tion from multicursal, unknowable confusion to a marked and bounded
pathway reﬂects the mastery of any system, from challenging, mysterious,
threatening, and deadly to easy, known, mapped, and tamed. This original
labyrinthine myth underscores the reality of many puzzles: when the solu-
tion is known, the puzzle seems simpler if not trivial. Rather than the fan-
tasy of a warrior moving freely through an open map, the tale of Theseus
teaches that success comes from adhering to a string, a particularly useful
analogy in the unforgiving corridors of programming syntax.
The morphing of the maze from complex to simple (or at least un-
derstandable) is part of the Commodore 64 user’s ideal encounter with 10
PRINT, but the user is more like the creator of a maze than its explorer.
Daedalus, the architect of the labyrinth at Knossos, holds a place of honor
as puzzle maker supreme. Daedalus understands that planning, intention-
ality, and construction are integral characteristics of the mystique of the
maze. 10 PRINT thus channels Daedalus more than Theseus: the program
is a blueprint for a maze, not just a structure or image that appears without
any history or trace of its making. And at the same time, 10 PRINT itself
takes the role of maze creator: the programmer may be the maze’s archi-
tect, but the program is its builder.
The associations evoked by 10 PRINT may begin with the Minotaur’s
maze, but they continue through history, adding to the complex symbology
and sacred rites of Christian churches and then rising in the turf and hedges
of the countryside. Mazes take on religious import on the ﬂoors of cathe-
drals and basilicas. Among the largest and most famous church labyrinths is
at Chartres, France, built circa 1200 CE. It is a walkable, eleven-circuit laby-
rinth ornamented around its outer ring with lunations (Kern 2000, 153), and
has been an object of endless speculation, from rumors of treasure buried
under its center to theories about its functioning as a lunar calculator.
Church mazes are usually meant to be walked or crawled on the path
to penance. The names of these include Labyrinth of Sin, The Path to Re-
demption, and The Path to Jerusalem. These pathways symbolized paths
to Christian salvation, relating a Paschal instead of a Minoan mystery. In-
terestingly, the path of the meanderings in the labyrinths at the cathedrals
at Chartres and at Amiens are exactly the same, even though the former is
circular and the latter octagonal, as seen in ﬁgure 20.1 (Wright 2001, 60).
10 PRINT retains a dimension of spiritual mystery. The program
certainly doesn’t seem to be part of any religious practice, but as code,
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
DANCING A COMPLEX STRUCTURE
Mazes are usually imagined as architectural, material, and ﬁxed, but cultures have
long noticed that they can correspond directly to a human activity, dance. In The
Iliad, Homer credits Daedalus both with a dance ﬂoor and a labyrinth. Kern specu-
lates that the labyrinth was a choros, which has the double meaning of dance and
dance surface. Given that no labyrinthine buildings survive in Crete, the depictions
of labyrinths on coins may indicate the path of a dance—particularly since maze
dances have survived. Theseus meets the Minotaur in a Minoan maze, but he and
his men immortalize that adventure in dance on the way back. As Matthews explains,
“On the island of Delos they performed a peculiar dance called the Geranos, or
‘Crane Dane,’ in which they went through the motions of threading the Labyrinth,
and . . . this dance was perpetuated by the natives of that island until fairly recently”
(1922, 19). These dances have continued to be performed elsewhere, and numer-
ous other labyrinthine dances are known, some with military purposes and some
tied to rites of spring. Martha Graham adapted the motifs of the Cretan maze story
in “Errand into a Maze” (1949), where it is Ariadne who is trapped by the Minotaur.
After contemplating her escape from the labyrinth—represented by a rope on the
ﬂoor—“she breaks her pattern and breaks her tormentor. The maze of rope reﬂects
the maze of her mind and the maze of the myth” (Zlokower 2005).
