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The Original Macintosh:    2 of 15 
Alice
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Date: June 1982
Characters: Steve Capps, Bruce Daniels, Steve Jobs, Joanna Hoffman
Topics: Software Design, Games, Lisa, Marketing
Summary: The Macintosh's first great game
Alice's initial screen

Even though Bruce Daniels was the manager of the Lisa software team, he was very supportive of the Mac project. He had written the mouse-based text editor that we were using on the Lisa to write all of our code, and he even transferred to the Mac team as a mere programmer for a short while in the fall of 1981, before deciding that he preferred managing for Lisa. He would sometimes visit us to see what was new, but this time he had something exciting to show us.



"You've got to see the new game that Steve Capps wrote", he told me while he was connecting his hard drive up to my Lisa. He booted up into the Lisa Monitor development system, which featured a character-based UI similar to UCSD Pascal, and launched a program named "Alice". Steve Capps was the second member of the Lisa printing team, who started at Apple in September 1981. I had seen him around but not really met him yet.

The screen turned black and then, after a few seconds delay, a three dimensional chess board in exaggerated perspective filled most of the screen. On the rear side of the board was a set of small, white chess pieces, in their standard positions. Suddenly, pieces started jumping into the air, in long, slow parabolic arcs, growing larger as they got closer.

Soon there was one specimen of each type of piece, all rather humanoid looking except for the tower-like rook, lined up on the front rank of the board, waiting for the player to click on one to start the game. The player would be able to move like the piece they chose, so it was prudent to click on the queen, at least at first.

The pieces jumped back to their natural positions on the far side of the board, and an image of a young girl in an old fashioned dress floated down to the front row, which represented Alice from Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" books, drawn in the style of the classic John Tenniel illustrations. The player controlled Alice and viewed the board from her perspective, facing away from the player so you only saw her from the rear.

A three digit score, rendered in a large, ornate, gothic font, appeared centered near the top of the screen, and then the game began in earnest, with opposing chess pieces suddenly leaping into the air, one at a time, in rapid succession. If you stood in one place for too long, an enemy piece would leap onto Alice's square, capturing her and ending the game.

It didn't take long to figure out that if you clicked on a square that was a legal move, Alice would leap to it, so it wasn't too hard to jump out of the way of an enemy piece. And, if you managed to leap onto the square of another piece before it could move out of the way, you knocked it out of action and were rewarded with some points. You won the game if Alice was the last one standing.

I was impressed at the prodigious creativity required to recast "Through The Looking Glass" as an action-packed video game that was beautiful to behold and fun to play. Alice was also addicting, although it took some practice to be able to survive for more than a few minutes. Obviously, we needed to have it running on the Mac as soon as possible.

Bruce Daniels seemed pleased that we liked the game. "Capps could probably port Alice to the Mac", he said, anticipating what we were thinking. "Do you think you could get him a prototype?"

Everyone agreed that we should get Capps a Mac prototype right away. I accompanied Bruce Daniels back to the Lisa building (where the rules required that non-Lisa employees be escorted by a Lisa team member), and I finally got to meet Steve Capps, who seemed easy-going and friendly, with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Later that afternoon, he visited Texaco Towers and I gave him the prototype and answered a few questions about the screen address and the development environment. He assured me that it wouldn't take that long to port.

Two days later, Capps came over to present us with a floppy disk containing the newly ported Alice game, now running on the Macintosh. It ran even better on the Mac than the Lisa, since the Mac's faster processor enabled smoother animation. Pretty soon, almost everybody on the software team was playing Alice for hours at a time.

Within a few weeks, I must have played hundreds of games of Alice, but the most prolific and accomplished player was Joanna Hoffman, the Mac's first marketing person. Joanna liked to come over to the software area toward the end of the day to see what was new, and now she usually ended up playing Alice for longer and longer periods. She had a natural talent for the game, and enjoyed relieving work-related stress by knocking out the rival chess pieces. She complained about the game being too easy, so Capps obliged by tweaking various parameters to keep it challenging for her, which was probably a mistake, since it made the game much too hard for average players.

Steve Jobs didn't play Alice very much, but he was duly impressed by the obvious programming skill it took to create it. "Who is this Capps guy? Why is he working on the Lisa?", he said as soon as he saw the program, mentioning Lisa with a hint of disdain. "We've got to get him onto the Mac team!"

But the Lisa was still months away from shipping, and Capps was needed to finish the printing software, so Steve wasn't able to effect the transfer. One weekend Capps ran into Steve Jobs in Los Gatos and was told, "Don't worry, the Mac team is going to nab you!" Finally, a compromise was reached, that allowed Capps to transfer over in January 1983 after the first release of the Lisa was completed.

