by the ADVENTURE game of Crowther and Woods, and the long
tradition of fantasy and science fiction adventure. ZORK is written
in MDL (alias MUDDLE).

On-line information may be available using the HELP and INFO
commands (most systems).

Direct inquiries, comments, etc. by Net mail to ZORK@MIT-DMS.

(c) Copyright 1978,1979 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
All rights reserved.


How is that for cool?  The MDL interpreter is called Confusion by Matthew T. Russotto, and can be found here.  There is even a port to Windows, by  David Kinder back in 2009!

I don’t know how I missed it, but this is as close as you can get to the original 1979 experience.

Speaking of which, gunkies should be on faster hardware, and the DNS records should be updated by the time you read this.

The Infocom Cabinet

You haven't played Planetfall??

What? You haven’t played Planetfall??


Over on

A collection of digitized scans from a large cache of documents related to the game publisher Infocom, Inc. of Cambridge, MA. Assembled by Steven Meretzky of Infocom.

During his time at Infocom, Steve Meretzky meticulously gathered thousands of pages of notes, journals, maps, memos, forms and other printable materials related to all aspects of Infocom, and kept them in his basement for decades. During the GET LAMP production, Jason Scott scanned in roughly 9,000 pages of these documents across a number of months, borrowing the materials from Steve and scanning them as quickly as possible, at around 600dpi. From these scans, a portion was used in the GET LAMP movie to illustrate various scenes and descriptions by interviewees.

Pretty cool!

Includes detailed information on the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, Planetfall parts 1 & part 2, Stationfall, Zork Zero, Leather Gods of Phobos, production schedules and ZIL the interpretive language.   And other goodies!

Great thanks to Steven Meretzky for being a hoarder (aka archiver) and Jason Scott for being a bigger hoarder, and digitizer sharing everything for all!

InfoTaskForce running on PowerPC (Dynamips)



Well considering what a hit it was, the last time I did this, I thought I’d give it another go!

And after a bit of fighting, I got it to run!

Now what were the obstacles?  Well for starters not having a full libc certainly hurts things.  Things like a malloc.  And without getting fancy with the memory map I did the lamest cheat ever, which is a 1MB static array I just handed out with a fake malloc (no free, I didn’t bother to track chunks), and you know it works enough.

Also I need to read files, and I need to look more into the hardware to see how to do that.  There seems to be plenty of hooks for NVRAM, but the ROMMON substitute doesn’t seem to support them.  Also there is no ROMMON hook for reading from the console!  The MIPS cilo is more ROMMON dependent, while the PowerPC c1700 talks to the uart directly so this is a PowerPC thing for right now.

I also learned something exciting about ld, which is how it can absorb binary images into objects, that you can link and access directly into your program!  No more having to convert it to hex, make these insane headders that CPP may or may not bomb over.  No you can make them objects right away!

ppc-elf-ld -r -b binary -o planetfa.o planetfa.dat

In this example I read the file planetfa.dat as BINARY, and encapsulate it in an object file called planetfa.o . It’ll now have a symbol name of _binary_planetfa_dat_start for where the image begins, _binary_planetfa_dat_size will tell me how big it is in memory, and _binary_planetfa_dat_end will mark the end of this ‘file’ in memory.

Now in the old days when it was a file I could access it like this:

fread ((char *)ptr,block_size,(int)num_blocks,game_file);

But that won’t work.  So now instead of calling fopen/fclose (which don’t exist in CILO), I set a counter to what my current offset is, change the ‘fseek’ to just set the global counter to where it should be, and when I fread I just memcpy:


I suppose I could just have wrapped the f* calls into some emulation library but I don’t need to get all that crazy sophisticated.

C:\temp\dynamips>dynamips.exe -P 1700 -X -r 4 ciscoload.bin
Cisco Router Simulation Platform (version 0.2.15-experimental(merge uppc smips)Build-3-x86/MinGW stable)
Copyright (c) 2005-2011 Christophe Fillot.
Build date: Sep 19 2015 19:33:12

Local UUID: 0450c178-6480-11e5-a559-019031cf957a

Pcap version [WinPcap version 4.1.3 (packet.dll version, based on libpcap version 1.0 branch 1_0_rel0b (20091008)]
Unsure if this file (c1700_i0_rommon_vars) needs to be in binary mode
Virtual RAM size set to 4 MB.
IOS image file: ciscoload.bin

