Don't Panic

So long, and thanks for all the Macs…

Douglas Adams with Mac 128k and electric guitar
Douglas Adams with Mac 128k and electric guitar

Today is Towel Day, when fans of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy in particular celebrate his life and work all around the world, but especially here in England.

Douglas Noel Adams (11 March 1952 – 11 May 2001) was an English author,scriptwriter, essayist, humorist, satirist and dramatist.

He is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which originated in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a “trilogy” of five books that sold more than 15 million copies in his lifetime and generated a television series, several stage plays, comics, a computer game, and in 2005 a feature film. Adams’s contribution to UK radio is commemorated in The Radio Academy’s Hall of Fame.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Adams also wrote Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988), and co-wrote The Meaning of Liff (1983),The Deeper Meaning of Liff (1990), Last Chance to See (1990), and three stories for the television series Doctor Who; he also served as script editor for the show’s seventeenth season in 1979. A posthumous collection of his works, including an unfinished novel, was published as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002.

Adams was known as an advocate for environmentalism and conservation, as a lover of fast cars, cameras, technological innovation and the Apple Macintosh, and as a “devout atheist”.

Computer games and projects
The Infocom version of The Hitchhiker's Guid to the Galaxy was available on many computers
The Infocom version of The Hitchhiker’s Guid to the Galaxy was available on many computers

Douglas Adams created an interactive fiction version of HHGTG with Steve Meretzky from Infocom in 1984. In 1986 he participated in a week-long brainstorming session with the Lucasfilm Games team for the game Labyrinth. Later he was also involved in creating Bureaucracy (also by Infocom, but not based on any book; Adams wrote it as a parody of events in his own life).

Starship Titanic - the adventure game
Starship Titanic – the adventure game

Adams was a founder-director and Chief Fantasist of The Digital Village, a digital media and Internet company with which he created Starship Titanic, a Codie Award-winning and BAFTA-nominated adventure game, which was published in 1998 by Simon & Schuster. Terry Jones wrote the accompanying book, entitled Douglas Adams Starship Titanic, since Adams was too busy with the computer game to do both. In April 1999, Adams initiated the h2g2 collaborative writing project, an experimental attempt at making The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a reality, and at harnessing the collective brainpower of the internet community. It found a new home at BBC Online in 2001.

In 1990 Adams wrote and presented a television documentary programme Hyperland, which featured Tom Baker of Doctor Who fame as a “software agent” (similar to the assistant pictured in Apple’s Knowledge Navigator video of future concepts from 1987), and interviews with Ted Nelson, the co-inventor of hypertext and the person who coined the term. Although Adams did not invent hypertext, he was an early adopter and advocate of it. This was the same year that Tim Berners-Lee used the idea of hypertext in his HTML.

So long, and thanks for all the Macs
The DEC Rainbow 100
The DEC Rainbow 100

Having survived being an early user of the DEC Rainbow, Apricot, BBC Micro and the Cambridge Z88, Douglas was introduced to the Apple Macintosh 128k in 1984, and never looked back.  He became a massive Mac enthusiast and owned numerous models over the years; those which are known to have been used by him have been listed in a very interesting article on Low End Mac:

  • Mac 128K
  • Mac Plus (at least 2)
  • Mac SE
  • Mac II
  • Mac IIcx
  • Mac SE/30
  • Mac IIci
  • Mac IIfx
  • Quadra 950
  • PowerBook Duo
  • PowerBook 5300
  • Power Mac G3 (at least 2)
  • iMac (at least2)
  • PowerBook G3
  • Power Mac G4
  • Power Mac G4 Cube
Douglas Adams' Macintosh IIfx (pic courtesy Phil Beesley)
Douglas Adams’ Macintosh IIfx (pic courtesy Phil Beesley)

One of Douglas’s favourite computers, the once incredibly expensive Macintosh IIfx, came to light in 2003, and features in a remarkable blog post by the present owner, Phil Beesley.

Douglas Adams' Macintosh SE_30 (pic courtesy Centre for Computing History)
Douglas Adams’ Macintosh SE_30 (pic courtesy Centre for Computing History)

Another, a Macintosh SE/30, has most recently come to light via retro computing enthusiast Andy Taylor, who acquired it and has now donated it to the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England where it is will be preserved for posterity. Andy talks about this on his blog.

HAPPY TOWEL DAY – and remember, DON’T PANIC!



Part text courtesy Wikipedia, list courtesy Low End Mac..