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  1. Phungushead
    View attachment 35579 When Timothy Leary died in 1996, he was eulogized as the godfather of the drug-fueled Sixties counterculture.

    But now, material unearthed in Leary’s archive at the New York Public Library may earn him respect as an early adventurer in another arena: video games.

    Last week, at a reception celebrating the opening of the archive to researchers, the library displayed a monitor showing a continual loop of samples from the dozen or so games Leary developed in the 1980s, alongside cases containing paper documents relating to his famous LSD experiments. The games were recovered from the roughly 375 computer disks included in the Leary archive, and will be viewable — and in some cases, playable — on a specially equipped computer in the library’s rare books and manuscripts division.

    “The games were still in development, so they’re buggy,” warned Donald Mennerich, the digital archivist who led the project.

    But Leary’s games, Mr. Mennerich added, are also right in line with some of the ideas about interactivity that prevail in digital culture today.

    “Leary brought an angle of psychological interaction to this idea of interactive gaming, this idea of reprogramming your brain,” he said. “It didn’t catch on then, but he was pretty far ahead of the curve.”

    Most of Leary’s software projects had a strong self-help bent, and aimed at helping users understand and improve their personalities through digital rather than pharmaceutical means. “Isn’t precise thinking about yourself the most basic tool for managing your life successfully?” players are asked at the beginning of “Mind Mirror” (1985), Leary’s one commercially released product, which allowed players to create, evaluate and role-play different personalities based on psychometric ideas from his 1950 Ph.D. thesis, “The Social Dimensions of Personality.”

    In the two years following its release by Electronic Arts, 65,000 “Mind Mirror” games were sold.

    View attachment 35580 But apparently not everyone was impressed. After one player expressed dissatisfaction, Leary promised a follow-up that would touch on “such dimensions as psychic sensitivity, telepathy, psychedelic excellence, mastery of your own brain, the ability to jump levels, inter-neurological gymnast skills, and oh yeah, the erotic.”

    His later efforts may not have quite gotten there. But “Mind Mirror,” however primitive-seeming now, contained seeds of ideas that have yet to be fully developed even in today’s vastly more sophisticated games, some experts say.

    “The idea of using someone else’s personality to learn about your own is very interesting and hasn’t really been fully explored,” Joichi Ito, the director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a godson of Leary, said in an e-mail. The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology, introduced in the late 1990s to sort players of multiplayer online games into different types, Mr. Ito added, “also reflects some of the thinking that Leary explored in ‘Mind Mirror.’”

    “Mind Mirror” has had an afterlife on the Internet, thanks to a version adapted for Facebook. Other software projects mentioned by Leary over the years — bearing names like Head Coach, Game of Lists, Inter-Com, FlashBack and Mental Performances — were believed to have been lost, or never really undertaken at all.

    Leary’s games, brought back to life thanks to an emulator that reproduces the environment of a mid-1980s computer on the library’s modern machine, hardly look trippy by today’s standards. But in Leary’s floppy disks and paper documents, the archivists also found traces of more ambitious forgotten projects, including a choose-your-own-adventure-style “mind movie” based on William Gibson’s novel “Neuromancer,” which was to have included graphics by Keith Haring, music by Devo, photographs by Helmut Newton and writing by William S. Burroughs.

    That game, which at one point was to be called “Keith Haring’s ‘Neuromancer’ ” (Haring agreed to a character based on his likeness, as long as he was given top billing, according to documents in the archive), doesn’t seem to have gotten very far. Leary’s disks contain only small piece of working software from the project, Mr. Mennerich said. And one surviving image, showing a character based on David Byrne, shows background graphics by the digital artist Brummbaer, not Haring.

    The Leary archive, however, does contain another Haring-related surprise: several disks inscribed with hand-written messages from the artist (“Drink Me,” reads one), as well as five digital Haring drawings made with MacPaint software.

    Ben Fino-Radin, a digital conservator at the Museum of Modern Art whose office is down the street from the library’s digital archives lab in Queens, said that when he saw the drawings his jaw “dropped.”

    “Computer art isn’t something you associate with Haring,” Mr. Fino-Radin said. “That’s just part of his story that hasn’t been told at all.”

    September 27, 2013

    New York Times


  1. Phungushead
    Turn On, Boot Up, and Jack In With Timothy Leary’s Long-Lost Videogames

    [IMGL="white"]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=35586&stc=1&d=1383060495[/IMGL] Timothy Leary was nothing if not an early adopter. He's best known for his starring role in the psychedelic revolution of the '60s, but in the '80s and '90s he became captivated by the transformative potential of personal computers and the Internet. Leary's archives, which have just become available to the public, are filled with digital surprises -- including MacPaint artwork by Keith Haring and several self-help programs that might be considered crude precursors to modern brain-training software.

