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Floppy Emu Restock and Retro Puzzle Contest

The BMOW Floppy Emu disk emulator is back in stock and shipping now. Get yours and other BMOW hardware goodies at the store. But before you place your order, you might wish to try your hand at a special challenge.

Are you ready to test your nerd skills and win some prizes? It was quieter than usual around BMOW labs during the out-of-stock period, so I used the opportunity to design a devious retro-computing puzzle. What’s this crazy mess of blue and white symbols? Beginning with only this clue, skilled retro-nerds will work through a series of challenges that will eventually lead to the name of a person. Knowledge of vintage computers, software design, and 1980s cultural references will be helpful. Whoever is first to post the mystery person’s name in the comments section here wins a $100 BMOW gift certificate and one million internet fame points! You may use Google or any other tools you think might help. This is not an easy puzzle, but BMOW readers are a crafty and clever bunch. Ready… go!

Read 11 comments and join the conversation 

11 Comments so far

  1. Steve August 17th, 2020 6:56 pm

    Six hours in, at least one person has cracked the first layer of the puzzle. I wish this were live streamed.

  2. Rob Kaplan August 17th, 2020 7:44 pm

    If you squint your eyes, you can kinda make out Toomb Raider.
    My guess is Lara Croft.

  3. Steve August 17th, 2020 7:46 pm

    Good theory! But that’s not the mystery person. Keep going…

  4. Steve August 18th, 2020 9:19 am

    Letters, numbers, symbols, glyphs, whatever you want to call them… this is what you have to start with. Where will it lead you?

  5. frogor August 18th, 2020 3:20 pm
  6. frogor August 18th, 2020 3:20 pm

    Or more accurately: David Maynard

  7. Steve August 18th, 2020 3:24 pm

    Ding ding, we have a winner! The mystery person is David Maynard, one of the original developers at Electronic Arts. Congratulations frogor, excellent job! Any thoughts you want to share on how you solved the puzzle? I’m also working on a solution write-up which I’ll be posting soon.

  8. frogor August 18th, 2020 3:33 pm

    Being an avid fan of my C64, I first thought what I was looking at was PETSCII – until I ran into that right arrow!!! But that was enough to give me a clue as to the -right- character set 😀 After that, I used ImageMagick with some character tables to break apart the grid into individual characters and automate mapping them to their character set byte values.

    I tried to figure out what my output -was- and could very definitely seem some data structure by shifting the rows of hex bytes one character at a time. Since “file” didn’t recognize it, I guessed it might be an image encoding of some sort – GraphicConverter RAW Import has an -amazing- visualizer which lets you play with the various settings until I tried as a last ditch effort a color encoding I probably should have started with 😀

    The next stage of decoding gave a tantalizing clue in the first row – but figuring out the second and third rows I credit to a suggestion of a friend (and in hindsight the helpers on the right side were nice confirmation of being on the right path).

    Putting the result for the first row with what I got for the second and third together led me to Mr. Maynard.

    Excellent puzzle, really enjoyed it!

  9. Mike August 19th, 2020 3:50 am

    Dang. Most of what you said pretty much blew right over my head. Not a snowballs chance in hell would I have figured it out.

  10. xot August 19th, 2020 4:08 am

    Well done, frogor! I can see I still had a long way to go. I can stop now. 🙂

  11. Steve August 19th, 2020 6:27 am

    A detailed walk-through of the solution is now available here: https://www.bigmessowires.com/2020/08/18/retro-puzzle-contest-solution/ Congratulations, frogor!

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