ILT: loaded table “mips64j” from cache.
ILT: loaded table “mips64e” from cache.
ILT: loaded table “ppc32j” from cache.
ILT: loaded table “ppc32e” from cache.
CPU0: carved JIT exec zone of 64 Mb into 2048 pages of 32 Kb.
C1700 instance ‘default’ (id 0):
VM Status : 0
RAM size : 4 Mb
NVRAM size : 32 Kb
IOS image : ciscoload.bin

Loading BAT registers
Loading ELF file ‘ciscoload.bin’…
ELF entry point: 0x8000d9c8

C1700 ‘default’: starting simulation (CPU0 IA=0xfff00100), JIT enabled.
ROMMON emulation microcode.

Launching IOS image at 0x8000d9c8…
CiscoLoader (CILO) – Linux bootloader for Cisco Routers
Available RAM: 4096 kB
Available commands:

Enter filename to boot:
malloc 64512 offset is 0 offset is now 64522
malloc 38912 offset is 64522 offset is now 103444
Infocom interactive fiction – a science fiction story
Copyright (c) 1983 by Infocom, Inc. All rights reserved.
PLANETFALL is a trademark of Infocom, Inc.
Release 37 / Serial number 851003

Another routine day of drudgery aboard the Stellar Patrol Ship Feinstein. This
morning’s assignment for a certain lowly Ensign Seventh Class: scrubbing the
filthy metal deck at the port end of Level Nine. With your Patrol-issue
self-contained multi-purpose all-weather scrub brush you shine the floor with a
diligence born of the knowledge that at any moment dreaded Ensign First Class
Blather, the bane of your shipboard existence, could appear.

Deck Nine
This is a featureless corridor similar to every other corridor on the ship. It
curves away to starboard, and a gangway leads up. To port is the entrance to
one of the ship’s primary escape pods. The pod bulkhead is closed.

Deck Nine Score: 0/4451
Infocom interactive fiction – a science fiction story
Copyright (c) 1983 by Infocom, Inc. All rights reserved.
PLANETFALL is a trademark of Infocom, Inc.
Release 37 / Serial number 851003

Deck Nine Score: 0/4451

For anyone crazy enough, you can find my MinGW Dynamips on sourceforge, cross compilers for PowerPC, and the branch of the firmware source that includes InfoTaskForce, and the binary image.

While I don’t want to write an OS for this, it is almost tempting.  Or go the other route, and add in some non router based hardware… Like audio hardware, or a framebuffer.

Does anyone have a 1700 to test to see if any of this works?  Or a 7200?! 😀

Tracking down the InfoTaskForce from 1987.

So like all zork obsessed people (I really should get help or something), I was trying to build a z-machine interpreter for the x68000, using Lydux’s cross GCC compiler.  And it was honestly looking like a LOT of work in the IO department.  Thinking that the older versions were more simpler, I went looking for the oldest open Z-machine, called the “The InfoTaskForce Infocom interpreter”, released by the InfoTaskForce.  Unfortunately I can only find version 4.01 searching for the source code.  Which still looks too complicated.  But looking the history file, the project started back in 1987.  So with that to go on a new google search got me this:

Infocom Adventure Executor Source Files (1987)(InfoTaskForce)[C].zip

From an TRS-80 dump of all things.  I don’t know what version this is other than the brief copyright mention:

/* (C)opyright 1987 InfoTaskforce. */

All of the files are dated 4/12/2001 so they obviously aren’t original. And the version string is:

echo ( “Interpreter: C Version 1.0\n” ) ;

So assuming this is correct, from the 4.01 history file:

REV_E – June 25, 1987.

REV_E is the first major overhaul to the interpreter.

* The source is now significantly lint free.

* TERMCAP support has now been added [#define TERMCAP option].

* Screen paging and word wrap has been added, along with a new
command line option which disables screen paging (-p).

* Random number generator seeding using time () added [#define
TIMESEED option].

* Attributes in the object list are listed as bits.

* A debuging version can now be produced as an inbuilt options
[#define DEBUG option].

* The coded requirement that 25k is always free in the system can
now be removed [#define ALLOCALL option].

* A new command line option was added to print the object/room list
as a tree (-r).

* interp.c has been re-written to improve efficiency [large
switches have been replaced with arrays of pointers to funcions].

