30 Year of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
By James Grahame
It's been exactly 30 years (actually, I'm a few hours early) since the first episode of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2) was foisted upon unsuspecting BBC radio listeners.We thought we'd celebrate by linking you to several free versions of the H2G2 game, but I'm going to blather a bit first.
The series would spawn a wildly successful five part 'trilogy,' a TV series and even a woefully inadequate feature film that Douglas had the good sense to avoid by reincarnating as a tea-loving deity on a far off world populated by sentient mattresses (For the record, Douglas, the Earth would have been a far more interesting place if you'd skipped the film idea and decided to stick around instead).
It should come as no surprise that Douglas was an alpha technology addict. After earning a daft sum from his books in the early 1980s, he eagerly embraced the Macintosh along with a respectable collection of then state-of-the-art MIDI synthesizers including a Sequential Prophet VS. His favorite feature of the VS was the random patch generator, which seems somehow fitting given his love of Infinite Improbability. Of course, the secret purpose of his music rig could be summed up in a single word: Procrastination. As he famously remarked, "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
In 1984, Douglas teamed up with Infocom's Steve Meretzky to release a text-only computer game based on the Guide. It sold a stunning 350,000 copies before getting buried by an avalanche of prettier titles. Douglas explained, "Then graphics games came along and the computer using portion of the human race forgot all about 500,000 years of language evolution and went straight back to the electronic equivalent of banging rocks together - the point'n'click game. Infocom and most of its competitors went to the wall - signaling the arrival of the post-literate society. That's the way it's been for most of the last dozen years."
Luckily, you can experience several online versions of the game, including a Java port of the original and a graphically enhanced '20th Anniverary' edition that the BBC released in 2004. I strongly suggest steeping some tea, getting comfy and spending a few hours trying to keep Arthur Dent alive.
The BBC ponders The Ultimate Question