Coded green.

Wednesday 5 December 2001

Screenshot Daggerfall

Pic of the day: Screenshot from Daggerfall, the best computer game that can ever possibly be made. Or so I think now. But will I think the same in ...

25 years?!

It started when I read about the launch of Windows XP. Evidently Bill Gates has used those experience points to upgrade his charisma. But when I read about how he pulled the plug on MS-DOS, I was a bit worried. And just lately it really hit me. Does this mean that I can't play Daggerfall on Windows XP? Daggerfall is a DOS based game, along with many others. It has already been hard to play Arena, the first game in that series, because its memory requirements don't work too well with Windows. The same for Master of Magic - I got it to run under Win98, but have so far given up on Win ME. Now I face the possibility that about half of my favorite games may be facing a dead end.

I considered buying an extra computer or two while it is still possible to run my favorite games on it. Then just stash them away until the old one breaks. (I'm still sorry because SuperWoman and her somewhat impulsive father threw away the computer that I sent her in Germany. I bought it specifically for Daggerfall in its time, and it was pretty much ideal for it. Now it rusts away on some landfill in Germany. If they had asked me, I would have paid for sending it home.)

While I was thinking about this, I realized something. I realized I have been looking forward to my retirement, to get the time to sit down and play computer games all day every day. And especially Daggerfall. (And Civ3 in the night, when Daggerfall is too scary.) And then I realized that retirement age here in Norway is 67, and I am 42. Ouch.

OK, it is not 25 years till I am 67. I have been 42 for more than 11 months now. Even so, it is a full generation. Many of the children who are babies now, will have babies when I am 67. If I ever reach that advanced age at all. Given how old I feel now, it seems absurd that there will pass this long time again.


10 years, I could understand 10 years. It is ten years since I got the original Civilization for the PC, with EGA graphics (even when played in VGA mode, or so it seems to me). I would swap floppy when the diplomacy screens came up, with pictures of the various kings and queens moving their mouth. I was amazed at this super advanced game, with artificial intelligence playing the other rulers. I still have my Goldstar PC-AT, with the 80286 processor running at 10MHz-turbo speed. That's just the right speed for the original Civilization. The World Wide Web was not invented yet, but you could connect to a BBS with a modem on the serial port. If you could afford the telephone bill - calling was quite a bit more expensive back then.

But 25 years? 25 years ago, I must have been 17. Calculators were high technology. We still believed that by the year 2000 there would be cities in orbit and men on Mars. Perhaps not women, yet, but surely brave American explorers. A few of us fantasized about personal computers, but there is no way I could have imagined Daggerfall, or The Sims, or the Internet.

25 years ago, we were in the middle of the cold war. And Norwegian Euro-skeptics were ridiculed for referring to the European Economic Community as a "union". World Watch Institute was worried that industry would cause a new ice age. (The same people who now fear that global warming will end civilization as we know it.)

And I was a student. Almost exactly 25 years ago one of these days, I found out definitely that sleeping with someone just did not feel right, and decided to avoid it for the future if at all possible. (It turned out to be very possible indeed. Surprisingly possible.) 25 years ago, I had no idea what job I wanted to have. I still don't, even though I've worked at the same place for over 20 years now.


I can't imagine myself 25 years in the future. I can't really imagine the world 25 years in the future. It is the time when the nanoprophets believe miracles will be everyday, when the cyberprophets believe that humankind will be changed forever. The time of the superintelligence, whether robotic or human with enhancements. History will pass through a singularity where all that was before is gone forever, and an incomprehensible New World will arise instead. I don't believe that. I think society will be a bit different from now, but no more than we are different from the 1970es. But even that is more than I can visualize.

I have some ideas, though. The Flynn effect is already underway. Unless we see divine intervention on the level of Tower of Babel, the populace in general will be more intelligent than today by ca 10 IQ points. (This does not mean that the average IQ will be 110 - it will always be 100, but the standards will be tougher. I will have an IQ of perhaps 130 instead of 140, even if I somehow manage to not lose any of my mental capacity in 25 years. Fat chance.) The more intelligent people mean that entertainment will shift from the banal and shallow to slightly less banal and shallow. At the same time, the processing capacity of computers will increase enormously. This means that we will see far more sophisticated computer games than today, with more challenging game concepts and artificial intelligence upgraded to challenge the higher natural intelligence.

(And there will be software developers to do it, too, which there may not be today. But in software development, there is no diminishing return for higher intelligence. On the contrary, a single genius can run rings around a large team of mediocre developers. I've seen it done, and even done it myself, when I was younger and smarter. As long as you have reasonably self-documenting tools, that is. Writing documentation is slave labor.)


As the world's population growth slows, and people study longer and are retired longer, there will be a stronger demand for work. Despite advances in robotics, most people will work longer weeks than today; but they will be paid commensurably more, because of the high demand for "human touch". Many people will for instance prefer to get their burgers from a human instead of from a machine, even if the price is a bit higher. (Me, I'd pay a bit extra to get it from a machine, despite the cute Asian girls that work at the local McDonalds. Machines don't know where you work. Then again, by 2026, perhaps they do ... (insert mild paranoia here). Oh wait. By 2026 I don't work, that's the whole point!)

Today as I went to buy groceries, I saw a Ford Think (or was that Th!nk?) City electric car parked outside the shop. I think that's the first time I've ever seen one of those in real life, even though they are made in Norway. Next year's production is earmarked for California, I recently read in the papers. But 25 years from now, electric cars may be the norm. Or perhaps cars with fuel cells and hydrogen sponge storage, releasing only water vapor as they burn the fuel. It's hard to say. But it is a safe bet that there will be no flying cars among common people. And it is a safe bet that I still won't be driving.

Instead, if I'm still alive and with all senses and limbs intact, I am probably inside playing Daggerfall. The question is what system I am playing on. Is it a 2025 model computer with 3D goggles and control gloves? Or is it a spare Pentium 300MHz, one of the four I bought used in 2002 and stored in a dry place until needed? Rumor has it that some people did that with the Ford T, Because they knew that there would never be such a good car again. Just as I know there will never again be a game like Daggerfall ...

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