Capps quickly became a crucial member of the Mac team, adding fresh energy and talent as we entered the home stretch, helping to finish the Toolbox and the Finder, as well as working on other stuff like "Guided Tour" diskette. But he also found time to embellish Alice with more cool features.

One day he showed me Alice's hidden "Cheshire Cat" menu, which allowed you to adjust various preferences. Alice didn't have a menu bar, so it was sort of part of the game to figure out how to invoke the preferences. It was accomplished by clicking on the score at the top of the screen, which caused a detailed, John Tenniel inspired Cheshire Cat bitmap to slowly fade into view; clicking on different parts of it set various preferences. Capps also created an exquisite, tiny rendering of the Cheshire Cat to serve as Alice's icon.

Over time, he added some interesting variations, invoked by clicking on various parts of the Cheshire Cat. For example, one variation made some of the squares of the chessboard disappear at random, causing unlucky pieces to fall through to oblivion below. He also added a feature that Woz suggested: as the cursor moved to the back of the board, its image got correspondingly smaller, adding to the illusion of depth.

By the fall of 1983, Capps started thinking about the best way to get Alice to market. One possibility was publishing it through Electronic Arts, which was founded a year earlier by Trip Hawkins, Lisa's former marketing manager. But Steve Jobs thought that the game at least partially belonged to Apple, and insisted that Apple be the publisher. He negotiated a modest deal with Capps, promising him that Apple would do a deluxe job with the packaging and marketing.


Alice was announced at the launch and featured in the original brochure, but it didn't became available until a couple of months later. True to Steve's word, the packaging was beautiful. The game disk was enclosed in a small cardboard box designed to look like a finely printed, old fashioned book, complete with an elaborate woodcut on the cover, that contained a hidden Dead Kennedy's logo, in tribute to one of Capp's favorite bands. Since Alice didn't take up the whole disk, Capps including a few other goodies with it, including a font and "Amazing", a fascinating maze generating program that he wrote.

When I saw the completed packaging, I was surprised to discover that the game wasn't called "Alice" anymore; apparently, that name was already trademarked for a database program. It was rechristened "Through The Looking Glass" for its commercial release.

Unfortunately, Apple never put the promised marketing effort into Alice. They were in a quandary because the market didn't understand the graphical user interface as a productivity enhancement yet; graphics meant games, so the Mac had to live down an initial reputation as being unsuitable for business tasks. Apple didn't exactly want to promote a game for the Mac at the time, no matter how sensational, so Alice never quite reached as wide an audience as it deserved.

