Chipwits

Mr. ChipwitJust after the Macintosh came out there was a rumor about a programmable robot game called Chipwits that was coming out within year one. It sounded great to me and I was an early buyer of Chipwits.

Chipwits was one of those hard to describe applications: sitting on the fence between game, simulation, and programming instruction. As soon as I got it and ran it (from disk, of course) I realized that what sounded cool was going to take a bit of time to learn.

Chipwit in Greedville

Chipwits consisted of a number of “environments” or rooms with different layouts and different obstacles. The object was to program the chipwit to navigate the room, zapping bugs, eating pie, and turning when necessary before his energy level ran low.

Chipwits Brain

The programming was done, in typical Macintosh fashion, by dragging tiles around into logic arrays, then saving them and running the chipwit in a room. This was an interpreted environment so if the chipwit ran into problems a few clicks and you were back in his brain futzing with his logic.

What was great about this application was that it was hilarious while at the same time challenging and fun.

Chipwits was soon out of sync with the Macintosh world as more powerful programming languages supplanted MacForth and the program grew incompatible with newer systems. I like to think of Chipwits as my pre-HyperCard warm up with amateur programming. It was also a load of fun and as I remember it, a number of people in the Eugene Macintosh users group got deeply into it along with me. Wow, 20 years is a very long time.

99 Comments

  1. Mic, would you care to share with us you working copy of ChipWits as finding it has been for me very difficult and up to now i’ve only had corupted version of it – which needless to say don’t actually work…

    Thanks !

  2. Another old ChipWits hack looking for a viable disk image. My original copy is doa (as are apparently all my old 3.5″ disks…). Pretty nostalgic kicking on vMac since my old 128k (512k upgrade) and SE no longer work. As with everyone here, my main desire to even try to get the older systems working was to find a way to run ChipWits.

  3. While it was nice to hear from Doug Sharp and Mike Johnston, another year has passed. Chipwits.com is 7 years without an update.

    Since it is evident from previous posts that interest still exists for Chipwits, and there are people willing to try implementing it for a modern computer, perhaps Doug and Mike could be encouraged to release the code and rights to the public domain. I can think of many school kids who would benefit from the structured thinking this classic has to offer.

  4. I spent hours and hours playing Chipwits as a 7-year-old girl, and a decade later in my college Java classes still remembered the logic and programming concepts it taught me. When my classmates and I started using programmable graphing calculator in junior high I was steps ahead of the others because I had played this game and was familiar with the logical constructs. That put me in the “programmer” crowd, creating little games and math aids right along with the best of ‘em. Thanks, Doug and Mike! In my opinion, Chipwits was the best educational game I ever played, and it contributed directly to my choice of professional fields.

    I would love to see this game come back. In the event that our heros made the code and rights public domain, how about porting it to Python? Python is functional cross-platform like Java. Unlike Java, however, Python will be supported by the One Laptop Per Child machine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%24100_laptop#Software). It would be great if this game could teach programming concepts to another generation, particularly in developing nations.

  5. My offer Re:39 above, Still stands. Anyone who makes a reasonable Commitment to rewrite Chipwits, post your commitment here and give me a Paypal account number So I can makea donation!

  6. If you like ChipWits you would probably like Robot Odyssey by The Learning Company (also for Apple II systems). The main developer was Warren Robinett (of http://www.warrenrobinett.com/ and also designer of Rocky’s Boots among others).

    Here are a few URLs for more information:

    http://members.aol.com/Fractal101/odyssey.htm
    http://members.aol.com/Fractal101/
    http://www.droidquest.com/

    Some other interesting similar software includes:

    Gertrude’s Secrets
    Gertrude’s Puzzles
    Think Quick!
    Logic Quest (3D)
    http://www.mindrover.com/
    http://www.toontalk.com/

  7. Me again, about the PC ChipWits project.

    I decided to finally, finally start writing a nice, exact copy of the original. In Delphi (on Windows), of all things.
    See, once it’s neatly done (and I will release the source), I’ll use it to learn new languages – by re-writing it. I mean, I’ve been doing computers now since ’81, but you can never really stop learning new languages…

    My current version has all the graphics (I have a working Mac and a working disc of v1.1!), which I carefully photographed off the screen to create pixel-exact copies.
    Still missing are the crabs and bouncers (will take a week or so, since I’m pretty busy at the moment), as well as the IBOL-editor. Animations will be added last.

    I don’t plan many changes, but the current ones are:

    * Source is relatively easy to port.
    * Easy to design your own graphics.
    * Entire brain panel is shown, instead of only a quarter at a time.
    * Unlimited number of ChipWits.
    * Unlimited number of maps.
    * Unlimited stack size.

    I want to make it easy for people to add things, so it’s pretty configurable.

