Tim Anderson (programmer)

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Tim Anderson
BornFebruary 1954
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology (BSc, 1975; MS, 1977)
Occupation(s) Video game designer, computer programmer
Known for Zork , co-founder of Infocom

Tim Anderson is an American computer programmer best known for co-creating the adventure game Zork , [1] one of the first works of interactive fiction and an early descendant of ADVENT (also known as Colossal Cave Adventure). [2]



While attending MIT, Anderson got his start in game development by developing the game Trivia (1976) alongside future collaborator Marc Blank for the DEC PDP-10, the school's mainframe, playable over ARPANET. [3] Trivia proved itself popular with the limited userbase of ARPANET, leading Anderson and Blank, as well as Bruce Daniels and Dave Lebling to collaborate on a new game. [3] All four were members of the Dynamic Modeling Group at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, with all but Blank working by day writing software for DARPA, which afforded them access to MIT's mainframe, even after they had graduated. [2] The team had spent a considerable amount of time working on solving the game Colossal Cave Adventure , mostly referred to at that time as simply Adventure. [3] [4] The team enjoyed Adventure, but found themselves frustrated with the limited interface of the game, specifically its two-word command structure. [2] Bolstered by their earlier experience writing games for the PDP-10, the team set out to create what would eventually become Zork. Originally developed from 1977 to 1979 in the MDL programming language for the PDP-10, Zork would prove immensely popular on ARPANET. [2] [5] After the success of Zork on its limited platform, Anderson and the other members of the team founded Infocom, initially with no actual business plans, but settling on porting Zork to home computers. [3] [4] [6]

The home computer ports of Zork would prove immensely successful, and Infocom grew rapidly, focusing on producing new text adventures, as well as branching out into business software. [4] Anderson would take on the title of "senior scientist, special-projects programmer" within the company, mostly assisting with development of new games. [7] [8] The company's expansion into business software ultimately caused them to de-emphasize game production, which lead to their eventual demise in 1989. [4] [9]

After Infocom shut down, Anderson held a variety of positions in the defense and business sectors, including serving as the CTO of Offroad Capital, a dot-com bubble startup for investing in private equity online. [10] [11]

Personal life

Anderson obtained his bachelor's degree from MIT in 1975, and his masters in 1977, both in Computer science. [12] Since 1996 Anderson has lived in Sudbury, Massachusetts, [13] and has been active in local politics, seeking election on more than one occasion. [11] [14]

Related Research Articles

Infocom was an American software company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that produced numerous works of interactive fiction. They also produced a business application, a relational database called Cornerstone.

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<i>Zork</i> 1977 video game

Zork is a text-based adventure game first released in 1977 by developers Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling for the PDP-10 mainframe computer. The original developers and others, as the company Infocom, expanded and split the game into three titles—Zork I: The Great Underground Empire, Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz, and Zork III: The Dungeon Master—which were released commercially for a range of personal computers beginning in 1980. In Zork, the player explores the abandoned Great Underground Empire in search of treasure. The player moves between the game's hundreds of locations and interacts with objects by typing commands in natural language that the game interprets. The program acts as a narrator, describing the player's location and the results of the player's commands. It has been described as the most famous piece of interactive fiction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Steve Meretzky</span> American video game developer

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Colossal Cave Adventure is a text-based adventure game, released in 1976 by developer Will Crowther for the PDP-10 mainframe computer. It was expanded upon in 1977 by Don Woods. In the game, the player explores a cave system rumored to be filled with treasure and gold. The game is composed of dozens of locations, and the player moves between these locations and interacts with objects in them by typing one- or two-word commands which are interpreted by the game's natural language input system. The program acts as a narrator, describing the player's location and the results of the player's attempted actions. It is the first well-known example of interactive fiction, as well as the first well-known adventure game, for which it was also the namesake.

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  1. Woyke, Elizabeth (August 22, 2017). "The Enduring Legacy of Zork". MIT Technology Review.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "GDC 2014 - Zork Post-Mortem". Adventure Gamers. May 2, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Anderson, Tim; Galley, Stu. "The History of Zork". Archived from the original on January 16, 2009. Retrieved June 27, 2023.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Briceno, Hector; Chao, Wesley; Glenn, Andrew; Hu, Stanley; Krishnamurthy, Ashwin; Tsuchida, Bruce (December 15, 2000). "Down From the Top of Its Game: The Story of Infocom, Inc".{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. Lammle, Rob (June 15, 2014). "A Brief History of Zork".
  6. Nooney, Laine (Fall 2017). "Let's Begin Again". American Journal of Play. 10.
  7. Rouse, Richard (2004). Game Design: Theory and Practice (2 ed.). p. 180. ISBN   9781556229121.
  8. Ivory, James (2012). Virtual Lives. ABC-CLIO. p. 124. ISBN   9781598845860.
  9. "Stick to What You Know: Infocom and the Perils of Expansion". The Computer History Museum.
  10. Waldrop, Mitchell (January 1, 2000). "Computing's Johnny Appleseed". MIT Technology Review.
  11. 1 2 McNamara, Neal (March 22, 2023). "Sudbury 2023 Candidate Profile: Timothy Anderson, Goodnow Board". Sudbury Patch.
  12. Marcott, Amy (July 15, 2009). "Five MIT-Developed Video Games that Revolutionized the Industry". Slice of MIT.
  13. "About Tim". Tim Anderson for Goodnow Library. February 20, 2022. Retrieved June 28, 2023.
  14. Razzaq, Zane (March 10, 2022). "Friends again? Four vie for two seats on Sudbury Board of Library Trustees". MetroWest Daily News.