Judy Malloy: The BASIC Uncle Roger - Beta Version_2


How to run Uncle Roger


More Information About the Work


Early Implementations

Thoughts on the BASIC Recreation
of Uncle Roger


The first recreation of the original BASIC version of Uncle Roger runs in DOSBox, an emulator that simulates early command line/DOS operating system computers. Uncle Roger has been tested using the Windows version of DOSBox on which it works well. Reports of how it works on other versions are welcome.

DOSBox does not replicate the aesthetically pleasing glowing green or yellow text of 1980's DOS-based personal computers, although it may be possible to achieve something closer to the original experience by writing color into the program. This has not yet been done, but I did make a few small tweaks in the program to emulate the way the original was formatted on 1980's computers.

A few of the original lexias were edited when I translated Uncle Roger to the Web. Since the web version of Uncle Roger is now the authorized version of the text, as a writer, I felt it was appropriate to use the authorized text. I would consider this a different issue from changing the program. However, in recreating the work, it was necessary to make a few changes in the DATA statements, so that they worked with the text editing.

Otherwise, this Uncle Roger is close to what viewers who purchased it from Art Com or saw it in the Art Com Software traveling exhibition would have seen. [1]

1. Uncle Roger was included in Art Com Software: Digital Concepts and Expressions, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, NYC, NY, Nov. 4 - 22, 1988. (Show also traveled to San Jose State University, University of Colorado, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria and Carnegie Melon University.)

The Apple II BASIC version of "A Party in Woodside" was also exhibited at Ultimatum II, Exhibition, Images du Futur '87, Montreal, Canada, Sept. 1987 and in ARTWARE at A Space, Toronto, Canada, April 6 - May 6, 1989

How to run Uncle Roger

  1. Download and install DOSBox
    Create a directory for DOSBox, such as dosbox
    Goto http://www.dosbox.com
    download DOSbox and put it in this directory
    Create a desktop icon for DOSBox
    Information about the Macintosh version is at
    but I have not tested this version.

    In addition to DOSBox, you will need GW-BASIC (or equivalent) in order to read Uncle Roger. A copy of GW-BASIC is included in the .zip file of Uncle Roger, but it can also be downloaded other places on the Internet.

  3. Download Uncle Roger
    Download the .zip file of Uncle Roger at

    The Programs that comprise Uncle Roger are
    PARTY.BAS (1987)
    BLUE.BAS (1987)
    FILE3.BAS 1988)
    UNCLE.BAS (Menu program, 1988)
    All these programs were given some small tweaks in 1991 which are incorporated in the recreated version. The early software is housed in the Judy Malloy Papers at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.

  4. Install Uncle Roger
    Create a directory called uncle
    Note that the directory must be called uncle
    or you will not be able to return to the main menu
    unzip uncle_roger_basic.zip into uncle
    This will create the main menu in the uncle directory
    and the files in 3 subdirectories: party, blue, and terms

  5. Run UNCLE.BAS
    click on the DOSBox icon
    If you would like to view the work in full screen, the toggle command is alt-enter
    alt-enter will also return the work to a smaller size.

    when you see the Z: prompt, type mount C: C:\uncle

    type C:
    type dir to make sure you are in uncle
    type gwbasic
    at the OK prompt in GW-BASIC, type run "UNCLE.BAS"
    you will need to include the quotes

  6. Read Uncle Roger
    Uncle Roger begins with a menu which offers access to the three files.

    Select 1 to go to "A Party in Woodside". Remember that this was written in the days before the World Wide Web, and follow the prompts to explore the story from the link list. When you are ready to move to the next file, type stop at the prompt to return to the main menu.

    Select 2 to explore "The Blue Notebook". "The Blue Notebook" is read in the same way as "A Party in Woodside". When you are ready to move to the next file, type stop at the prompt to return to the main menu.

    Select 3 for "Terminals". In "Terminals", the lexias are generative. Keep pressing to experience the work. To exit "Terminals", type stop The deus ex machina conclusion will appear. Then type stop to return to the main menu and stop to exit Uncle Roger. (For ease of use in an era when readers were not accustomed to computer systems, "stop" was used as a dominant navigational tool in this work.)


This is the beta-1 version of the reconstructed BASIC Uncle Roger. Feedback on bugs in Uncle Roger -- small bugs, how it works on different systems, or the need for clearer instructions -- is very welcome! However, because this version is a re-creation of the original, the program needs to stay essentially the way it was. I can see many things I would like to change/improve, but in order to replicate the original experience, I have not done so in this version.

More Information About the Work

Uncle Roger is an interactive hyperfiction for early command line computer platforms. It is based on a narrative and creative use of links. (originally called keywords from the database technology and algorithms that informed this work) Following chains of links through the narrative, the reader creates an individual experience of characters, events and locations. Uncle Roger was a seminal attempt to create a substantial work of experimental and literary hyperfiction. It differs from the classic Storyspace hypertexts, in that in Uncle Roger linked lexias and generated lexias are command line activated (as opposed to mouse activated) and relatedly because the aesthetic and interface of the Apple II and early IBM PC systems was quite different from the Macintosh aesthetic and interface.

The idea for the structure of Uncle Roger and for the use of lexias (which I called "records" from database terminology) as units of texts that could be combined with other units of text to create a meaningful narrative came in part from my series of artists books (created from 1976 - 1991) in which text and visual information were organized by database principles. As an artist/writer, who also worked with information systems, I had studied Systems Analysis for library databases in a graduate seminar at the University of Denver. Additionally, when I was head of an early project to computerize their Technical Library, I studied FORTRAN in a company class at an aerospace Company in Boulder, Colorado. (where early Chicano novelist Jose Antonio Villarreal was a colleague)

Uncle Roger was created with three separate Files. Files 1 and 2 are interactive hypertexts in which the reader actively follows links through the narrative -- either one link or combinations of links using the Boolean operator "and" ("jenny" and "dreams", for instance) -- and then returns to the beginning to follow another link or combination of links. Although the reader is exploring a diffuse environment, reader choices are directly expressed -- i.e. the reader is wandering through a story, but he or she sets a clear path and then returns to the beginning to set another path. The first two files might be considered Oulipoan as opposed to immersive. Simulating the diffuse, unsettled quality of the narrator's changing life, the third file is generative and is somewhat immersive.