The dancer’s relationship to the maze is analogous to that of the amateur
learning BASIC. As the novice programmer prepares to face the Minotaur machine,
a single line of code serves as a clue leading to safety. As with the maze dance, it
is in tracing this labyrinth by typing and running 10 PRINT that the very corridors
The maze dance has not been completely forgotten in digital media. It may
seem odd to think of Dance Dance Revolution as a maze game, but its arrows do
show a labyrinthine path that the dancer, standing in place, is supposed to navigate.
Missing a step is allowed, but the perfect performance will be as ritualized a motion
through space as a Pac-Man pattern. Looking beyond the arcade, Diana Slattery
has created a work called The Maze Game that brings together the maze as a site
of meaningful dance. In her digital work and companion novel, moving through a
lethal maze takes grace and literacy, since the maze is constructed out of glyphs from
Slattery’s created visual language “glide.” Slattery’s work stands at the intersection
of dance, maze, and narrative, showing a new connection.
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10 PRINT taps into the mazelike mystery that visual symbols and glyphs
evoke: to type in a program from a manual is to follow the twisted line
from code to output and back again. The programmer follows the single
path of the code from ignorance to knowledge, a pilgrim’s path. 10 PRINT
may not help programmers attain salvation, but it does offer an accessible
means by which novice programmers can trace the steps of writing code to
be initiated into the mysteries of a magic box, the personal computer.
As with a rosary and the Stations of the Cross, the Christian labyrinth is
unicursal. None included dead ends or choice points until the ﬁfteenth cen-
tury, when multicursal aberrations appeared, as Helmut Birkhan explains,
as a “symptom of the secularization of the labyrinth idea” (quoted in Kern
2000, 146). With this secular turn, the maze becomes a space of leisure as
well as ritual, and is lined with hedges, marked by rocks, and surrounded by
grooves. Church-like mazes and mazes that invite a ritual attitude surfaced
throughout Europe, although several of these were more related to pagan
rites of spring than to Christianity. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the fa-
erie queen Titania ponders the ghostly outlines of abandoned turf mazes:
The nine men’s morris is ﬁll’d up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable. (2.1.98–100)
As more and more pagan and secular mazes emerged alongside church
and other labyrinth traditions, they retained some of their profound, sacred
nature while also offering puzzle play and leisure.
Hedge mazes and 10 PRINT possess afﬁnities that their material
differences obscure. Hedge mazes need to be planned and plotted, but
unlike most other mazes, they must grow in order to fulﬁll that plan. 10
PRINT’s maze does as well, albeit in a different way than bushes do: once
seeded, the computer-generated maze grows without tending, growing
until the viewer interrupts it.
Hedge mazes offer decoration in a garden, but as leisure devices in-
stead of religious rituals, they also offer exhilaration and vertigo when they
are “run.” Writing of a famous half-mile hedge maze at Hampton Court
Palace near London, Matthews describes it as an “undiluted delight” to
“scores of hundred of children, not to mention a fair sprinkling of their
elders” (1922, 129). This way of encountering the maze was carried into
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10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
video games such as Doom (1993) and Pac-Man (1980). 10 PRINT’s con-
tinuously cascading display echoes the playful zigzagging of children gam-
boling through the hedges.
ThE LabORaTORy MaZE
The maze traveler has had many manifestations: the brave warrior facing
obstacles, the penitent disciple undertaking a divine ritual, the Elizabethan
child experiencing vertiginous pleasure. But no discussion of the cultural
touchstones of mazes (and their resonances for maze creators) would be
complete without that humbler maze walker, or crawler, the laboratory rat.
In the context of psychological testing, the rat’s encounter with the maze
does not prove bravery, piety, or ingenuity so much as it reduces human
agency and learning to behavioral conditioning.
The ﬁrst maze constructed for rats by researchers was built in the
late 1890s—but it was not originally used for testing the creatures. Wil-
lard Small of Clark University built a maze environment to allow rats to eat
and exercise when they weren’t taking part in experiments. Small wanted
the environment to simulate the burrows that rats inhabit in nature, but
he modeled the ﬁrst laboratory rat maze after the Hampton Court Palace
maze (Lemov 2005, 25). The restorative maze is quite consonant with the
purposes for which the Hampton Court Palace maze was built, although
Small was attending to the constitution of rodents rather than royals.
