The Blogging Parlour

I think I have some biscuit crumbs down my trousers.

The Hunt of the Wumpus

The wumpus is somewhere in this picture. The first one to email me with the correct location gets a complete lack of prize!

In 1873 Lord Babbage’s phenomenal calculating engine was built in secret in Smingleigh Manor from bootleg blueprints and used to run the first instance of what we would nowadays think of as a “computational game” for the entertainment of Lord Custard Smingleigh’s guests.

Based on a popular legend of the day, “The Hunt of the Wumpus” was first encoded as a series of tables by a team of savant-men, then implemented as a series of carefully calibrated cams, tensioned belts, and gap-toothed gears. An urchin would turn the crank, and a gang of orphan children, hired for tuppence to share between them, would move around the estate’s renowned maze according to the output from the machine. Lord Smingleigh, playing as the titular Wumpus (Lady Smingleigh’s nickname for his lordship), would roam the maze according to his own whims and soundly thrash any orphan who crossed his path.

It is interesting to note that the phrase “hack” was coined during one of the first games, when Lord Smingleigh took a woodsman’s axe to the delicate mechanisms inside the machine and concussed the crank-urchin for producing calculations which caused him to lose the game. He also invented the “wall hack” by using that same axe upon the maze walls, to espy urchins in other lanes. Lady Smingleigh promptly invented the “kick” and “ban”, when she discovered the damage to her prized hedgerows. From that point on the game rules were enforced rather more strictly.

In later years, with the advent of electromonic computational engines and the first electromonical version of Hunt the Wumpus, the roles are reversed, and the player flees from the Wumpus, which is controlled by the computational device. This is acceptable in these debased days. However, in the days of yore it was unthinkable for an English Lord to play such a cowardly role.

This post first appeared as a post on Rock Paper Shotgun’s forum on September 29 2011, under my old user name “Daiv”.


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