Newpaper-Published Articles Hat

Published newspaper and professional articles on MUDs and MUD-related matters. All these have been scanned from the original copies in my possession.
Mortar Board Computer Society
Lally, I.
Essex County Standard, page 22,
8th June, 1984.
The Essex County Standard runs a section called "Neighbourhood News", whereby local correspondents from small towns and villages write up anything remotely of interest which has happened there. Essex University has a column, which it uses primarily to show what an amazingly good place it is. Only when it has run out of news concerning research grants, fellowships, visiting professors, sports successes and cleaners retiring after 20 years of dedicated work does it resort to mentioning student activities. There must have been a real dearth of academic good news this particular week, but see also the Wivenhoe article.
Mortar Board Danger - micros can damage your marriage
Firbank, J.
You: The Mail on Sunday Magazine, pages 42 and 43,
21st October, 1984.
A populist piece of writing pandering to common prejudices held by readers of The Mail on Sunday. Superficial, but nevertheless a surprisingly good early piece on the subject of computer addiction. It was rather shot out of the water by Shotton's book of several years later, though... MUD1 gets a mention, with me held up as an example of an archetypal computer addict as a consequence (sigh). Jez San is quoted, too, although this was in the days when he was still making the transition to "Jez" from "Jeremy", so he probably won't thank me for pointing this out...
Firbank later went on to work for CompuNet, who ran the first commercial version of MUD1. These days, she is regularly consulted by newspapers such as The Sun when they need a quick psychological opinion on some public figure based on some recent example of observed behaviour.
Mortar Board Academics play with Dungeons and Dragons
Manchester, P.
Datalink, pages 32 and 3,
29th October, 1984.
An attempt to give some academic respectability to MUD by a veteran journalist who saw its potential; sadly (but not entirely unexpectedly) it didn't work. The fact that it could have brought money as well as name recognition to the Department of Computer Science at Essex University was irrelevant: what mattered was what the peer group of other university computing departments would make of it (answer: not much). There's a cartoon that goes with this article, too, although it appeared some 29 pages before the article itself so may have confused some readers...
Mortar Board Chatting up total strangers at home
Manchester, P.
The Times, page 26,
13th November, 1984.
Yes, I've been in The Times. This is quite a good article, given the subject matter and the location ("'Computer games?' And what are these, 'computer games'?"). The title was probably sensational enough to make it acceptable to the science editor. It emphasises the money-making potential of the game, but notes that it's not going to be great while telephone charges in the UK are high. Damn these perceptive journalists!
There's an accompanying photograph of me leaning on a DM3000 terminal showing one of about 6 "graphics" I put into MUD to represent maps (I didn't put in more because they players didn't like them - ha!).
Mortar Board Playing with MUD helps ai research
Manchester, P.
Computing: The Magazine, pages 18 and 19,
22nd November, 1984.
Being a veteran journalist, Phil Manchester likes to squeeze as much juice from a story as he can... This article is basically a reworking of the earlier Datalink one, and is not entirely dissimilar to the one in The Times, either... Still, as they were all favourable, I'm not complaining! There's a B&W photograph of me with my beloved moustache included. I'm sitting next to my colleague, Sam Steel. Sam never played a second of MUD in his life, which is why he insisted his face was not toward the camera (out of honesty, rather than shame, I hasten to add!).
Mortar Board Glorious mud
<author unknown>
The Economist, page 88,
23rd February, 1985.
This is a fairly short article, but the fact that it appeared in a well-respected publication means it probably had more influence than its length would suggest. It contains a number of minor inaccuracies (it seems to imply that the CompuNet MUD ran on Essex University's DEC-10, for example), but it isn't seriously bad.
I believe the author may have been Jane Firbank, but the article carries no bye-line so I can't tell.
Mortar Board Fast lane thrills on computer
Sherer, A.
Essex County Standard/, pages 36 and 37,
20th May, 1988.
An embarrassingly enthusiastic article. The journalist who interviewed me made the usual number of small errors (Roy's surname is "Thrubshaw", for example), but there's nothing life-threateningly wrong. The article coincided with the release of the single-player version of MUD1, which was a nice piece of work but came out too late to sell; by 1988, the demise of the text adventure was almost complete.
The text was juxtaposed with a large photograph of me seated at my Atari Mega ST4 ("4" because it had 4mb of RAM) and the old Apricot FX20 ("20" because it had 20mb of hard drive) that I used as a terminal for it. I'm wearing one of the BT MUD sweatshirts: someone had to...
Mortar Board Fed up with dragons
Davy, J. and Ho, S.
The Observer, page 32,
13th August, 1989.
This is a light review of Federation II, with a few quotes from Alan Lenton, its author. The game had just been launched at the time, and much was made of the fact that it was Science Fiction in nature rather than Fantasy (hence the title). Unusually, they manage to spell Roy Trubshaw's surname correctly, but get his first name wrong...
I'm not really sure of what the second-named writer of the article is called, because my original cutting looks suspiciously like there may be another letter after the "Ho" which didn't make it to the right side of the scissors...
There's an unflattering photograph of Alan which accompanies the piece.
Mortar Board In the Jungle of MUD
Germain, S.
Time, page 61,
13th Septermber, 1993.
A very influential article, which brought MUDs into the mainstream. The journalist actually seems to have done her research, and other than the oft-quoted falsehood that Australia banned MUDs, the only other quibble I have is that the first MUD was not written so we could play Dungeons & Dragons - if we'd have wanted to play it, we would just have played it (as, occasionally, we did).
Mortar Board Join me now in the multi-user dungeon
Jackson, S.
Daily Telegraph, Weekend, page 35,
5th October, 1996.
Although he is now the Daily Telegraph's computer games correspondent, Steve Jackson is perhaps better known as one half of the duo (the other was Ian Livingstone) who wrote the Fighting Fantasy novels beginning in 1982: at one time, they were the best-selling authors in the UK. Their company, Games Workshop, got wind of MUD and the two visited Essex University one evening to try it out. Although they liked the game very much, the cost of a DEC-10 was a little beyond their budget at the time, but they wished us well. When Meridian 59 was launched in mid-1996, Steve got in touch with me again to find out what I thought about it; this article was the result. A large B&W photograph of me accompanies the text, in which I have a huge stack of ancient lineprinter paper resting on my knees. I think I look a little pale, though, especially my eyebrows (!).
Green, T.
Computer Trade Weekly, page 21,
17th November, 1997.
This write-up, in the UK computer games industry trade paper, concerns the Online Entertainment 97 conference. The author seems to take a rather cynical view of the whole industry, but I suppose he does have a point: the only people who were making pots of money from online games at the time either didn't turn up, or turned up then disappeared before anyone could buttonhole them...
Mortar Board Mind game in the MUD
McClellan, J.
The Guardian, page 21,
28th January, 1999.
This was the leading article in that Thursday's online section of The Guardian. It's objective and gives us a fair hearing. Although it was prompted by the publication of Julian Dibbell's book, My Tiny Life, at its core was an extensive interview which Jim McClellan conducted with me over the phone.
Although the article itself is good, we didn't get any new players as a result of it, as far as I know. This may have been because it was accompanied by an horrendous photograph of Roy and I, taken at Essex University with the Computing Department in the background. It looked quite good in colour when we were shown it on the phtographer's digital camera, but in B&W Roy looks like an entrant in an Oliver Hardy lookalike competition and I appear to have aged 30 years...

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
12th March 1999: npublish.htm