John B. Watson used maze environments for more familiar research
purposes: to determine whether rats could make their way through a maze
under different experimental conditions. After his rats had learned their
way through a maze, Watson blinded or otherwise maimed the creatures
to deprive them of different senses. His work attracted public attention,
and he was denounced in a New York Times editorial as a torturer. Watson,
however, was sure of his behavioral science agenda, and he concluded
that the same principles of operant conditioning that apply to rats apply
to people as well. By 1916 he had moved on to experiments with infants.
In one famous experiment he conditioned a baby, “Little Albert,” to fear a
furry white rat and furry white things in general (Buckley 1989).
The use of mazes in experiments with rats increased greatly during
the 1920s. Behaviorism, the perspective that all animal and human actions
are behaviors, is now mainly associated with another American scientist,
B. F. Skinner. His operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner
box, is another famous environment for laboratory animals that was built
decades after Watson’s mazes saw their ﬁrst use. While Skinner’s name is
better known today, Watson’s maze remains emblematic—and similar envi-
ronments are still used for experiments today.
In 1959, one of the earliest computer programs written for fun—an
example of “recreational computing”—depicted an experimenter’s maze.
The program, perhaps the ﬁrst computer program to draw a maze of any
sort, was written for the TX-0 at MIT by Douglas T. Ross and John E. Ward.
The TX-0 was an experimental computer that provided one of the ﬁrst op-
portunities for people to program when not working on an ofﬁcial project.
It also allowed programmers to work on the machine interactively, much
as Commodore 64 programmers later would, rather than submitting batch
jobs in the form of decks of punched cards. In the program that became
known as “Mouse in the Maze,” a mouse moves through a maze, eating
cheese. The mouse could also consume martinis, which cause it to become
disoriented and degrade its performance. In this case, the environment
implemented was not the hedge maze of diversion and fun, but a more
staid experimenter’s maze. This essentially serious maze was then made
playful with the addition of an amusing alcoholic reward and the simulation
of appropriate behavior.
10 PRINT picks up on aspects of “Mouse in the Maze.” Its output is a
regular arrangement of “walls” in a grid—akin to the display of that earlier
program and similar to the arrangement of the stereotypical laboratory
maze. “Mouse in the Maze” does not present the compelling creation of an
inspired Daedalus, but a behaviorist experiment. This maze is a challenge
to intelligence—not, however, a romantic, riddling intelligence, but a clas-
sically conditioned, animal kind. It also brings in the idea of the scientist,
who may be indifferent to the struggles of the creatures lost in the maze.
But who is the user at the interface of 10 PRINT, the scientist or the
rodent? When 10 PRINT runs, it may generate its maze relentlessly, but it
does not trap the user like a rat. Instead, given the top-down view and the
lack of a user-controlled maze walker, the computer presents the program-
mer with the point of view of the maze designer, offering in a sense to
collaborate with the user in creating a new design. Amid the playful and re-
ligious connotations of the maze are those things the experimenter’s maze
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
Information theory pioneer Claude Shannon pictured ca. 1950 with his mechani-
cal mouse Theseus and its magnetic metal maze. Courtesy and copyright MIT
hints at: that the computer is a scientiﬁc instrument, and the walker of the
maze might be not a Greek hero but a small creature driven by hunger.
ThE COMPUTERIZED MaZE
In the early 1950s the mathematician and engineer Claude Shannon de-
signed a mechanical mouse (see ﬁgure 20.2) that appears to solve the
same kind of maze a real mouse might be expected to navigate in one of
Watson’s behavioral experiments. Shannon, a foundational ﬁgure in mod-
ern computing, named the mouse Theseus, collapsing the mythological
hero and his noble plight into a mere contraption guided by a mechanized
system. Although featured in both Time and Life (“Mouse with a Memory”
1952; “Better Mouse” 1952), Theseus itself was not a sophisticated piece
of artiﬁcial intelligence. It was simply a wooden mouse on wheels with a
bar magnet inside and copper-wire whiskers. The true magic of this mouse
resides underneath the maze, in a system of electronic relays that switch
positions when the mouse’s whiskers touch corresponding walls in the
maze above. The ﬁrst time through a maze, Theseus blunders randomly,
propelled by its magnet, ﬂipping the relays underneath whenever it en-
countered a passage. The next time, Theseus navigates the maze perfectly,
thanks to the relays underneath, which record the correct route.
