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William Crowther

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William ("Willie" or "Will") Crowther is a computer programmer and caver. He is best known as the co-creator of Adventure, a seminal computer game.

Will and his first wife Pat Crowther were active and dedicated cavers in the 1960s and early 1970s—both were part of many expeditions to connect the Mammoth and Flint Ridge cave systems. Pat played a key role in the September 9, 1972 expedition that finally made the connection. (Brucker, 1976, p. 299)

During the early 1970s Crowther worked at defense contractor and Internet pioneer Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN). Following his divorce from Patricia, Crowther began using his spare time to develop a simple text-based adventure game in FORTRAN on BBN's PDP-10 minicomputer. He created it as a diversion his daughters Sandy and Laura could enjoy when they came to visit. (Montfort, 2003, pp. 85–87)

In this game, the player would move around an imaginary cave system by entering simple, two-word commands and reading text describing the result. Crowther used his extensive knowledge of cave exploration as a basis for this, and there are many similarities between the locations in the game and those in Mammoth Cave, particularly its Bedquilt section. (Montfort, 2003, p. 88) In 1975 Crowther released the game on the early ARPANET system, of which BBN was a prime contractor. (Montfort, 2003, p. 89)

In Spring of 1976, he was contacted by Stanford researcher Don Woods, seeking his permission to enhance the game. Crowther agreed, and Woods developed several enhanced versions on a PDP-10 housed in the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) where he worked. (Montfort, 2003, p. 89) Over the following decade the game gained in popularity, being ported to many operating systems, including personal-computer platform CP/M.

A number of the basic features invented by Will Crowther were carried forward by the designers of later adventure games—in particular the Zork adventures show this ancestry particularly clearly.

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