Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ScienceFair storytime

I didn't call you a loser

It's Science Fair Week on the OhmsBlog! Yesterday's post is available here.

In 1997 I was an exhibitor at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Regina. Since much of the science fair involves sitting at one's project, those of us in Computer Technology had the advantage of having our own computers on hand to alleviate some of the boredom.

I spent a few hours of my time playing a simple game that I had installed on my machine. The student sitting next to me took an interest in it, and asked him if I would mind giving him a copy. I copied the necessary binaries to a floppy that he had lent me. Justin, as I'll call him, took the floppy, copied the binaries onto his machine, and ran the game.

Since he had never played this game before, there were no high scores saved anywhere. He lost his first game quickly, but since the high scores were empty it prompted him to enter his name for the high scores list. Unfortunately the high scores dialog box came up looking like this:

Justin is a loser!

He looked over at me with an expression of incredulity and asked, "What's this?" The best answer I could give him was, "I don't know!" I didn't copy any configuration data over to that floppy, just binaries. That game was a 16-bit Windows executable, so it probably wrote its high scores data to an .ini file somewhere. Since that game was part of a package, I suspect that at some other time he played a different game from that package that saved its scores to the same file. Somebody entered that phrase as a high score for the other game, causing it to be the default when he played the game that he got from me.

I'm not quite sure that he understood that, though. He didn't say much to me for the rest of the fair. He just played "No Rain" by Blind Melon over and over.


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