From a single line of old, clumsy code ...
Geeta Dayal in «Slate Book Review» reviews a book that will make you dizzy. In "BASIC: A single line of code sends readers into a labyrinth" she explores the mysteries of a brief line of computer code that draws a strange, beautiful and endless maze pattern on the screen, and much more besides. Here's a precis of what she writes:
10 PRINT CHR$ (205.5 + RND (1)); : GOTO 10, a new book collaboratively written by 10 authors, takes a single line of code, inscribed in the book’s mouthful of a title, and explodes it.
That one line, a seemingly clumsy scrap of BASIC, generates a fascinatingly complicated maze on a Commodore 64. Run the little program on an emulator—or on an actual Commodore 64, if you happen to have one collecting dust in your basement—and a work of art unfolds before your very eyes, as the screen slowly fills up in a mesmerizing fashion...
The book, which has also been released for free download under a Creative Commons license, unspools 10 PRINT’s strange history and dense web of cultural connections, winding its way through the histories of mazes and labyrinths, grids in modern art, minimalist music and dance, randomness, repetition, textiles, screensavers, and Greek mythology. There are forays into early computer graphics, hacking, Cold War military strategy and Pac-Man. References abound, from the Commodore 64 user’s manual to Roland Barthes’ S/Z. This is a book where Dungeons and Dragons and Abstract Expressionism get equal consideration.
Though 10 PRINT CHR$ (205.5 + RND (1)); : GOTO 10 is occasionally whiplash-inducing in its headlong rush through history, the connections it makes over 294 pages are inspired. One of the most compelling sections of the book discusses the cultural history of mazes, relating 10 PRINT’s maze back to the labyrinth of Knossos, where, according to the great Greek myth, Theseus waged battle with the terrifying Minotaur.
You can read the full review here.
Photo below: Geeta Dayal.