The week of November 8, 2015

The past is never finished

By Jesse Hicks

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” So goes the Faulknerian sentiment, with its evocatively cryptic meaning. Does it suggest there’s no such thing as the past, or that the past is forever with us? In this issue of the Kernel, we’re looking to the past, to small, even forgotten bits of Internet history, to see their effects on the world of today.

First, Kate Davis Jones tells the story of 3D Pinball for Windows–Space Cadet. The Microsoft colossus wanted to show off the power of its new operating system, Windows 95, and a tiny but plucky startup landed a contract for a game it hadn’t even started to build. The small team went on to create something beloved by cubicle dwellers everywhere, and Space Cadet was a part of Windows for more than a decade. My favorite part of this story may be the bit of subterfuge involving a dot-matrix printer and a thermal fax machine, but I also want to play Gluem, a Doom clone that turned the first-person shooter into a first-person gluer. One of the creators described it as “a really ungodly stupid game,” which sounds about right. Sadly, it was never completed.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Rick Paulas talks to Jeremy Winterrowd, who created another ungodly stupid game, known as the scary maze game.” If you used the Internet in the early 2000s, you likely played it or one of its many derivatives—and then passed it on to friends, or even made them play while you watched. As Paulas details (and this should be no spoiler), the “game” was essentially a jump-scare written in Adobe Flash. It encouraged you to turn the volume up and play full screen, asking your full concentration, then lulled you into complacency just before your computer speakers erupted in a banshee’s scream and Linda Blair’s horrific visage from The Exorcist appeared onscreen. Something of an easy gag, but it nonetheless became an early meme, with reaction videos racking up millions of hits on YouTube—even Miley Cyrus made one. It’s the kind of peculiar fad no one could have predicted.

Enjoy the issue.

Photo via Sarai | Fotography/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)