November 30, 2023

A few weeks back I shared a copy of the program that was the spark that started my love of, and career with, computers.

Mrs. White, a Biology teacher, who was less than inspirational to her students, told me that computer science was a foolish pursuit because soon computers would be writing their own programs. (“Foolish“ was kind for her; she had previously called me stupid for wanting to pursue parapsychology. Not saying she was wrong, but her message could have had more respectable impact.)

I don’t think in the early 1980’s she was being especially prescient, just jaded in her perception. But in her honor I asked ChatGPT to write me an adventure game in the BASIC programming language… 40 years later.

It pumped out a short program, error riddled, requiring a bit of debugging to get to a functional collection of bits. When it did run, it was the simplest of output. Go right, you lose either fighting or running from a dragon, go left you find treasure and win.

Now when I’m sitting around waiting on a kid or some such, I work on adding features. Now going right gives you the fight or run option, but instead of an automatic loss, there’s a 50% chance you win the fight, and a 66% chance you can run away. Up next, going left will have more significant treasure options. Eventually the adventure will get more than two rooms, and experience points will increase your chances of success.

Hopefully Mrs. White can rest in peace knowing the computers haven’t replaced the coders just yet. The human touch is still required for more than mediocrity.

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