Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pacman ... in Excel???  

Mother of Mercy. I was digging through my old posts and found this unpublished, unfinished draft started on October 4, 2006 titled "pacman???". Apparently I stumbled across version of Pacman written in Excel and was so shocked that I could only write the outline of the post in a barely organized list of URLs.

Reading through those ... apparently my initial horror led me to look into a whole bunch of other things, including the Javascript Arcade with versions of classic games written in Javascript. Back then, people were looking at using a variety of DHTML tricks to do graphics in Javascript. In the days of Chrome Experiments, a few short years later, this no longer seems insane, though now you're more likely to want to do this in Flash ... and sure enough someone has done so.

Reading through the tiny notes and trying to reconstruct my thought process ... apparently the idea of using Excel to implement Pac Man, and the challenges of drawing lines in the DOM, took me back to the ideas of in Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics, Jim Foley's text, the first book I learned graphics from. There have been many versions of that book since, but they'll all tell you how to create lines on a grid, whether you're doing it with low-level hardware or with cells in Excel ... shudder.

Apparently creating graphics on top of a windowing system and browser reminded me of the idea of virtual machines, a fundamental idea in computer science in which one computer system can be used as the "physical hardware" to create another computer system on top of it. Once you create one virtual machine, it can then be used to create another ... and another, and another. Another "seminal" book for me, Douglas Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach, explores the consequences of layers of virtual machines in much creative detail.

So the point being, the more advanced our computers become, the more likely it is that we'll be creating things like Pac Man in Excel.

I don't know whether to weep in joy or fear.

-the Centaur



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