August 26, 2010

1994

The New York Times recently wrote that The Web Means The End of Forgetting. I never kept a copy of my first public software project with me—yet because I put it on the internet, it eventually made its way into an FTP archive, many mirrors of which still host the files sixteen years later, when a casual conversation with a friend prompted me to search for them.

In 1994, I didn’t like Macintosh computers, so I decided to replace the explosive barrels in DOOM with them.

Following are the two frames used as the idle animation for the sprite:

When fired upon, a Mac-barrel slid backward a few inches and exploded using this three-frame animation:

An accompanying WAV file combined the Mac’s classic “boing” error sound with the traditional Doom explosion effect; scripted DOS batch files were used to install and uninstall the addon.

I also wrote documentation for the package, which included an introductory narrative about the role of the Macintosh in the post-apocalyptic setting of the video game:

                      DOOM Mac Barrels v1.0
                               By
                           Atul Varma
                      atulv@bronze.coil.com

  The wound from that demon scrape is killing you!! You  try
  to look around at the scenery to divert your attention for 
  a bit. All around you is barren wasteland. There is  some-
  thing that catches your attention, however. To your  right
  is an  old Macintosh Classic,  the  UAC's  general-purpose
  torture device  which also, ironically, doubles as  a poor
  excuse  for an abacus... er, computer. It was  invented in
  the late twentieth century, but the Apple corporation that
  made it apparently couldn't stand up to the competition of
  the other superpowerful PC companies, so their  technology
  never progressed. AAACH! Suddenly, an Imp comes out of the
  shadows, roaring its  Satanic battle-cry  as  it sees you.
  Thinking quickly, you let out a blast from  your  shotgun,
  but because of your terrible aim, the shell  hits  the old
  Mac. The  thing rattles, the screen cracks, and  the  damn
  thing EXPLODES into a  ball of  red fire  with  a  distant
  system  beep  in  the background, killing  the  Imp!! Holy
  shit! Maybe these things CAN be useful...!

The original formatting is preserved. I didn’t know it was called justified text, but I knew what it was, and I knew that I wanted my README to be typographically elegant, insofar as 80-character wide DOS screens allowed them to be.

According to the rest of the documentation, I either had a ridiculous level of hatred towards Macs and their users, or I was secretly in love with them.

While the Web doesn’t forget things, I never told it much else in those days, so I can’t use it to inform me of other thoughts I had when I was younger. Despite the angst directed towards Macs in this project, I actually owned a Macintosh LC in the preceding years, and I still have very fond memories of creating things using HyperCard, investigating the composition of my favorite programs with ResEdit, and gleaning from the learnings preserved in Apple’s impeccably-crafted Inside Macintosh manuals.

© Atul Varma 2017