There are now 14 machines on the porting list:

Machine C Compiler Operational Porting details

128K Apple
Macintosh Aztec C Version 1.06F 18/05/87

128K Apple
Macintosh Lightspeed C 2.01 29/05/87 Use “rb” & “wb” in all fopen()s

IBM PC/AT Microsoft C 4 30/05/87 Link with binmode.obj

DEC VAX 11/780 UNIX V7 cc 01/06/87

HP-9000 HP-UX cc 02/06/87

gould cc 03/06/87

Amiga Aztec C 04/06/87

Pyramid 9810 cc 04/06/87

Pyramid 90x cc 04/06/87

Osiris cc 05/06/87

DEC PDP-11/? UNIX V? cc 07/06/87 EXTENSIVE
mods to fix problems with signed chars.

VAX VMS cc 16/06/87 Add #define
times ttmes to fix multiply defined symbol problem. [infocom.h]

Version 1.00 – August 17, 1987.

The REV_C interpreter of June 2, 1987 was officially archived as
Version 1.00 on August 17, 1987.

So this means it’s very 16bit & 32bit friendly, especially on BIG endian machines like the 68000 processor.

Luckily this older version is pretty trivial to compile, and get running.  But I was over thinking the build process and decided to strip the executable as GCC would kick out a 500kb file, which objcopy would extract a 81kb executable.  Stripping it brought the size down to a 50kb executable but it wouldn’t run in either xm6 or run68.  I ended up going in circles for a while trying to find fault in what is broken where until I manually compiled the interpreter, and omitted the strip step and suddenly had a working interpreter.

Now there is one issue, saving doesn’t work.  Something in the libc is having issues using fopen with a file to write.  Reading works perfectly fine though.  So to fix it, I went ahead and redid the save feature to use the HumanOS native _open/_write/_close functions and I’m able to now save & restore a game.

D:\proj\run68\test>run68.exe infocom.X minizork.z3
MINI-ZORK I: The Great Underground Empire
Copyright (c) 1988 Infocom, Inc. All rights reserved.
ZORK is a registered trademark of Infocom, Inc.
Release 34 / Serial number 871124

West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front
door. You could circle the house to the north or south.
There is a small mailbox here.

West of House Score: 0/0
Filename: mz1.sav

Living Room Score: 10/19
You have:
A nasty knife
A rope
A sword
A brass lantern (providing light)
A brown sack
A glass bottle
The glass bottle contains:
A quantity of water
A leaflet

Living Room Score: 10/20

In this process I’ve also managed to build run68, and verified that it’s operating correctly, as both run68 and XM6 both failed to write to a file with fopen, and both work using the native calls.

Planetfall on a x68000

Planetfall on a x68000

I’m sure most people won’t care but I think it’s great having the ability to run a GCC generated C program in a relatively small interpreter.

If anyone cares, here is my updated cross compiler + run68 source along with tweaked Info Task Force 1.0 source.  Or a disk image that XM6 can boot up, and run some demo programs from Infocom of ages ago.

Virtual IIGS for Chrome, Active GS!

It’s a simple pluggin for Chrome, download it and you are good to go.  As a bonus, check out The Lost Treasures of Infocom!

No really!

Besides the disk swapping, it’s pretty cool!




Infocom Games


Did you ever love Zork?  Personally I was into Planetfall.  And what made Infocom cool was the ‘feelies’.  I guess it’s pretty obvious that if you found me here, then you know all about the rise and fall of Infocom, and how it was how they wanted to diversify into business applications… And their portable strategy backfired big time.

But back to the games.  While talking to someone and the topic of Infocom came up, I had to see how many I had as I’d managed to buy one of the ‘collection’ sets of Infocom games.  Sure I felt like “I had them all” but after finding accardi-by-the-sea I found out that not only was I missing some, but they actually had every version of these games that had been released!

Talk about an exceptional collection!

And if you love all the packaging, check out here & here.


The oldest CP/M ‘simulator’ out there.

I was surprised to come across this little simulator simply called ‘com‘ tonight. This program started out as a 8080 instruction simulator for a mc68000 machine running CP/M, back in 1984, and was written by one Jim Cathey.

‘Com’ was then later written up, and published in Dr. Dobb’s Journal.

From there it’s evolved it’s assembly core to some other 68000 cpu families and platforms, then the MIPS and PowerPC. Then in 2006 the CPU core was re-written in C.

For a while it’s primary platform was a 68000 based Unix, and it still has a lot of unix’isims buried in the source. I’m sure it’d build in MinGW though.

