Your lamp is getting dim


Will Crowther would be so proud.

This post will only have meaning to anyone of a certain age who is familiar with Colossal Cave, but I can’t help where my mind goes.

The Old Wolf is carried off by a cheering band of friendly elves.

5 responses to “Your lamp is getting dim

  1. (Hope I can fit this all in).

    Ahh… the vending machine in colossal cave! What a set of mixed emotions are attached to that. The first time I saw the message “Your lamp is getting dim, I seem to recall there’s a vending machine somewhere in the maze. Better bring some coins with you.” I assumed this was an important quest, believing at the time that the game was designed for the lamp to run out halfway through the time needed to complete all the puzzles. My task was complicated by the fact that I’d begun my exploration in the wake of the person whose computer I was borrowing, and he’d already solved the puzzle with the rod, fissure and crystalline bridge which led to the much bigger maze. If (at least in the version I played) you entered the vending machine room after the pirate grabs your treasures you’ll see added to the text “In flowery script is the message ‘This is not the maze where the pirate hides his treasure'” intended to prevent players hopelessly searching the smaller maze. However *I* alas did it the *OTHER* way around, scouring the *BIGGER* maze for the vending machine, and in which there was no such kindly warning. Then finally I stumbled upon the correct maze, but without noticing the subtle variations to the room descriptions, and carried out the old trick of mapping the region using dropped objects. Exploring I went, and in those days you could hear the sound of the 8″ floppy disc being read, and with identical (or near identical) room descriptions the sound remained constant. When the noise changed I realised I’d hit the jackpot! The notion of a vending machine in an otherwise fantasy setting filled me with awe. In my high school days I attempted to write my own adventure games in BASIC, and so fond of the vending machine was I that I copied the idea and expanded on the vending machine’s description. “Recessed into an alcove crudely chiselled into the natural rock is a massive vending machine of wrought iron. The instructions, illuminated by the thin tube of an erratic fluorescent light, read ‘Drop coins here to receive fresh batteries.”
    However almost immediately after I’d bought batteries for the first time I realised that this incurred the loss of the coins! I’d expended so much effort on a red herring. I cheered up slightly on exploring further into the game (past the Ogre room) and discovered that the lamp could be recharged indefinitely by the magic words “Noside Samoht” (Thomas Edison backwards), and as long as you weren’t holding the lamp and fried to a crisp.
    There was also a version of the game involving a phone booth and a “notoriously cheap” gnome who put two lead slugs into the phone. The slugs could be released by kicking the phone (albeit wrecking the phone) and exchanged for batteries

    • Intriguing use of sensory perception to detect that you had entered a different room in the maze of “twisty little passages, all alike.” I can still hear those 5.25″ floppies buzzing… Once I had mapped out the maze using the dropped objects trick, all I had to do was enter the maze at the west end of the Hall of Mists and go S E S S S N E N E NW and I’d be at the vestibule where the pirate dropped his chest (if he had stolen your booty. Arr!) From there, SE and N would get you back to the 30-foot pit with the massive orange column where you could drop down into the main maze. It took me forever to figure out that you had to leave “Spelunker Today” at Witt’s End to get that last, maddening point.

      • Oh the 8″ was very audible and text would not display for a good few seconds after a particular sequence of drive head moves had taken place, so you couldn’t help but pay attention to them. Certain paragraphs became easy to forecast by the sounds emerging from the drive; particularly the random appearances of the dwarf and pirate. I would always sigh mournfully when the pirate’s sound was heard. At least until I found his treasure, and from then onward I would look forward to the pirate’s first (and only) theft of your valuables because:
        a) His treasure chest didn’t appear until then
        b) Once you had taken everything away he’d never bother you again, for some unknown reason.
        I also enjoyed spotting him in the maze “There are faint rustling noises from the darkness behind you. As you turn toward them, the beam of your lamp falls across a bearded pirate. He is carrying a large chest. “Shiver me timbers!” he cries, “I’ve been spotted! I’d best hie meself off to the maze to hide me chest!” With that, he vanishes into the gloom. You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.”
        Yes I remember S E S S S N E N E NW well. Clever trick of Crowther’s to hide the treasure in a location reached by one of the less frequently used directions (NW,NE, SW,SE, U and D). I also adored the description of the room above the “frozen rivers of orange stone”, and the fact that the room existed within the maze – most mazes simply have exits, and usually one or two special items within a room, such as the vending machine or in the case of Zork one the skeleton of an adventurer who sadly didn’t make it.
        I found out about the Spelunker Today trick off the web. I very much doubt I would ever have figured that out myself. Frankly I considered that notion to be poor programming; there should have been a switch in the game to indicate that the player had visited Witts End.

        Found this BTW

  2. Pingback: D&D and the Colossal Cave « Stuffed Crocodile

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