    So, anybody have ideas on what to add, please email me them. Yes, they’ll all be configurable so we’ll never loose the basic, clean, beautiful original :)

    My final aim is to have ChipWits in several languages, ported to several systems: Windows, Linux, Macs, PDAs, maybe even telephones…

    My address is klausbreuer on the classic hotmail.com server (been there since before it was bought by Microsoft).
    And while it is a very nice thought – thanks, but no donations needed. The coding alone simply fills me with a warm, happy glow :)

  8. I was one of the original execs at the Boston Computer Society’s Macintosh Group back in 84-85 (and the first Product Manager for Supercard, since we are waxing from that time period.) I now have a set of 5 year old proto-nerd boys and just set up an old Mac because of the incredible lack of good educational software for this generation. One of the things I’ve been searching high and low for is my old copy of Chipwits. I will get an even older mac to play it n if need be. Until the new version is ready, are there any suggestions for getting my hands on a copy of the software?

    -Ben

  9. Well, my PC version just hit a point where people could look over it and look for some bugs :)

    Except for some environments (so far only two are included) and chipwits (Mr. C.W.) is still missing as well as some animations and the handbook, my version is finished.

    http://www.breueronline.de/klaus/chipwits

    Well, then, the server is called breueronline.de, put a ‘www’ before it, and the directory to place at the end is /klaus/chipwits/

    I’d very much appreciate any feedback, bug reports, ideas on what to add, competed ChipWits, and so on.

    Currently, I’m working on the handbook and an environment editor, so we can add many more maps to this game…

  10. Ben: for your “set of 5 year old proto-nerd boys” take a look at Professor Fizzwizzle (grubbygames.com) and the related FizzBall. This is just the sort of artwork that a revival of Chipwits deserves.

    Klaus: you are breaking my heart. Windows, but no Mac OS X version?

  11. Janus: you didn’t look at the site, did you? ;)
    I’m planning to port this game to several different systems, including Macs. And I’ll release the code each time – so if anybody else wants to port somewhere (say, a Mac, perhaps), they are welcome to do so :)

  12. Wow! chipwits! I used to play with this back when I was 4 years old in the computer lab my father ran. Not that I understood any of it, but I loved the little robot, bombs and pie. This is the first time that I have come across anything about it in years. I would love to play the recreated version (as soon as it comes out for the mac :-) )

  13. Yep, we’re back. Mike Johnston and I have finally gotten off our tushes and are reviving ChipWits.

    I’d like to thank Richard and the ChipWit fans who built this thread to the #1 google hit for ChipWits.

    Klaus is part of the playtesting team and I ask all of you to join us.

    I don’t have a playable build right now, but will have one soon.

    I wrote it in Flash so it will run on Mac, Win, and Linux. I am using a package called Zinc to let me read and write chipwit files, so I have to test it on each machine. And because I am too broke to own a Mac right now I will be leading with the Windows version.

    We’ll have a forum up on chipwits.com RSN.

    And do please take a look at my blog – doctordroog.wordpress.com . I just posted a screenshot of the new ChipWits.

    We aren’t going to be too loud about ChipWits until it is much more stable. Until then we will lead a quiet beta-test with people who find their way to us.

    Please join us!

    Doug Sharp – IFSEE PIE->PICKUP

  14. Doug et al, I’m delighted you’re back and that there is focus on Chipwits. I’m also willing and happy to post news of chipwits updates in new posts on this site: screen shots, etc. Or, we can let ChipWits live in this single thread which, because of it’s age has decent page rank. Whatever works best for you guys is fine by me. Contrats on the work you’re doing and may you have the same kind of loyal following you had back in 1985.

  15. Thanks, Richard,

    We are doing our best to remain true to our original game and are happy with initial old fan reaction.

    We will “soon” set up a forum on chipwits.com . We’ll have a subforum for fans of the original.

    Feel free to post anything you want here. I’ll link to this thread from chipwits.com .

    The fact that this thread still remains the #1 google hit for ChipWits is fascinating. It’s amazing how finding this thread over the years has brought a lot of old fans together and reinforced the thread’s position.

    Thanks again,

    Doug (debugging away – IFSEE BUG->ZAP)

  16. Hi Janus!

    Those are definitively different versions.
    Mine is simply a Windows (Linux? Mac?) port of the original game. Doug, however, is creating the New And Improved version :)

  17. Our ChipWit Corporation lawyers are going to sue Klaus into the poorhouse. ;^)

    We are making the ChipWit file format an open standard and Klaus and I just exchanged emails about making his version read and write ChipWit files.

    We are going to be charging the princely sum of $14.95 for our game – good for all upgrades (and there will be many). We will start selling serial #’s this week – so please support the ChipWits project.

    I want to announce our first weekly ChipWits.com contest – best average on a series of 20 missions in Greedville. A stylish ChipWits t-shirt goes to the winner, who will be enshrined in the ChipWits.com Eternal Hall of Pie as the 1st winner. Help us playtest!

