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Running Zork and Z Machine Games on an Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4 Express @cogliano #RetroGaming #ItsyBitsy #VintageComputing

Running Zork on an Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4 Express

Dan Cogliano aka Dan the Man has done some remarkable work porting the classic PDP-10 game Zork and other Infocom Z Machine games to the Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4 Express.

Zork was originally developed in the late 1970’s on a DEC PDP-10 computer at MIT using a descendant of the LISP language. There was also a FORTRAN version that was translated to the C language. When the development moved to a commercial endeavor through the startup company Infocom, Zork was rewritten in two parts: An interpreter and a story file read by the interpreter.

This allowed Zork to run on many different computers, where there were quite a few in the 80’s. The same story file could be used on any computer, only the story interpreter had to be created for that computer. This also allowed new stories and sequels to be created that could run using the same interpreter. The name for the interpreter was called the Z Machine. There are several open source Z Machine implementations available. My goal was to implement a Z Machine on an [microcontroller] that allows playing Zork and other compatible interactive fiction games.

From PDP-10 to Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4

The original Zork story file is about 90KB in size, which leaves plenty of room in the M4’s 192 KB of RAM for the Z Machine. The 2MB SPI FLASH provides enough storage for plenty of Z Machine games and save files.

The A2Z Machine supports Z Machine files version 3 and version 5 (usually “.z3” and “.z5” extensions). You can find other compatible games and resources on the internet including these sites:

The Interactive Fiction Database
Z-Machine Matter

From mainframe to a board smaller than your thumb. Lots of fun and great work Dan! See Dan’s whole article here along with the related tweet.

See our previous article on Zork on the PDP-10 and translations.

Do you like Retro Gaming? Remember Infocom games? Post in the comments below!


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