This means of negotiating the twisting passages of Shannon’s maze
was not mere novelty. As Time explained in 1952, Theseus is “useful in
studying telephone switching systems, which are very like labyrinths.” In-
deed, George Dyson argues that Theseus inspired the RAND Corporation
engineer Paul Baran’s “adaptive message block switching”—the precursor
to what is now known as packet switching, the protocol that deﬁnes the
way data ﬂows on the Internet (Dyson 1997, 150).
Aside from its signiﬁcance to network computing, Theseus serves as
a vivid example of an early connection between mazes and computers.
Furthermore, Theseus shares a procedural resonance with 10 PRINT. The-
seus “learns” through repetition, or looping, the fundamental process that
is used to draw the 10 PRINT maze. And like a computer program, the
mouse in Shannon’s maze is only the surface-level signiﬁer of much deeper
processes. Theseus in fact is not only dumb but, by itself, inert. The “brain”
of Theseus lies in the relays hidden underneath the surface of the maze,
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
much in the same way the on-screen design of 10 PRINT is generated by
a piece of code, initially not very clear, which depends upon an invisible,
low-level call to a pseudorandom number generator.
Computers did not completely change the cultural idea of the maze,
but they did provide new ways to represent, generate, solve, and play in
mazes. And, as computers came into the home and became widely ac-
cessible, they helped to bring mazes into daily life once again. In part,
this happened thanks to the work of early computer scientists who wrote
programs to generate mazes. But many popular mazes were not as com-
putationally sophisticated. They were, however, integrated cleverly into
enjoyable computer games that reached a mass audience.
It is useful to group these computer mazes by the point of view they
offer to their interactors. There are ﬁrst-person mazes, partially represented
on a screen, which show the wall or passageway directly in front of the maze
walker. There are also second-person mazes, textually represented, in which
the maze walker is the “you” to whom the traversal of the maze is narrated.
And, there are third-person mazes, sometimes fully represented mazes, in
which the maze walker maintains a large-scale or omniscient view.
A signiﬁcant early maze program is Maze, which presents a 3D view
of a maze in which a player can see (and shoot) opponents. This program
was created in 1973 at the NASA Ames Research Center by Steve Col-
ley and Howard Palmer and later made into a multiplayer game by Greg
Thompson. In 1974 the program was then expanded at MIT; Dave Lebling
wrote a server that provided text messaging and supported up to eight
players or robots. The same program was later ported to the Xerox Alto as
The Maze environment was created for entertainment, but it was re-
ally little more than a convoluted battleﬁeld—not a space to be explored
or solved and certainly nothing like the entirely nonviolent English hedge
maze. Other terrifying maze environments became a staple of early home
computer mazes, and some contained a Minotaur-like threat. 3D Monster
Maze was an early example, developed in 1981 and released the following
year on the Sinclair ZX81. The game uses character graphics and features a
randomly generated 16 × 16 maze with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Although 3D mazes with some more exploratory aspects were offered
in the Ultima, Wizardry, and Bard’s Tale series, the maze is more a frighten-
ing site for combat than a playful place of discovery in many ﬁrst-person
games. This can be seen as early as 1984 in the Commodore 64 game Skull,
which allows the player to search for treasure and sends threatening skulls
into the maze as opponents. Wolfenstein 3D (1992) and Doom (1993) make
this perspective on a mazelike environment even more fearsome. Sound
design, darkness, and the use of conventions from horror ﬁlms that give the
effect of seeing without peripheral vision all contribute to this effect. The
ﬁrst-person maze, in addition to connecting players to the perspective and
to some extent the subjective experience of their maze-bound characters,
is likely to inspire close and constant attention.
