(The first nature ramble was billed as “first of an occasional series”. Apparently, “occasional” means “annual, and the first one was better”)
I dropped in on the recently-reanimated river of møøse and scorn 2lmc today to tell them, in the light of their recent spam comedy (of which more here) that I’d just got a mail from Murderously O. Daren entitled “Start creating memories now”. Anyway, we got to discussing the real uses for YASNSs: I posited their obvious suitability for the procurement of drugs/warez/miscellaneous contraband. Candace responded with the job-searching scenario for much the same reasons, namely that it’s all about who you know and who they’re not going to tell.
Somehow (and I can’t remember exactly how, as I wasn’t logging) this collision of social software with drugs led to blech mentioning “dope^Wblogwars” (“Officer Winer and his men are chasing you!”) which led into a random Dopewars discussion, during which I suddenly remembered the summer years back when my then-girlfriend had been so utterly addicted to Civilization that I hacked the source of the Unix server version of Dopewars that we occasionally played to add “Civ” as a drug. Anyway, the Palm version is so popular now that it’s the first game that most Palm owners stick on a new handheld (well, either that or SFCave), though the more puritanically-minded may prefer the U-rated SolarWars, which is the same game but with shrooms & PCP swapped for “Holos” and “Dilithium”. If the space-trading bug bites you, upgrade to Space Trader, which adds pirate-hunting and missions and planets with different “tech levels” and government types and… it all sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? Especially when you trade up from that to Void, which adds the 3D wireframe dogfighting engine required to be a poor-looking clone of – yes, you knew we were heading here eventually – Elite.
There was once, for a distressingly-short period of time, a thoroughly-decent PalmOS version of Elite but that got killed off in much the same way that Christian Pinder’s complete reimplementation for the PC – Elite: The New Kind – did. The latter lives on in various places and various ports, of which the coolest is probably the GBA port (latest version here). Whichever version you get, I highly recommend it for a taste of the Elite experience – I have it on my laptop and it’s just as addictive now, twenty years on. As for the other reimplementation projects, the oddest-but-coolest is Mostly Harmless, an attempt to add Elite as a plug-in to the utterly fantastic Celestia space simulator/explorer, though it seems to have digressed somewhat from space combat into MySQL integration. (Oh, and the just-plain-oddest is probably Elite for Emacs)
My interest for Elite is rekindled quite regularly, but most recently by the excellent chapter in Francis Spufford’s recent book Backroom Boys – The Secret Return of the British Boffin. The chapter, which is all about the creation of the game by two Cambridge students and how it beat the living daylights out of every other game on the market at the time, was published (in edited form) in The Guardian’s Weekend colour supplement and is highly recommended for both fans and those looking for a reason why they should find out more about Elite. The rest of the book – which I am currently two-thirds of the way through – is mostly good, a little patchy in places but full of fascinating anecdotes, such as the one that opens this review.
In the meantime, I am still desperate for a copy of Till Harbaum’s PalmOS Elite to play on my Treo. With a bit of luck, the Internet has routed around censorship again and it’s still floating around some file-sharing system, much like The Glass Wall and – and obviously this digression is rather wild, but bear with me – the legendary, long-out-of-print and utterly brilliant Cards As Weapons by Ricky Jay. If you want it, this torrent is active at time of writing (you’ll need BitTorrent to use it) and it will supply you with a 44MB scanned PDF. But back to the main point: if someone can supply me with a copy of PalmOS Elite, I’d be ever so grateful.
UPDATE: Hooray for torrents!
Some random silliness to finish: A Perl class to represent jumping Italian plumbers.