But in the meantime I figured it was yet another reason to fire up the old gcc 1.37.1 for Xenix to give this thing a go.

The biggest, and dumbest thing I fought was without realizing there was both a ‘Makefile’, and a ‘makefile’, and gmake kept running the lowercase one, while I was editing the Makefile in vain… But with that out of the way, and a few includes to fix, it was VERY straight forward to build. Not to mention running Xenix on Virtual PC 2007 on my new intel core i7 cpu, it compiles the C version just about as quickly as I can hit the enter key.

Because it’s on Virtual PC the last few lines of the console are garbled.. Oh well, at least the floppy controller works (as long as you hard code /dev/fd0 to 2,60).

So, here is a picture:

Xenix 2.3.4 with ccom zork1

Xenix 2.3.4 with ccom zork1

And a disk image. All I’ve really done is tweaked a few things, and built this with gcc so it includes a binary for Xenix systems. Also the ‘com.tar.gz’ package did include quite a few sample programs… is fun, along with zork 1,2 &3!

On a final note, I thought the Xenix thing was a good road to head down because in the 1990’s there was this BIG push for ibcs2 compatibility across all these Unix platforms on the i386 cpu. Well it’s been largely abandoned work, and the best I got was OpenBSD complaining that its always out of memory, and NetBSD kernel panics!.. Open Solaris has *NO* ibcs2 compatibility even left.

I suspect it doesn’t matter, esp now that you can run some real ibcs2 OS’s in a VM, who needs 3rd party emulation?

I guess I’m just too late to the party.

Frotz on Xenix

Well after having some fun with gcc, I wanted to try something a little more… “fun”. I’ve had good luck in the past with ‘dumb frotz‘ on the old BSD stuff (4.2/4.3 etc) but surprisingly I had no luck at all with gcc & xenix.

Well that was rather odd.

So in some crazed attempt I tried the regular version of Unix Frotz 2.32. Xenix was lacking the memmove procedure, but thanks to an old post here, I was able to get it running under Xenix.

Ok, fair warning it is SLOW. It’ runs the cpu into 1.0 levels… I don’t know why. My attempts at building gdb and using it from that old Soviet site hasn’t met with much luck.

Oh, and it was easier to massage some make files with gnumake.

But it does run!

If anyone want’s to give it a whirl it’s available here.

Zork lives on the Altair!

Ok, I can’t sleep so I thought I’d rummage through the dungeon of Zork…

And what better platform to do so than the Altair?

First get your altairz80.exe, out of simh, or just build it yourself…

Then you’ll need a copy of CP/M! (

Finally a copy of Zork (

unzip everything into a directory, then run the following

C:\altair>altairz80.exe cpm2

And with any luck you’ll be greeted with the following:

Altair 8800 (Z80) simulator V3.7-1
64K CP/M Version 2.2 (SIMH ALTAIR 8800, BIOS V1.25, 2 HD, 15-Jan-07)

Just like MS-DOS right?. … Not quite. Anyways there is time to tour later, but for now there is dungeons to explore.

The Altair has two floppies (out of eight) and a 8mb hard disk!… So let’s go to the hard disk on I:


changing drives is just like MS-DOS, letter, colon then hit enter. Ok now lets copy in the zork game from the native PC into the emulator. Hat’s off to Peter Schorn for this!

b:read zork1.dat

If all goes well it’ll look like this:

READ V-2.21 (03-Dec-06) SIMH Interface V003

Read from “ZORK1.COM” and write to “ZORK1.COM”.
PTR: unit is read only8.5kB written.

READ V-2.21 (03-Dec-06) SIMH Interface V003

Read from “ZORK1.DAT” and write to “ZORK1.DAT”.
PTR: unit is read only83kB written.

Ok, now with that out of the way, lets enter the Dungeon!

ZORK I: The Great Underground Empire
Copyright (c) 1981, 1982, 1983 Infocom, Inc. All rightsreserved.
ZORK is a registered trademark of Infocom, Inc.
Revision 88 / Serial number 840726
West of House

You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with
a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.

>open mailbox
Opening the small mailbox reveals a leaflet.

>take leaflet

>read leaflet

ZORK is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it

you will explore some of the most amazing territory ever seen
by mortals. No computer should be without one!”


Ok, now we are playing one of the greatest games ever. Wikipedia has an awesome article on Zork ( ) And along with ( ) You can party like its 1982.