Many of the earliest computer-presented mazes are not visual; they
are described textually, narrated to the player from a second-person per-
spective. Second-person mazes of a sort are found in early text-based
games such as Hunt the Wumpus, a 1973 BASIC program by Gregory Yob.
Hunt the Wumpus departs from the standard grid-based BASIC game by
providing a playing ﬁeld of a different topology, a dodecahedron. The
player stalks and is stalked by a formidable opponent, much as the dino-
saur later pursues the player of 3D Monster Maze.
Textually described mazes developed into their most complex and
confusing conﬁgurations in text-based adventure games of the sort now
called interactive ﬁction. The genre began with the groundbreaking Ad-
venture, written by Will Crowther for the PDP-10 in 1976 and later expand-
ed by Don Woods into a full-ﬂedged underground adventure. Basing the
game in part on his own caving experience in the Mammoth Cave system,
Crowther includes a ten-room maze introduced with “YOU ARE IN A MAZE
OF TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL ALIKE.” “YOU” works to connect the
player to the character in the maze, although in a different way than ﬁrst-
person 3D games do. For one thing, that pronoun sometimes is explicitly
used to address the operator of the program rather than to indicate the
main character, as when Adventure outputs “IF YOU PREFER, SIMPLY TYPE
W RATHER THAN WEST.”
From Hunt the Wumpus through Adventure, another notable differ-
ence is that second-person mazes are typically turn-based rather offering
real-time play. They also are embedded in a broader context of simu-
lated spaces. Sometimes these are confusing ones that, even if they are
not called mazes, require that players map them on paper. In any case,
they usually invite different forms of systematic, high-level thinking that al-
lows the environment to be ﬁgured or puzzled out. The player’s activity is
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
thoughtful and paced at the player’s discretion rather than being based on
When players draw maps of the mazes in Adventure, Zork, or other
interactive ﬁctions, they transform textually represented second-person
mazes into visually represented third-person mazes. Such maps convey a
sense of mastery of the maze even though a third-person perspective on a
maze does not guarantee its safety or solubility.
Shannon’s Mouse in the Maze offered an early glimpse of the third-
person computer maze, but this form truly erupted in the Unites States less
than two years before the release of the Commodore 64, in October 1980.
This is when the original Pac-Man arcade game arrived from Japan. In
Japan, the genre of games inspired by Pac-Man is called “dot-eat” games
(ドットイート), but in the United States such games are called maze or maze
Pac-Man cannot thread his way through the environment to ﬁnd an
exit—except for the tunnel that links the left and right side of the screen
together. The playing ﬁeld may be better described as being littered with
obstacles rather than as being “a maze” in the sense that church labyrinths
and hedge mazes are usually understood. Nevertheless, the playing ﬁeld
was called a maze from the beginning. The New York Times called Pac-
Man “a circle with a big mouth that eats up dots in a maze while other big
mouths try to eat it up” (Latham 1981), while Newsweek mentioned the
“maddening Pac-Man maze” (Langway 1981). The puzzle the game poses
to the voracious Pac-Man is not to get out of the maze, but to run through
all of it while avoiding the pursing monsters.
Pac-Man’s maze is aligned to the axes of the display: the paths are
either horizontal or vertical. But just as the tanks in Tank (1974) and the
player’s ship in Asteroids (1979) can turn and ﬁre in many different direc-
tions, it is possible to represent a maze that is not “orthogonal” in this
way: 10 PRINT provides a very simple alternative, a diagonal maze. Third-
person videogame mazes, in contrast, are almost always aligned as in Pac-
Man, even those that predate the dot eater.
Magnavox’s infamous K. C. Munchkin (1981) is something of a Pac-
Man knock-off that was itself knocked off shelves by a famous court ruling,
Atari v. Philips. To players today, the game looks like just another maze
game. With doors that open and close, only twelve dots on the screen, and
other notable differences, it now seems impossible to confuse with Pac-
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