"Clean room" reverse engineering job hiring from Infocom (really)

So, I’m apparently behind the times, because what? I guess Activision doesn’t own the Infocom label any more?


In this position you will be provided with the source code for a proprietary assembler that consists of slightly under 4,000 lines of code. The source code you will study was written in assembly language to run on the TOPS-20 operating system on the PDP-10 mainframe computer. You will need know this assembly language or be willing to learn. It is likely that you will need to install an emulator to run TOPS-20 and to build and run the assembler so as to further study the software. Candidates that already have this knowledge are preferred but it is acknowledged that such people can be difficult to find for such legacy systems.

Their Twitter feed has been around since 2017?


Who are these people? Is it someone we know?

Are they trying to deconstruct original Dungeon/Zork, then sell an enhanced copy while avoiding any copyright Activision still has to Zork itself? (The Zork games are all still on gog.com and go on sale pretty regularly.)

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An “Infocom LLC” whose games are rebadged Lode Runner clones?

I feel trolled.

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On the plus side, at least they have an open source / anti-drm stance.

The “Infocom” trademark lapsed a long time ago – 2002. A few people have tried to re-register it since then (in the domain of computer games):

  • Oliver Klaeffling (2007) – looks like he was working on a fanfic Trinity sequel called “Triumvirate”.
  • Omni Consumer Products (2007) – this is a guy who markets real versions of fictional products, for fun. “Fight Club Soap”, that sort of thing.
  • Bob Bates (2017) – he tried to pick up the trademark as part of marketing Thaumistry.
  • Otto O. Lee (2020) – this is the only registration currently active. The URL on the registration is http://www.smartmonsters.com/ .

The SmartMonsters site has some MUDs, one of which is a port of Zork/Dungeon. Although it looks like it sticks to the old-style MUD format of “mostly combat”. Although the parser is so low-grade that I couldn’t figure out how to attack the troll.

So the guy is interested in text games. I have no idea what the point of the job listing is, though. It sounds like the task is to reverse-engineer ZIL, not Zork. But we already have an open-source implementation of ZIL – what legal headroom do you get from a clean-room open-source implementation?


I’m betting more on this job listing “trying to impress an investor” than “trying to impress another party’s lawyer.”

It does imply that the guy has a TOPS-20 binary for ZIL. A lot of stuff has been dug out of the Infocom archive over the years, and other places. (There’s a 1981-ish archive of the ZIL source at https://github.com/PDP-10/zil .) However, I can’t remember if a fully-featured ZIL binary has surfaced before.

This gets weirder. I dug deeper and I can’t find a connection between smartmonsters.com (the trademark holder) and infocom.xyz (the people who posted the job). They seem to be completely unrelated companies.

I’ve written up everything I know about the situation:


I’m sticking with “trying to impress a potential money mark,” which in the crowdfunding era can also mean “trying to impress several thousand small-time money marks.”

It’s possible! But if a crowdfunding page goes up, I promise to drop a note here so we can all comment. :)

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I kind of want someone here to apply for the job and report back, just to see what happens. But given how sketchy this whole setup looks, I doubt that anyone with the appropriate skills would want to do that.

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If you do, be careful what you sign, I guess.

I am bumping this thread to note that there’s been no news about it whatsoever!

Half-kidding. I’ve been keeping an eye out for news articles or other discussion of this thing. I’m hoping that someone else would come up with more info than me. The job posting has gotten zero traction, though. The Infocom source code dump last year got a fair amount of public interest, but not this.

(The search is a bit tricky because there are several companies named “Infocom” or “Infocomm” – plus a networking conference – which have nothing to do with gaming.)

The job page has been updated to say “The position has been filled.”

Wow. Really, morbidly curious now.

The mailing address is a place you can rent mailboxes.

I called the number, but ended up on hold forever. Interestingly, just after the “all of our agents are busy” spiel, the recording says: “A shiny brass lamp is nearby.” before the hold music starts. Weird.


The recording says: “A shiny brass lamp is nearby” before the hold music starts.

As I recall there was a brass lantern in the Zork series, a Brass Lantern Chinese restaurant in The Witness, and etc. It seems a common thing.

Well yeah, I thought that was obvious. I guess I keep forgetting I am old.

Also, the line “THERE IS A SHINY BRASS LAMP NEARBY” was from Colossal Cave Adventure and presumably inspired the lamp in Zork.

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