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Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Random

1893 is subtitled a World's Fair Mystery. This 'interactive history' is set during the World's Columbian Exhibition, a great flourish of Beaux Arts architecture held in Chicago to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the New World.

We haven't played 1893, but were big fans of Interactive Fiction (IF) - or text adventures, as they used to be known - back in the old days. Today, text adventures are just about the least commercial genre of computer gaming, yet they thrive on the internet. The scene is fuelled by TADS, the Text Adventure Development System, a freeware programme that allows you create your own IF world with relative ease. Install the TADS interpreter, and hundreds of games are available for free.

A similar system used to exist on the Sinclair Spectrum - the Quill, from Gilsoft. There's extensive information on the early days of text adventures at Adventureland, which also provides a history of the genre. Our personal favourites were The Hobbit (which you can play online thanks to the wonderful world of emulation) and Quest Adventure. A little later came Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (box art, solution), which contained what many gamers consider the finest moment in interactive fiction: how to get the babel fish. Other IF links: I, II, III.

One of the best things about text adventures was the emphasis they placed on locating and collecting objects, imbuing each one with a set of limited, yet essential characteristics. Lamps needed oil and matches, dark spaces needed lamps. Chests and doors needed keys, mazes needed balls of string, birds needed birdseed, etc, etc. Text analysis and vocabulary was limited, and the general lack of graphical wizardry really worked the imagination into a frenzy.

Elsewhere. The burgeoning trade in classic stereo equipment makes the old school appear tempting. Reel-to-reel recorders were the epitomy of the home hi-fi experience, especially those made by Revox.

A good Monument Valley/Navajo National Monument photo gallery. Know your early Land-Rover. A Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit at the Library of Congress, focusing on his epic Gordon Strong Automobile Objective project (that would make a very good band name in today’s confused times) - a structure that would "serve as an objective for short motor trips".

There was a great but ultimately pointless book a few years back, provacatively called ‘Cock’, all about Indian Fireworks art. This is more immediate: Crackerpacks, firework packaging via interconnected. More firework art. Fireworks Magazine is Britain’s 'only periodical for fireworks enthusiasts and the trade'.

Dumped is a photo-series by Alan Powdrill, making the many abandoned, joyridden cars that litter London's streets (only a slight exaggeration) look like part of the urban landscape (which in effect they are). His 'places' gallery is also well worth a look. New Hybrid III crash-test dummy simulates teenage slouch.