    I apologize for the fact that we are lagging on a Mac downloadable version, but you can play online (it’s written in Flash) and send in screenshot of your ChipWit’s code.

    Today is also the 1st day that this thread is not the #1 hit when you google ChipWits. Many thanks to Richard and the ChipWits-seekers who have made this a beacon for IBOLheads everywhere.

    IFSEE COFFEE-> PICKUP,

    Doug

  18. Hey all.

    “Coming soon” hasn’t been soon enough! Kudos to all of you who have kept CW alive. Doug and I are looking forward to an incredible evolution in ChipWits. Stay in touch with us, play alot, share your experiences, and eat lots of pie.

  19. I am dropping a new build of ChipWits tonight and starting a new weekly contest. Love to see you over there.

    Unfortunately there is still a bug in the Mac version caused by MDM Zinc: http://www.mdmforum.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=20088
    As you can see I am trying to work with them to get the Mac version stable. It launches now but crashes randomly.

    Thanks for your continued patience with ChipWits. My health continues to be rough so I am intermittent in my programming.

  20. Hello. I’m just another long-time fan of ChipWits. For years I tried to remember the name of this game but never managed to – I’ve only recently stumbled over it. When I was a kid (maybe 7-8 years old) it never occurred to me it was an educational software – I always assumed it was simply a game. And today, reading the manual, there’s a load of stuff I simply wasn’t aware back then. Programming a robot to move was already cool enough.

  21. ZouPrime: Sort of blurs the line between “game” and “educational” which other software did and does as well.

    There were many things that made it great: the simple and humorous graphics, the sounds, the pie and oil cans… All of that was very lighthearted and fun.

  22. Ever consider ChipWits on the iPad? I noticed Basic! by miSoft, which is a retro programming simulation game. ChipWits could do this even better.

  23. Gary, you want a Linux version?
    I can send you the source of my windoze version, and you could convert it via lazarus (very similar to the Delphi language I used) on Linux.

    Should not be too difficult – but I currently simply do not have enough time to do this, sorry…

    Ciao,
    Klaus

  24. Although I’ve been using Mac’s since ’84, I just discovered ChipWits. Go figure. I found the website and tried to email “mike@chipwits”. The mailer daemon claims the inbox is overloaded. Not an encouraging sign.

    I do hope it somehow finds it’s way into the world again. It’s good fun and very educational to an old fart such as myself.

  25. Steve, If you have an old 128 or 512K or even a MacPlus and a decent system you can still run the original chipwits. I think I might have a disk around here somewhere although I don’t have a computer to run it on anymore. It was a great environment, you’re right, although I didn’t have much confidence in the new version of it as it was discussed in this thread. There was something wonderful about the crudeness of the original, done in MacForth with all sorts of odd quirks but still very Mac-like.

    Sigh, the old days.

  26. Another year has gone by … and I just (re)went to chipwits.com and saw that the CW world looks rather forelorn and forgotten. Anyone have any news on what’s happening?

  27. Wow, your comment brought me back to this now buried page and I see my images are gone. Must get up to flickr and reinstate them…

    I have no clue what happened with the chipwits resurrection… it didn’t sound like a promising project to me as I read about it but who knows…

  28. After all these years there remains a passion for the little robot and its icon-based language. The original game plays nicely on OS X (am running 10.7.4). Just drag and drop chipwits_plus.dsk onto Mini vMac. Both available on macintoshgarden.org. The little ol’ robot really zips along with a modern processor, but I’d love to see it available for iPad.

  29. Fantastic R A K. It certainly looks great. Have you tried it? Does it work well? One of the comments in the App Store says it crashes… I’ll gladly buy it once I’m sure its stable.

  30. There is a free/lite version. That’s the one I tried for iPad. No problem loading or playing. No crash.

    I just wish it was less Manga-like.

    Have a look at the free version. Just think what it would be like with better artwork, some of the classic sounds, and an excellent manual like the original. As someone who works with tech docs a lot, I’ve got only praise for the Chipwits manual.

  31. druidsbane (who created Cato’s Hike) posted on reddit dot com:

    I grew up playing ChipWits :) Hope others like :) Was very inspiring as a kid honestly and it bothered me how nothing was out like this for the iPad or iPhone… worked on this for the past year on and off!

    1) the tile-set has been modified and re-rendered to display nicely on retina displays and additional artwork in the same spirit was added.

    2) the game is about teaching children how to program. I doubt that kids care about the source of the tile-set and more about the content and fun and sound-effects and learning.

    $3 is just enough to help recover none of the effort that went into making this game and the amount of work that will go into supporting it, but just enough to keep those that spend $0.99 from buying it and trashing it in reviews as that’s what I’ve seen from the little work I’ve done. I want the focus to be on the content and what can be done to make this the best tool to teach little kids to program, and from watching them play they do seem to be enjoying it a lot :)

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