Circle History Lesson

From: Zeavon (
Date: 06/23/99

> On Wed, 23 Jun 1999, Andrew Ritchie wrote:
> > I was wondering what the "Circle" means in CircleMUD. I
> guess Jeremy would
> > be the best person to answer this. Does it possibly mean
> the no-start
> > no-finish type (philosophy?) that MUDs and circles have in common?
> >
> The name of the machine that Circle first ran on before
> Jeremy released it
> as a codebase, was, thus the name "circle".

My interjection: Good thing it wasn't called trapezoid or something equally
hard to type.

The following is directly from Jeremy Elson from March 1997
For more history than you probably want, see, and
near the bottom there's a link that says "Historical Background".  But,
here's a somewhat shorter version of how Circle got its name.

When I was a freshman in the CS department of Johns Hopkins in '91, the
undergraduate workstation cluster was a bunch of old DECstation 3100's
that had strange names (poincare, syzygy, hull, whatever, emanon, and a
few others).  A couple of the undergrads at the CS department (Justin
Chandler and Dave Reed) experimented with running a copy of DikuMUD around
September of '91.  Since they ran it on the DECstation named "whatever",
they called it WhatMUD.  WhatMUD was the first MUD I ever played, and
pretty much the only MUD I've ever played as a mortal.

Afer a couple of months, WhatMUD died due to a series of hardware
failures.  Before it had died, though, I'd started tinkering with the code
itself, mainly because I found the world files and a bunch of
documentation in Justin's directory and realized that I could get the
stats on any object in the game just by decoding the world format ;-).
(This was very exciting to me at the time!)  Also I'd found the code
itself fascinating, and was able to predict how the game would react to
different situations because I could just look at the source!  What
power!!  My friends were amazed.

Around December of '91 WhatMUD was completely dead and I needed a MUD fix
badly.  I got someone to send me a copy of DikuMUD (it was very hard to
find at the time) and tried compiling it myself.  I remember not being
able to sit still while the thing compiled for the first time - I was
bouncing off the walls, running around, pacing in the hallway outside my
dorm room because seeing my VERY OWN MUD actually COMPILE FOR THE FIRST
TIME was just so damned exciting!!  (I guess I was easily excited back
then.)  Of course, since it was on a DECstation 3100, it was quite slow
and the agonizing wait was like 30 minutes.  And, since it was compiled
with GCC v1.x which didn't work very well at the time, the thing was
constantly spewing out hundreds of assembler errors.  (I remember being so
excited when gcc v2 came out because the MUD actually compiled without
assembler errors for the first time!)

Now, I had not (of course) secured any sysadmin approval for running a
MUD, so I had to run it covertly.  The CS department had just added a new
DECstation to the cluster -- called "circle".  Since the name was new,
none of the users knew it existed yet and the machine was usually idle.
So I ran the MUD on circle.

Now, some of my freshman friends heard that I had a MUD running, and we
spent all that night in the computer lab killing things to our heart's
content, with me loading billions of weapons for everyone except this one
guy who we didn't like.  When we finally went home, one of my friends
(Naved Surve), said to me, "So, do you think you'll open CircleMUD to the
public?"  He'd called it that because the old JHU MUD, which had run on, was called WhatMUD -- so it seemed only logical that
the MUD running on should be called CircleMUD.  And the
name stuck.  Thanks, Naved. (the machine) was finally decomissioned a few months
ago.  The whole DECstation cluster was replaced with a single Sparc 20
about a year ago (, and the DECstations that were still
alive were turned into X-terminals.. until they died.  Which, by now, most
of them have. still has an IP address.. but, if you ping it for old
time's sake, no one is home any more.  Sniff.

So, anyone else want to share their stories of how they started in the
world of MUD impdom?

Zeavon Calatin, Spear of Insanity

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