The Electronic Literature Organization
In 1999 I was a founding member and Secratary of the board of the Electronic Literature Organization, which has been promoting reading, writing, and publishing in electronic media. While no longer a member of the board I support their work.
Down Time: Tales of the Computer Age, is a collection of twenty-one short stories depicting the struggles in relationships during the 1980s, the early years of personal computers. The original CDROM (see below) is no longer accessible, but the narration, with original music, is now available from Audible.com or the iTunes store.
Hypertexts and Games
In the 1980s I wrote technical user manuals for Apple Computer among other companies, but I had the most fun designing and scripting computer games.
My dream project was Portal, which came out in 1986. I had thought, since writing The Time Trip, that computers would make an interesting medium for storytelling — interactive, dynamic, immersive and technical.
Portal was a real interactive novel on disk and designed from the beginning as a computer experience. The conceit was that the user is an astronaut returned to Earth after a failed mission. He or she finds the planet empty of people and one tiny cursor blinking on an abandoned terminal…. Waking up the Worldnet (an imagined internet before there was such a thing) and puzzling out the story of what happened to mankind was the goal. Though this was in no way a game, Activision, the publisher, utterly failed to understand this. Portal was later published in hard copy (see Books).
About Time two stories parallel each other, one about a contemporary business guru who tries to prove there was a migration from Australia to the western hemisphere many tens of thousands of years ago, and the other about a family of Australian Aborigines who actually did it. This is a satire on pundits and pop archaeology. Requires Flash.
Directions was an extended Hypercard poem. The Eastgate Quarterly Review of Hypertext, volume 1 number 4. Unfortunately bit-rot has set in and Hypercard is no longer a viable platform, so Directions has gone the way of the pterosaur.
Down Time was a CDROM of short stories, narrated, with excellent music by electronic composer Alan Strange. There were some interesting navigation features as well. Coded in Director and published by Eastgate Systems in 2000, it is no longer readable. The audio book version is available from audible.com, Amazon, or iTunes.
I worked on several other computer games during the 1980s besides Portal (though I always said it was a new kind of experience and not a game). One project I worked on was an underground tunneling adventure called Hacker, certainly one of the first 3D experiences on computer. Here are a couple of other games.
Murder on the Mississippi was one of my favorite scripts, a riverboat filled with excentric characters, a murder, and the clock ticking before landfall at the next stop, when the murderer would get away. I worked on a remote terminal at home connected to a PDP11.
L.A. Crackdown, the last game Epyx did before it went out of business, was another I scripted. I disclaim all responsibility for the company’s demise. It was about surveillance, well before Homeland Security.
© 2012 Rob Swigart