In the years that Uncle Roger was created, the writer -- who had also lived in the locale of the Silicon Valley semiconductor industry -- was immersed in an early online environment which included people from Silicon Valley and/or immersed in computer culture. With locations including a series of parties, a microelectronics lab, and an early corporate word-processing office, Uncle Roger -- like the interface and algorithms of the work itself -- is set in this era of transitioning computer culture. Events are observed by a narrator, who in telling the story intertwines elements of magic realism with Silicon Valley culture and semiconductor industry lore.

The following background information about each file of Uncle Roger is from the packaging of the original Apple II Applesoft BASIC version.

"A Party in Woodside"
During a long, mostly sleepless night after, a party is remembered fitfully, interspersed with dreams. Like a guest at a real party, you hear snaches of conversation and catch fleeting glimpses of both strangers and old friends. There are occurrences which you never observe. You meet people whom others may never meet. A fragmented, individual memory picture of the party emerges."

"The Blue Notebook"
In The Blue Notebook, the story is continued by the narrator, Jenny. The narrative is framed by a formal birthday party for Tom Broadthrow at a hotel restaurant. Jenny's fragmented memories -- a car trip with David, a visit to Jeff's company in San Jose, an encounter with Uncle Roger in the restaurant bathroom - weave in and out of the birthday party recollections. Some of the text is taken from Jenny's blue notebook where, as she herself explains: "The things I wrote in the blue notebook didn't happen in exactly the way I wrote them."

In January the narrator, Jenny, left the Broadthrow family and started working for a market research firm in San Francisco. As Jenny sits at her desk, memories of a Christmas party in Woodside, a trip back East for the Holidays and other things that happened come and go in her mind.

Early Implementations

In the spring of 1986, I was invited by my friend, video and performance art curator Carl Loeffler, to go online and write on the seminal Art Com Electronic Network (ACEN) on The WELL where ACEN Datanet, an early online publication, would soon feature actual works of language art and literature, including works by John Cage, Jim Rosenberg, and my own Uncle Roger.

The writing of Uncle Roger File 1: "A Party in Woodside" was begun in August 1986 and first told on the BBS on Art Com Electronic Network on the WELL, beginning on December 1, 1986. In this version, each lexia was set forth along with the links associated with it. Thus, the original BBS version actually looked somewhat like the World Wide Web version of "A Party in Woodside". However, because there was no WWW and direct hyperlinking was not then possible, in 1986, the links were not live.

The Applesoft BASIC version of Uncle Roger was begun in the fall of 1986, when I was writing the text. However, in late 1986 or early 1987, Carl Loeffler and Fred Truck invited me to create an interactive version for publication on Art Com Electronic Network Datanet. Datanet ran on UNIX Shell Scripts, so I set aside the BASIC version and created the Datanet version of "A Party in Woodside" using UNIX Shell Scripts. [2]

After "A Party in Woodside" was published on ACEN Datanet, I returned to creating a BASIC version for the Apple II. The first BASIC iteration of Uncle Roger was "A Party in Woodside", created in Applesoft BASIC in 1987. It was distributed as a packaged standalone work of artists software via the Art Com Catalog. A complete Apple II version of all three files of Uncle Roger was self published as artists software in 1988.

The IBM PC BASIC version of Uncle Roger was almost exactly the same as the Apple II version, but the files were converted to run on a PC, and a few tweaks had to be made to the program.

2. Information about the online versions of Uncle Roger is available in Judy Malloy, "Uncle Roger, an Online Narrabase", in Roy Ascott and Carl Eugene Loeffler, Guest Editors, Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications, Leonardo 24:2, 1991. pp. 195-202

the exit screen for Uncle Roger

Thoughts on the BASIC Recreation of Uncle Roger

I have been surprised in recreating Uncle Roger by how much better the original versions of "A Party in Woodside" and "Terminals" are than the Web version. [3] Perhaps this is a similar issue to harpsichord works that were recreated on the piano. Initially when this was done, it was often seen as an improvement. But as the early music movement reclaimed the harpsichord, it has become clear that works composed for the harpsichord usually sound much better on the harpsichord.

3. In Uncle Roger, an exception might be the web version for file II: "The Blue Notebook". I think this is because for the web version of "The Blue Notebook", I did not attempt to replicate the original when transferring the work to another medium. Since the interfaces for the original "A Party in Woodside" and "The Blue Notebook" were essentially the same, I felt it was ok to make a more creative adaptation for "The Blue Notebook". However, to keep within my own vision, I based this adaptation on some of my earlier work. The interface use of icons was innovative when I used it to indicate paths in the narrative in my card catalog The Woodpile in 1979. And this was the interface device I used for the web version of file 2 of Uncle Roger.


I began restoring Uncle Roger to BASIC in June 2012, during the Electronic Literature Organization Conference at The University of West Virginia, where Uncle Roger was the first work in my retrospective. Because Uncle Roger was originally created in a social networking situation, I decided to document the recreation on Twitter. Although the 140 character limit did not allow a detailed description of what I was doing, as is often the case in vibrant social media situations, it created energy and community participation around the process.

The complete Twitter log of the recreation of Uncle Roger is available here.

Images from the BASIC Uncle Roger are available here