Part of the attraction from my perspective to Kentucky Route Zero is the sly nods it makes to technological history, especially computer technology of the late seventies up until the ascension of the PC. A couple of quick thoughts on how this all works:
- While these are not necessarily direct comparisons, I see comparisons between the set up of KRZ and the token ring networks of the 70s and 80s. Token ring briefly looked like the next big thing, at least until ethernet technology became perfected and standardized in 1983, and the way that token ring works can be mapped onto the narrative (and hell ludology) of this game I think.
- Token ring is a system of based analog signals. Analog signals, unlike digital, can fade, get noise attached to them (shielded wire can help, but only so far), and thus have been replaced by digital, despite holdouts like Steve Albini. In KRZ, the fading of the orange letters of the cathode ray tube terminal, the in-and-out of signals, and the constant sort of low buzz of technological activity screams an analog universe.
- Token ring was an attempt to create a system that enabled a mainframe to communicate with more than one dumb terminal per port. Before systems like token ring were invented, the mainframe communicated with each terminal via one direct line, a direct line that required a port in the mainframe. Token ring was designed to allow multiple terminals to be on one port. KRZ celebrates that sort of brilliant technical innovation, *especially* when those brilliant technical innovations were quickly passed by other brilliant technical innovations.
- The connections to communication and how we relate to each other are clear, I think, and I’ll puzzle them out as I proceed…
- Token ring was designed to avoid collisions as packets got passed. KRZ can and does have a lot to say about this – the characters who don’t really collide with each other, for instance. The system also sort worked like a shipping network that sent small ships into each port to investigate whether or not the port (terminal) needed data in the packet that was currently waiting. KRZ is full of these packets of data, in delivery trucks and on actual ferry boats, and they are constantly in motion – in fact, the delivery truck has to roll to a stop, obeying the laws of physics (inertia).
As you can imagine, I can do this all day…at this point, I am not sure how useful this connection will be. A potential lack of usefulness does not make the connection not worth observing and documenting.