• Tag Archives 1984
  • MagicSoft (1984)


    As far as I’m concerned, the Wizardry and Ultima series still represent some of the best Role-Playing Games ever made. The nice thing about computer based RPGs was that you could expand and modify them to some extent, even if that was not officially supported. You could do it the hard way with something like a disk sector editor or you could use third-party tools made for the purpose.

    This particular ad from 1984 is advertising two different tools from a company called MagicSoft. The first is called “Wizard’s Toolkit #1” and allows you to edit Wizardry I, II and III by adding new weapons, monsters and certain other items. These games were available for multiple computers and it isn’t clear which computers may have been supported.

    The second tool is called “Exodus Construction Set” and was made to modify Ultima III: Exodus. From the description, it seems to allow an even more extensive level of editing. However, it apparently was only made for the Apple II version of Ultima III.

    A third tool, Wizard’s Toolkit #2, is mentioned as forthcoming as well though I don’t know if it was ever released. Some developers would eventually release official tools for this kind of editing but in 1984 this was pretty new territory.

  • The Origins of the Thought Police—and Why They Scare Us

    There are a lot of unpleasant things in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. Spying screens. Torture and propaganda. Victory Gin and Victory Coffee always sounded particularly dreadful. And there is Winston Smith’s varicose ulcer, apparently a symbol of his humanity (or something), which always seems to be “throbbing.” Gross.

    None of this sounds very enjoyable, but it’s not the worst thing in 1984. To me, the most terrifying part was that you couldn’t keep Big Brother out of your head.

    Unlike other 20th-century totalitarians, the authoritarians in 1984 aren’t that interested in controlling behavior or speech. They do, of course, but it’s only as a means to an end. Their real goal is to control the gray matter between the ears.

    “When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will,” O’Brien (the bad guy) tells the protagonist Winston Smith near the end of the book.

    We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him.

    Big Brother’s tool for doing this is the Thought Police, aka the ThinkPol, who are assigned to root out and punish unapproved thoughts. We see how this works when Winston’s neighbor Parsons, an obnoxious Party sycophant, is reported to the Thought Police by his own child, who heard him commit a thought crime while talking in his sleep.

    “It was my little daughter,” Parsons tells Winston when asked who it was who denounced him. “She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh?”