Dear colleagues, Harry Saal replied and here is his original message. I must admit that he replied relatively quick, but I was so busy finalizing two books that I simply had no chance to do anything else. So, have fun:
"I'm happy to update you and your colleagues on the history of MAXIT! and
the many clones it engendered. Feel free to post the following notes, in
full and unedited.
Here's the backstory about a computer game which I developed over 40
years ago. I was introduced to the Orda (Israel) board game MATTIX in
about 1974; from materials posted on the web, it appears that MATTIX was
introduced by Orda in 1968. I was developing multi-player gaming
software for the original 4K Commodore PET which I acquired early in
1977, thanks to the help of Sam Bernstein, VP of Marketing at Commodore.
As one of several 2 players games being developed for a future online
gaming system ("GameNet", which never came to pass), I wrote a very
close implementation of the Orda game and called it MAXIT! (note the
exclamation mark at the end of the official name). It was written
entirely in Commodore BASIC and with full instructions just fit into the
4K RAM memory of the PET. As an active member of our local PUG ("PET
User Group"), I contributed a cassette of the game (V3.0) to the club in
1978. I also sold cassettes of the game in the US , Germany and the UK
for $3.95 via club newsletters and distributors. Probably less than 50
copies were ever sold while many many more were passed around. (Much
more successful was the "BASIC Programmer's Toolkit", a ROM-based
collection of programming utilities, such as RENUMBER, that I introduced
I was not involved in ANY of the many versions and variants of MAXIT!
that you have traced but I'm proud to have sired so many children and
grandchildren. Thanks for the excellent detective work! Looking at the
actual code of those version would be like genetically tracing the
lineage more closely than just the general game play and user interface.
I am somewhat saddened that there does not appear to be any cognizance
of what I consider by far to be the best part of my original MAXIT!
program. MATTIX was a two person board game, but MAXIT! allowed one user
to play against the computer, by entering "1" as the number of players.
In the minimal 4K memory, I was able to craft a really powerful computer
opponent, which used a 2 or 3 half-ply look-ahead to select its move
quite rapidly. Of course, the starting board being random and the human
player having varied skills, the PET didn't always win, but it usually
whupped the human with some very sharp moves, especially in the end game
(when the search space was small.) I'd love to know if any of that code
ended up in the successor implementations which would be a very clear
marker of the evolution of my code. P.S. The name MAXIT! was coined to
embody the program's skill in maximizing its score when looking ahead.
Dr. Harry J. Saal
Chairman, Retrotope, Inc."