Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Elevator Music

Finally we come to a real program. It's a puzzle game for one and I got it from Games Magazine and game designer Sid Sackson. I adapted it to fit the conceit I had developed over the months that LOADSTAR was a towering building in Shreveport LA that grew one story each month and was now up to 81 stories. The story was that Knees Calhoon, my evil clone, was constantly trying to take the Tower away from me.

The puzzle is an excellent one and not easily solveable. The rules are simple and probably a lot of the Read It is unnecessary. 

  Knees Calhoon. The name rolls trippingly off the tongue like a bowling ball off a stepladder. Invariably it’s followed by a scream as if the ball had landed upon a unshod metatarsal — at least around here at the Tower — for Knees Calhoon, my semi-mythical antagonist, has locked me out of my penthouse suite, reprogrammed the Tower’s elevator system, and now threatens to turn LOADSTAR into a professional wrestling magazine.

I knew I should have called up the LOADSTAR SWAT team before opening my door last week. If you remember, Calhoon, who may or may not be a time-travelling plagiarist, brought me a couple of Jukeboxes (see the Read It for 1890’s JUKEBOX III on Side 3), and passed himself off as a friend of LOADSTAR. But I sensed that I didn’t have to go as far as Denmark to find something rotten, and when he swooped into my office that night, throwing me down the elevator shaft, I knew that Nostrodamus’ infamous ‘lost’ quatrain had come true.

When the Weasel takes the Tower
 In the Year the Bush gets Burned
The Quail will run for Cover
 And the Ladders will be Spurned.

It doesn’t take an atomic cosmetologist to see that Calhoon is the Weasel and the Ladders are the elevators of the LOADSTAR Tower, which Calhoon has sabotaged so that I can’t get back into the penthouse. I’m not sure who else is referred to in the quatrain, but it’s probably nobody important.
The good news, dear LOADSTARites, is that I think I’ve devised a way that, with your help, Calhoon can be rousted for good from the Tower. I used all of my electronic and computing skills to figure out what he had done to the elevator system and came up with this program, ELEVATOR MUSIC. What we need to do is fill the sixteen elevators with SWAT teamsters and get them all up to the top four floors of the Tower at one time. Right now the sixteen elevators are on the bottom floors.
The catch is that there are three ‘rules’ we have to follow in moving the elevators.

(1) An elevator can only be moved up a certain number of floors at a time. This number is exactly the number of elevators that occupy the floor it’s currently on. If there are three elevators on a floor, then any one of the elevators can move up three, and only three, floors.

(2) There are four different colors of elevators, and four of each color. You CANNOT have two elevators of the same color on the same floor.

(3) If an elevator is on a floor by itself, it can only move if it is NOT the highest elevator of its color.

You will notice that elevators are in four columns and can jump ‘over’ other elevators. Like I said, Calhoon really sabotaged the system. Each column has one of each color in it. There is no way for elevators to change columns. You have to leapfrog them up to the top of the Tower, following the three rules. It doesn’t make any difference what order they’re in on the top four floors.
I’ve made the program error-proof (famous last words) so that you can’t break the rules. As you move the white cursor around with the CRSR keys, any legal move will be shown to you by a colored ‘phantom’ cursor in a higher story. The choice you have to make is which elevator to move when. Since there are four elevators on each floor to begin with, any of the elevators can be moved up four floors.
Two elevators cannot occupy the same column and floor at the same time, obviously.
Oh yeah. I forgot about the most despicable thing Calhoon has done. He’s spliced together enough Muzak (r) to turn Lawrence Welk punk and is piping it into the elevator shafts at heavy metal volume. I had to suffer through three solid days of it while devising the program but luckily for you I’ve added a feature that allows you to toggle the schmaltz on and off. Just press S.
There are a few more features I’ve added. If you find you don’t have any more moves left and you’re stuck on some lower floors, you can press F1 and try again from scratch. This is often the best thing to do.
If you make a bonehead move and realize it right away, you can take your move back by pressing F3. Only one move at a time is allowed to be taken back.
F5 will show you the current LOADSTAR SWAT Teamsters, mighty heroes who have gotten all sixteen elevators up to the top four floors. If you can do it, you can add your name to this illustrious list. Thirty is the maximum number of Teamsters allowed. If you want to clear the list, just scratch the file “swat team”.
Press H to see a shorthand version of the rules, or F to switch to the standard font.
At the bottom of the screen at the right the number of the top floors to be retaken is shown. Each elevator you move to one of the top four floors increases this number by .25, so you will need a total of 4 to win.
It’s not important how many moves it takes you to get the top four floors taken, but the program counts your moves anyway. Rousting Calhoon is all that really matters.
All of the keypresses are listed on the screen so you needn’t remember all this. Save your mental energy for the task ahead of you. There are many, many different ways to do it so I haven’t added a ‘solution’ key. I think that it’s a good idea to concentrate on the top floor first, then the floor below that. If you can get those two completely filled, the lowest two floors will be easy.
I never realized how cold it is down here on the lower floors. Now I know how Leona and the Donald felt. Please help me regain my rightful place in the penthouse. Anyone sending me a videotape (VHS only) showing a successful game from start to finish will receive an autographed cassette tape of THE DOGGEREL DAYS OF KNEES CALHOON. Calhoon may be another Hitler, but the guy sure did record some nifty original tunes back in the 60’s and 70’s. If you balk at wasting a whole videotape for a short game sequence, feel free to fill up the tape with any post-1980 movie rated PG-13 or above.
Another way to get Calhoon’s tape is to be one of the first ten LOADSTARites to send me a list of the song titles of all twenty of the songs, in order.
DISCLAIMER: How many times have I harped about copyright infringement against living, breathing and suing songwriters, and here I go putting twenty tunes in one program! Well, my defense is that three measures do not a lawsuit make. Sure, you can get a Knees Calhoon tape by “naming the tunes” but I’ll risk contempt of court charges by denying that the ugliness passed off as music is anything but random fiddling by a demented SONGSMITHer.

Back to 2015. As I remember no one bothered to take the challenge and name the songs. They were all old standards from the 60s and 70s.

Tomorrow is another music program, but without the nifty puzzle. LOADSTAR needed a generic music player and MUSIC STAR was what I came up with.