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In 1984, on BITNET, a cooperative worldwide university network founded in 1981, two French students from the École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris, Bruno Chabrier and Vincent Lextrait developed and operated a global MUD (Multi-User Dungeon, Domain or Dimension) named MAD (for "Multi Access Dungeon"). It ran on the BITNET node of their school (FREMP11). News about the MUD spread virally, by word of mouth, until a significant portion of BITNET nodes in the world were playing on the central MAD server.[1] After slightly less than two years, BITNET administrators, frightened by the widespread adoption of the game, asked the École des Mines to stop it. MAD was then installed on several other nodes in the world, until it was completely banned, as a consequence of its success, due to causing the complete saturation of BITNET on several occasions. MAD was text-based and entirely written in REXX, a scripting language running on a IBM 4341 using the VM/370 mainframe operating system at the École des Mines de Paris. It made use of a listening utility called "wakeup" developed by one of BITNET aficionados. It initially consisted of one (and later, several) multi-storey labyrinths populated by mobiles and communicating robots (NPCs - Non-player characters). These bots irreverently wore ENSMP professor names (which was highly appreciated by the players including, surprisingly, the foreign ones - see below). Bots would typically shout a Vogon-like "I am a foul monster!". MAD also permitted player avatars to chat with each other.

An extract of MAD's year 1986 connection log

The log attached here shows the very high frequency of connections, and their worldwide origin (University of Maine (USA), University of Southern Maine Portland (USA), Queens College (USA), École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris (France), Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), HEC School of Management (France)). Hundreds of BITNET nodes have played the game.