April 28, 2020

An online friend of mine, Matt McIrvin, was talking about a cassette with some simple public domain-ish games he got as a throw-in when he got his first Atari 8-bit computer. It made me think of one of my favorite software toys, "Jane's Program":

(I keep forgetting the name of it, looking for it to be "Jesse's Program" "Jane's Game" or something like that.)

It was made by Douglas Crockford, who worked on a lot of Atari stuff including Lucasfilm's games, and later he became famous in the Javascript world - partially by helping to popularize the use of JSON, showing how simple collections and maps were much easier for humans to understand than all the pointy and obnoxious bits of XML.

(It's interesting looking at his career trajectory vs, say, Jim Butterfield, whose tech career seemed to rise and fall with the 8-bit Commodores he established his name with.)

Ha, though I just realized Crockford was not also the "De Re Atari" guy- that was Chris Crawford... an easy enough mistake to make.

Anyway, "Jane's Program" is lovely, and honestly would be a tricky thing to replicate even with today's abundance of processing power - it's not immediately obvious what kind of data structure would best capture the blocks as whole objects (with elasticity and velocity) as well as a chunky particles "blocking" columns and supporting or colliding with particles from other blocks.
Trying to find a video for the early APX Crockford game "Burgers!"- so far I just found this manual, and it's striking how oddly philosophical Crockford gets in it. (Update: found this video but I guess the player didn't have the needed paddle controller...)