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In the early 1980s Texas Instruments introduced the TI99/4A home computer priced at about $500 and I purchased one. There was not much one could do with this computer other than play games on purchased cartridges, but it did come with a simple, built-in BASIC programming language. At the time I found programming fascinating--it was a form of puzzle solving--and one of the computer programs I wrote was my introduction to maze making. The program was a game that randomly generated a maze that the player had to solve. Adding complexity was a monster that started at the other end of the maze and randomly roamed the maze. If you did nothing, it would eventually find you and the game would be over. If it got close, you could not outrun it. Instead you would run in the opposite direction and hope it would take an alternative path, in which case you might sneak by it and get to the exit. I found someone to distribute this game and made about a hundred dollars before Texas Instruments decided that selling at a loss was a bad business practice and discontinued the computer. The market for software evaporated almost immediately. However, the method of generating mazes that I developed for this game was the basis for all my future maze-generating programs.
With the TI99/4A dead, I moved on to another project, writing an economics textbook. For many years I taught economics at a small Indiana college. I did not like the existing textbooks and thought I could do a better job. I tried without success to convince a publisher to publish my book, but they understood something that I had not yet realized: there was no market for a book written by an unknown and undistinguished teacher from a small college. One of the purposes of a textbook is protection for the teacher. If a student complains that he or she learned nothing from the course, the teacher can reply that it is the student's fault. If the student did not learn from the professor, there was the textbook written by a highly acclaimed and famous author and used by hundreds of other schools. Obviously this defense does not work if the author is not highly acclaimed.
I kept working on the text, fixing the problems I discovered as I used it, and when the college obtained a copy of an early desktop publishing program, Ventura Publisher, I laid it out and made it look professional. A year or two later the college purchased Pagemaker with some Macintoshes, and I redid it for Pagemaker. I thought it looked so good that I decided to self-publish and had a thousand copies printed. Students bought some of those copies at cost but most ended up being recycled paper. (However, the book still lives on in digital form as a free web-based book, perhaps the only free, comprehensive introduction-to-economics book on the web.)
The introduction of desktop publishing on the Macintosh introduced me to typography. I played a bit with a free program that let one construct bit-mapped fonts, and then purchased an early version of Fontographer. Although I enjoyed designing typefaces, my interest would have soon waned had I not found people willing to sell my creations. Typography would be a key element in the maze-construction kit that I eventually developed.
With the Macintosh I also returned to programming, first in Microsoft's QuickBASIC and then in Z-BASIC (which became FutureBASIC). I wanted to redo my maze game from the TI-994A, but game programming had developed beyond my programming abilities. It was much easier to develop a program that would output mazes as a text file, which could then be formatted with a specially developed typeface, something that I now knew how to create. The program grew as I tried to do new things, and eventually I split it into several different programs, each doing different sorts of mazes. Although I had been unsuccessful in getting an economics book published, I had had success in finding people willing to sell my typefaces, so I began to wonder about the feasibility of a book of mazes.
Next, The Dover Experience
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