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Infocom, was a Cambridge, Massachusetts based software company, that produced numerous text adventure computer games. It was founded on June 22, 1979 and lasted as an independent company until 1986 when it was bought by Activision. Activision finally shut down the Infocom division in 1989, although they released some titles in the 1990s under the Infocom Zork brand.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Titles
3 Legacy
4 External links


Infocom was well-known in game-playing circles for the parsers used in its witty, ambitious text adventures, which allowed the user to type complex instructions to the game. Unlike earlier adventure games which only understood commands of the form 'verb noun' (e.g. "get apple"), Infocom adventures could understand commands like "get the green apple on the table." Infocom games were written using a programming language that ran on a standard virtual machine the Z-machine. As the games were text based and used variants of the same z-machine interpreter, Infocom was able to release most of their games for the various popular personal computers of the day -- Apple II, IBM PC compatible, Atari ST, Amiga, Commodore 64 and the Mac. The company was also known for shipping creative props with its games.

The first (and very successful) game Zork was created in 1977, two years before the creators founded the company Infocom. The game was finally released in 1980. Other popular and inventive titles included the rest of the Zork series, 1984's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, based on the work of Douglas Adams, and 1985's A Mind Forever Voyaging. Games authors at Infocom included Dave Lebling, Marc Blank and Steve Meretzky.

In 1984 Infocom started putting resources into a new division to produce business products. In 1985 they released a database product, Cornerstone. Unfortunately this product sold only 10,000 copies, not enough to cover the development expenses. The portability provided by their virtual machine strategy that had worked so well for their adventure games did not prove a significant advantage for Cornerstone, as most businesses were moving to the IBM PC platform by that time. Infocom had sunk much of the money made from their earlier games into Cornerstone and were left in significantly worse financial position, which led to the acquisition by Activision.



The copyrights to the Infocom games are believed to be still held by Activision. Many Infocom titles remain available throughout the Internet community (legally in the case of the Zork trilogy, but illegally in most other cases). They are available as Z-machine story files, which require a Z-machine emulator (a Z-code interpreter) to play. These interpreters have been written for numerous platforms, ranging from older computers to palmtops to the IBM PC and Apple Macintosh, and even Java.

External links