Marc Blank

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Marc Blank is an American game developer and software engineer. He is best known as part of the team that created one of the first hit text adventure computer games, Zork.

Early project[edit]

In high school, Blank collaborated with Alex Citron on a simulation of a major league baseball season called CWABL, standing alternatively for Computerized Winner Automatic Baseball League or Citroblamatic Whizamadingy Automatic Baseball League, which came to employ a pseudorandom number generator classmate Robert Goodman programmed on an electronic calculator. Despite its name, it operated via table look-up.

Career[edit]

Blank first encountered Don Woods and Will Crowther's Adventure game while he was studying at MIT in the mid-1970s, where the game was played on mainframe computers.

Blank was frustrated by the computer's tiny vocabulary; when it parsed user inputs very few words were recognized. After thinking about the problem during his undergraduate years, he started work on his own adventure game using MDL, a computer language invented at MIT. Blank and a handful of friends wrote the original version of Zork on a PDP-10 while he was attending medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York (he received his MD degree in 1979).

The free-play university version of Zork first became available on the MIT-DM PDP-10 in June 1977. It was then distributed by the Digital Equipment Corporation DECUS program and spread to many colleges in the United States and Canada.

Blank graduated from medical school in 1979 but the call of Zork was irresistible. He and several friends spent the next year developing a specialized computer language that they could use to program text adventures like Zork on the new microcomputers.

The Apple II's limited RAM required them to cut half of the original version of Zork. The new Zork for the Apple and the Radio Shack TRS-80, had a 600-word vocabulary. They founded the new company, Infocom, to publish the game and more like it.

In 1993 he teamed up with former Infocom writer Michael Berlyn to found Blank, Berlyn and Co. The company's name was later changed to Eidetic. They initially published productivity software for the Apple Newton. Eidetic's Notion: The Newton List Manager became a hit and was ultimately bundled in all Newtons.

Blank returned to text adventures in 1997 when Activision producer Eddie Dombrower asked Blank and Berlyn to create a small promotional game, Zork: The Undiscovered Underground, to promote the release of Activision's graphical game Zork: Grand Inquisitor.

As Newton sales faded, Eidetic changed gears to focus on PC and PlayStation games, producing the hit Syphon Filter in 1999. In 2000 Sony acquired Eidetic for an undisclosed sum.

Blank left Sony in 2004, where he focused on his email client for the Treo smartphone, ChatterEmail. On February 22, 2007, Blank announced he would no longer be "actively" working on ChatterEmail. Blank subsequently joined Palm, Inc. (who acquired ChatterEmail) and led the design and implementation of the Palm Pre's Email application. He worked in the Android group at Google from 2009 to 2012, and is now a Principal Engineer at Lab126 (Amazon.com).

In 2013 Blank and Dave Lebling were awarded the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Pioneer Award for their work on Zork. [1]

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