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15 Comments     
It´s very interesting! How can I get more information about and/or a copy of "Alice"?
I thought the Macintosh Alice and Amazing programs were really nice games. I played Alice a bit but played Amazing a lot. My sister's kids who were around 5 years old in 1984 really enjoyed Amazing and would spend lots of time solving the simple mazes. Amazing was also a great game for the Macintosh since it provided a fun way to learn how to move the mouse and use its button. Amazing's early level mazes were easy to solve, but the complicated mazes with 3D pathways were impossible, at least to me. Many years ago I contacted Steve Capps (believe he was working on the Apple Newton computer at that time) and asked about Amazing. He sent me the sources for it which I still have. I've sent a copy of these to Andy Hertzfeld, maybe he can post them on his Macintosh folkore site. FYI, Amazing was written in Lisa Pascal using the Lisa Monitor development environment. Various low-level routines were written in 68000 assembly language (but the majority of these routines were later incorporated into the Macintosh ROM). I wonder if Amazing and Alice had predecessors at Xerox? I know Capps worked at Xerox in New York before his Apple stint and suspect the there were some nifty Xerox Alto games or graphic utilities for this computer. I know the Mac visual clock program which Capps created had a counterpart at Xerox. Also, the St Mac magazine had an article on Amazing which told how it became part of the Macintosh introduction disk. I have a copy of this article. - David T Craig ( shirgato AT cybermesa DOT com )
Here's the Lisa Pascal procedure and function name listing for Amazing as produced by the Apple MPW tool ProcNames. Thought some of the more technically oriented readers of Mac folklore may find this information of some interest. Amazing contains around 1400 lines of Pascal. The 68000 assembly language file is around 150 lines long, the resource maker file is around 300 lines long. Amazing's total source line length is therefore around 1850 lines. Here's the main procedure for Amazing: InitMain; fQuit:=FALSE; REPEAT MakeMaze; MarkEnds; FollowMouse; UNTIL fQuit; procnames maze.text Procedure/Function names for maze.text 37 37 0 Maze [Main] maze.text 149 149 1 BitTst 150 150 1 BitSet 151 151 1 BitClr 153 153 1 MagicInit 155 155 1 Rand 156 156 1 Address 157 157 1 AndWd 158 158 1 OrWd 159 159 1 RShiftWd 160 160 1 LShiftWd 161 161 1 OrBlock 162 162 1 OrMaskBlock 163 163 1 BicBlock 165 165 1 LoWord 166 166 1 HiWord 171 171 1 DrawSquare 220 220 1 GetSquare 228 228 1 InitMaze 280 280 1 IsSurrounded 292 292 1 IsBridge 311 311 1 IsRamp 336 336 1 MarkSquare 341 341 1 MemberOf 357 357 1 LayerOpp 362 362 1 Neighbor 508 508 1 NextSquare 523 523 1 DirOpp 533 533 1 Bearing 543 543 1 Opp 561 561 1 PutSquare 569 569 1 SquareFree 586 2 1 InitLNibs mazeinit.text 614 30 1 InitUNibs 642 58 1 InitUMask 671 87 1 InitULine 701 117 1 InitLBM 741 157 1 SetUpMenus 752 168 1 Title 756 172 2 PutNDraw 912 328 1 InitMain 1010 1 1 GetMate mazedo.text 1027 18 1 MarkOccupant 1042 33 1 OccupySquare 1159 150 1 Answer 1188 179 1 SetSkill 1242 233 1 FollowMouse 1416 407 1 MarkEnds 1439 588 1 MakeMaze maze.text *** End ProcNames: 49 Procedures and Functions - David T Craig
Sadly, this game was clock speed dependent, so by the time the MacPlus came out (or was it the 512?) you couldn't beat Alice down the rabbit hole. Happily, I still have my disk, bound in that lovely packaging. It's my most cherished Mac collectable! (I still have my shrink-wrapped MacPaint manual, too)
I rarely play games on my Mac(I do buy some, but seldom get round to playing them), if I do, it is chess. This game, "Through the Looking Glass", or "Alice", sounds very interesting, and I think it would be fun to play. Has anyone made a modern day reprise?
> Has anyone made a modern day reprise? Yes! Check out Luke Pascoe's MD5 Summer at http://sourceforge.net/projects/md5summer/ (it's a Windows utility). Its About box displays a maze so reminiscent of Amazing I was almost disappointed there was no trumpeting penguin at the end. -- I'm so glad I found this site---you guys are my heroes of computing. I've used (and loved) every kind of Mac up to the Colour Classic, thanks to my father's work. Still have two senile Macs and the MacCC, plus a great big Apple flag from Apple's first office in Denmark.
I have an unopened & shrink-wrapped Alice game package as included with the original 128k Mac. Does anyone have any idea of value?
i also have a very nice alice game stillin case rizzo0u812@yahoo.com
Would love to play Through The Looking Glass. Any chance it's floating around somewhere in a playable state?
I have a copy of Through the looking Glass up for auction on Ebay. It ends on Jul-29-06 13:52:45 PDT . The auction is for a MINT copy of the game as well as a SUPER RARE copy of ALICE the original game and a copy of Andy's ULTRA RARE Desktop Demo showing pepsi caps (look it up). I just happen to have them lying around. I can beat the game but not in any record time. I believe it will top $200.00 VintageComputerMan
"Sadly, this game was clock speed dependent, so by the time the MacPlus came out (or was it the 512?) you couldn't beat Alice down the rabbit hole." That would be difficult, since the Mac 512, Plus, SE, and Classic all share the exact same processor and clock speed as the original Macintosh. On anything other than the four I just mentioned, clock speed might be a problem, but not for the original 68000-based compact Macs. (The only compact Macs that weren't 8 MHz 68000's were the SE/30, Classic II (both of which used 16 MHz 68030s,) and the Color Classic and Color Classic II.)
There is a new version of the game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The new version is also written by Capps for the 25th anniversary of the Mac. It's listed as Through the Looking Glass in iTunes.
I am Donald Mathers, Apple employee #2494 (apple@donmathers.com) hired in June of 1981. I still have many old Lisa and other apple pins including a copy of the Macintosh Alice/chess software program (with packaging 8-) in mint condition. I also have a beer stein with the Apple Support 1984 logo printed on it. Hmmm. I wonder how much that would fetch on e-Bay.
Steve's daughter, Emma Capps, has a webcomic called Chapel Chronicles and in last week's episode, the character (Chapel) is playing chess and the pieces are drawn as an homage to Steve's Alice. A little easter egg for Mac fans. Check it out here: www.chapelchronicles.com or on her facebook page, www.facebook.com/ChapelChronicles
Years ago I recoded a video of this game running in MacWorks on my Lisa. You can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PlP95WoCBw