“An Ancient Piece of Computer Lore in a Place You’d Never Expect” or “Dungeon (Zork) Map in Duplicity”

Back in March of 2012 I was watching Duplicity and I noticed something odd about 28 minutes in:

In the top right corner there’s an 11×17 paper with an image on it that’s really hard to make out. I recognized it instantly. I first saw the image in question over 30 years ago when my dad brought home from work the November 1982 issue of a magazine called “The DEC Professional” that had the image in it. The image is a hand drawn map of Dungeon.

For the uninitiated, Zork is Infocom’s classic text adventure game. They renamed it to Dungeon at some point, but changed the name back to Zork when they started selling it. My dad had a copy of the Fortran translated version of Dungeon on his PDP-11. My friends and I called “Dungeo” since the filesystem only allowed 7 letters in the name—I didn’t get that it was actually called Dungeon until I was much older. So when he brought the magazine home, it was specifically because of the included map and because he knew I loved the game.

Here is a scan of that map (from Tom Almy’s Dungeon page):

Map of Dungeon

I must have stared at this map for days, cumulatively. My cousin traced it, enlarged it and hung it on his wall (and recently recreated and enhanced it). I currently have a black and white photocopy hanging in my computer room. I always thought it was a very good map (even though it lacked the “end game”). The point is, I’ve known and loved this image forever.

But it’s also obscure! How many people had PDP-11s and played Dungeon and happened to see the map in “The DEC Professional”? And how many of them had this map make an impact on their lives? To me it seems like that can’t be a very large number…

And so it was crazy to me that I’d happen to see that map that had made such an impact on me be in a movie that came out 27 years after the map’s publishing in an obscure computer magazine. Who was the set decorator that grabbed the map? Did he know what it was? Was it someone else’s and he just thought it looked cool? If so, whose was it? IMDB says the set decorator in Duplicity was George DeTitta Jr. But what it doesn’t say is, “why?”

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12 Responses to “An Ancient Piece of Computer Lore in a Place You’d Never Expect” or “Dungeon (Zork) Map in Duplicity”

  1. GameDaddy says:

    Didn’t play that one on a Pdp-11. Did however play in the first Star Trek MMO at DEC on a pdp-11 ties into a Vax mainframe in Colorado in 1980 or so…

  2. Leon says:

    Thanks to the internet, the world is now a small place. I wouldn’t be surprised if you got your question soon answered by whomever it was who put the map there.

  3. Adam says:

    I’ve actually got frotz (Z-machine interpreter) running on my netbook and have been playing a lot of infocom’s in the last couple of months. Zork was one title that i was getting lost in. A map like this will really come in handy.

  4. Gabriel says:

    I only got close to a pdp11 in a museum, and i know that map.. But regardless, this show up on Reddit all the time and 16yo exclaim how it’s the best game…

  5. Gabriel says:

    Also 10yr ago there was a fad of having the java port of zork and other infocom game on 404 pages

  6. msd says:

    I would check the credits and see who was the set designer for the movie.

  7. Jim says:

    Well, if you do a google image search for ‘dungeon map’ it’s one of the first results…. maybe it’s as simple as that ;)

  8. In 1982, give or take a year, I played and mapped a version of Zork using a hacked account on the University of Pennsylvania Med school DEC-10. This map doesn’t seem familiar. I remember the hardest part being getting over the rainbow to get the pot of gold, and there was a leprechaun in the way.

  9. Jay Vaughan says:

    I also remember that map well, it was almost required reading in the late-night computer ops-rooms feet-on-table sessions in between the 2am – 8am shift. Get up, change the tape, pick up the next dox, and so on.

    Its an intriguing observation, though I haven’t seen the movie .. perhaps it is pertinent to one of the characters in the movie? Or, its just up because it looks like a “hand-drawn map of something”, which contextually is there for the looks, mostly, since its not really in focus in the shot .. and being “obscure”, serves a dressing purpose, if not one of plot.

    ‘Tis a wonderful thing, to discover the computer lore of old, and play it all again. For my part, I can’t get enough of the new stuff thats being written for old computers, and in that scene my particular roost is oriented around the Oric-1/ATMOS machines of the 80’s. To be now playing a newly-written bit of Elite, SPACE1999, and so on, with a machine that was long-ago abandoned to eternity, is a wilde thing indeed. I encourage any old-timer to review the dusty hardware in the closet, turn it on, and see how quickly you can hack something up on it, indeed .. if not for the FUN, then also for the PROFIT, of ones mind being sharpened on old stone.

  10. Dakin Williams says:

    That map also had a huge impact in my life.

    In 1982, I was a freshman at Lawrenceville, a preparatory boarding school in New Jersey. The school had a mainframe DEC PDP-11 installed in the math center, and all of us nerds would gravitate there. I was enthralled with computers, computer games, and Dungeon in particular. I loved the game, and of course had made my own hand-drawn map. The publication of a Dungeon map in The DEC Professional caused a stir amongst us. I had to have my own copy. I got the address of the magazine and wrote them a letter on our high school stationery, explaining how we all loved the game. Surprisingly, they send me back 8 copies of the map, in color, printed on 11×17″ stock, as a gift. What a gold mine!! I gave copies to some of my friends in the Computer Center, and stuck my own copy on my dormroom wall.

    I wish I still had my copy! I lost it years ago, unfortunately, as life changes. This map has great sentimental value to me.

  11. Malherbe says:

    The reason I saw this website is : I found this morning a very worn-out and yellowish set of computer papers loaded with scribbles in my archives : all gathered to help me solve the mysteries of this amazing maze :O) A tear in my eye, I remembered when I originally wrote “Geronimo!” for no reason, and ended up (or rather down) splashing in water with my barrel, or shoveling some guano because I felt forced into action by the discovered objects in some frightening tunnel full of drafts… Fantastic moments at the bank where I happenend to be a database consultant, and embarrassing too when I retrospectively calculate the hours spent facing that screen trying and trying again shaking a canary or kissing a brass bauble…

  12. Persephone says:

    Yes we played it on a PDP 11, the Fortran version, then got hold of the C version,
    which I have converted into Java.

    Now trying to make a dynamic map so when you play the game, bit like the
    Marauders Map in HP.

    When we played it on the PDP, we thought GDT was part of the game!!
    Solved it after a few months, but its very addictive!!

    Actually for a ‘real paper map’ , from an DEC (happy days) exhibition,
    they placed them down the end of a dark corridor!! (well they would wouldn’t they)

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