Original Zork MDL Source Code Has Been Released

Though mostly known for its releases on countless 8-bit personal computers from the 1970s and 1980s, the game of Zork began its life on a PDP-10 mainframe. Recently, MIT released the original source code for this version of Zork. As we covered a while ago, the history of Zork is a long and lustrous one, a history that is based on this initial version written in MDL.

To recap, MDL is a LISP-derived language that excels at natural language processing. It was developed and used at MIT’s AI and LCS (now CSAIL) departments for a number of projects, and of course to develop games with. The use of MDL gave Zork as a text-based adventure a level of interaction that was far ahead of its time.

What MIT has made available is the source code from Zork as it existed around 1977, at a time when it was being distributed to universities around the US. For purely educational purposes, obviously. This means that it’s a version of Zork before it was commercialized (~1979), showing a rare glimpse of the game as it was still busily being expanded.

Running the game will take a bit of effort, however. These files were retrieved from an original MIT backup tape that was used with their PDP-10 machines. Ideally one would use a 1970s-era PDP-10 mainframe with an MDL compiler, but in a pinch one could run a PDP-10 emulator as well.

Let us know whether you got it to run. Screenshots (ASCII or not) are highly encouraged.

14 thoughts on “Original Zork MDL Source Code Has Been Released

  1. You are stuck at home.
    You have Internet.
    Someone has provided you with the MDL sources to Zork.
    You need an MDL compiler and a PDP-10 emulator to play it.
    >

  2. Hi all,

    For any genuinely interested folk, our ZIL group on Facebook focuses on learning and coding in ZIL. ZIL is essentially MDL (it’s what’s called a substrate, basically a sub-set of the original code/language).

    Some of the original MIT/Infocom guys are in the group too, so we’re having a little MIT/DM Group/Infocom/Zork reunion and learning the code.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ZILcom

    Adam

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