In 1986, LucasFilm Games and Quantum Link launched an original game world known as Habitat. It was unlike anything available for the Commodore 64 at the time, and it required its owners to be online with a modem-based dial-in service that billed by the hour. Qlink, as it was known, would go on to be called AOL.
And Habitat would go on to be called Club Caribe, and be sold to Fujitsu, which turned it into a further other world. You can read the actual Tech Transfer Document from the sale here.
The MADE began working on the intensely impossible project of bringing Habitat back to life in the winter of 2013, while preparing for GDC 2014. Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer just sent over the code when asked for something to display at the show, in anticipation of their speaking in a LucasFilm Games/Lucas Arts reunion panel.
Source code in hand, we felt obligated to do something to further its preservation. Thus, we enlisted the help of all involved parties: Of Stratus, the company that made the computers which ran the server, and Paul Green, an incredibly intelligent man who leapt at the chance to help us preserve computational history. Of Fujitsu, where the lawyer who originally oversaw the transfer of this technology was still there, one office over when we made our first inquisitive phone call.
We enlisted the help of Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer, who tirelessly answered questions, and helped show us just how deep this combination PL/1, 6502 assembly rabbit hole went. Of Michael Steil, who went through and git-ified the project, and who also git-ified the Macross compiler and managed that project, which we quietly released earlier in the year. And we even held a party, in late 2014, where people from around the country and world came to help hack away on the platform and code to figure out just how we could make this all work again on original hardware.
Along the way, many others have helped us with this preservation work, but we still have much work ahead of us, so there is a chance now for many more to help. Thus, we are extremely pleased to announce that we have released Habitat’s original PL/1 sources on GitHub under the MIT license.
The goal, now, is to get the server to compile on Linux. This will take time and effort, but with the help of all of you, out there, who have patiently waited for us to make this move, we should be able to bring Habitat back online. How long that takes depends on how many contributors are out there, waiting to dive into 30 year old PL/1 code, and to fill in the blanks left by QLink.
Incidentally, we do need help inside AOL, as they are the last IP holders involved we’ve not formally engaged with, and thus, their libraries are omitted from this release. We would appreciate any help we could get in preserving QLink and its surrounding environments. They, too, are an important part of our digital heritage.
A hearty thanks goes out to everyone who helped on this project. A great many people worked very hard to make this happen, and they did it all out of love for the game. Please let them know how much you appreciate this fact.