    Leary's archive at the New York Public Library contains more than 300 floppy discs containing notes on everything from cybersex to cryogenics, letters to famous actors and artists, and videogames in various stages of development.

    Leary coined the phrase "turn on, tune in, drop out" in the '60s, urging people to explore consciousness and embrace individual freedom with or without the aid of psychedelic drugs. At the dawn of the Internet age, he amended that slogan to: "turn on, boot up, jack in."

    "Psychedelics open the brain to more input and 'cyberspace' was doing the same thing, plus we were supplying the input for each other, so it would have a kind of human intimacy," said Ken Goffman, aka R.U. Sirius, a long-time associate and author of a biography about Leary.

    "He saw computer games as a way to help people understand their psyches and interpersonal dynamics and for them to be a bit strategic about changing what wasn't working for them," Goffman said. "He was also excited by the notion that people could hack into and cut up the entertainment that was being fed to them by the industry."

    One of Leary's programs, Mind Mirror, was released by Electronic Arts in 1985. It wasn't quite the smash hit that Madden NFL became, but it did sell 65,000 copies in its first two years, and it lives on today as a Facebook app. The original Mind Mirror uses a bunch of questionnaires (and some groovy '70s lingo) to create a personalized psychological profile of you and your ideal self.

    Several other programs were in various stages of development. They provide a digital flashback to a time when graphics were amusingly crude and games relied heavily on text.

    They may not be flashy, but the games are often intentionally funny, said Lisa Rein, who helped maintain Leary's archives before they were sold to the library, and who co-runs a blog about them. "They're very tongue-in-cheek, making fun of you and himself and even the computer," Rein said.

    Some, like the Neuromancer project, were meant to be software companions to books, allowing users to play different characters or determine the plot -- much like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Others use questionnaires to create psychometric personality plots (some of these use unusual variables, ranging from "Not Ronald Reagan" to "Ronald Reagan" on the horizontal axis, and from "Not John Lennon" to "John Lennon" on the vertical axis, for example). Often, the goal seems to be to encourage players to adopt other personalities and role-play different characters.

    To recover them from Leary's disks, digital archivist Donald Mennerich and intern Alison Rhonemus used tools more commonly used by police departments to extract data from devices without tampering with the evidence. "In forensics, they care about the chain of custody, and it's the same idea -- we want to make sure we're not changing anything," Mennerich said.

    They used a device called a Kryoflux to make disk images of Leary's floppies, many of them the truly floppy 5 1/4 inch kind. Then they used an imposing black box called FRED -- a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device -- to identify the file types and extract text and other data from the disks. Software that emulates DOS and other old operating systems makes it possible to play the games, and the library plans to make a terminal available to the public so people can try them out.

    Even FRED has its limits, though. "A few disks had coffee rings on them," Rhonemus said. "Those obviously didn't play."

    And for some reason FRED has struggled to read some files written with Word 3 for Mac. "I hope that might turn into a research project for someone so we can figure it out," Mennerich said.

    Mennerich says he has no idea what might be in those files, but Leary's other files contain a trove of notes and correspondence. Given the connections Leary cultivated throughout his life with artists, scientists, celebrities, and perhaps even high-ranking politicians, it seems certain that his digital archives contain many gems just waiting to be discovered.

    Images: NYPL Archives & Manuscripts Division


    Timothy Leary's archives contains hundreds of floppy disks. The library's archivists used a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (below) to extract text and other data from the disks.



    The archives include artwork for a "mind movie" program to accompany a never-realized movie adaptation of William Gibson's sci-fi classic Neuromancer. These images of Grace Jones (above) and David Byrne (below) were created by the German digital artist Brummbaer. A soundtrack by DEVO was planned.



    An intro screen from the Neuromancer mind movie, which was meant to be like a choose-your-own-adventure story. Players could swap in different celebrities to play the main characters.


    Two more screenshots from the Neuromancer project.



    Two images created in MacPaint by Keith Haring for the Neuromancer project.



    Intro screen for Flashbacks, a software companion to Leary's 1983 autobiography.


    Intro screen from Head Coach, a psychological assessment and personal improvement program Leary developed. His archive contains several versions in various stages of development.


    "Does this idea of changing yourself seem too far out?" Never fear, SKIPI is here to help. Super-Knowledge-Information-Processing-Intelligence was a program in development aimed at helping people understand and improve their psychological make-up.



    Many of Leary's programs incorporated charts like the one above from SKIPI to map out various dimensions of the user's psyche. Some of these, like the one below from Flashbacks, used unconventional coordinates.



    InterCom was another program in development. It prompted users to answer a variety of questions and queried them about how confident they were about their answers. The graphics -- and some of the feedback -- were pretty groovy.



    01 October 2013

    Greg Miller
    Image: Donald Mennerich and Alison Rhonemus (Alex Welsh/WIRED)
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