Uncle Roger - World Wide Web Edition

In 1989, in the centennial issue of the
The Wall Street Journal, Michael Miller's
"A Brave New World: Streams of 1s and 0s" reviewed the
computer accomplishments of the era. "One new genre
is the 'database novel' the creation of Berkeley, Calif.
conceptual artist Judy Malloy," he wrote. "In her free-form
work 'Uncle Roger' readers decide the order in which
paragraphs appear on their PC screens. They can scroll through
from beginning to end, or they can pick a word or phrase and
follow it through the text. (A recent excerpt in the
Whole Earth Review consists of a string of scenes that
all feature the phrase 'men in tan suits')." [1]

The three files of the pioneering electronic hyperfiction,
Uncle Roger, originally appeared from 1986-1987 on
Art Com Electronic Network on the WELL.[2] The
publication of File II: The Blue Notebook was
funded by the California Arts Council and Art Matters.

Uncle Roger is a work of comedic narrative poetry. In
the years that this story was created, the writer -- who had
also lived in the locale of the Silicon Valley semiconductor
industry -- was immersed in an early online environment which
included many people from Silicon Valley and the computer culture.
The work is mainly set at a series of parties that are observed
by a narrator, who in telling the story intertwines elements of
magic realism with Silicon Valley culture and semiconductor
industry lore.

Uncle Roger was first told online in serial form (in
the order in which it was written) on Art Com Electronic
Network, beginning in 1986. Beginning in 1987, it was
published online as a working hypernarrative on the seminal
ACEN Datanet, that also included the work of John Cage,
Jim Rosenberg, and Sonya Rapoport. It was also self-published
as computer software for both Apple and IBM-compatible computers
and exhibited by contemporary art critic, curator, and ACEN
founder Carl Loeffler [3] as part of Art Com Software,
as well as distributed by the Art Com Catalog, a video and
small press distributor and exhibited Internationally in the
exhibition Art Com Software.

The web version, first implemented in 1995 and thus redolent of
the early web, is somewhat different than the original
Uncle Roger that for ACEN Datanet, I programmed
in UNIX shell scripts and for the floppy disk version, I
programmed in BASIC. These original Uncle Rogers
offered the reader a collection of programmed keyword
links that produced chains of linked lexias, often displayed
on the black and green or black and yellow text-based
monitors of the era.

In 2011, the 25th anniversary year of Uncle Roger, new
material has been added, including most of the original lexias
in Terminals,(originally there were 100) and an opening
menu for A Party in Woodside that approximates the original
menu on ACEN Datanet. In addition, the linking scheme of
A Party in Woodside was augemented so that it more closely
approximates the original version, where it was possible to follow
one chain of links through the entire work, while at
the same time it also retains some of the more diffuse linking
strategies expected on the Web.

Some editing of the narrative was done in the course of creating
the Web version, and the text here is now the authorized version
of this work.

Beginning in June, 2012, at the time of the 2012 Electronic Literature Organization Conference at West Virginia University, where Uncle Roger was included in my Retrospective as a part of the Media Arts show curated by Dene Grigar and Sandy Baldwin, I began the work of reconstructing the original BASIC version of Uncle Roger. The process was documented on Twitter, and the 2012 recreation of the 1986-1988 BASIC version of Uncle Roger is now available for download.

Uncle Roger, one of the first, if not the first
hyperfiction, was built on ideas developed in my early work
in experimental narrative structures. [4]

It is still being read online twenty-six years since it was written!

- Judy Malloy

1. Michael Miller, "A Brave New World: Streams of 1s and
0s" Wall Street Journal Centennial Issue, June 23, 1989

2. Judy Malloy, "Uncle Roger, an Online Narrabase", in Roy Ascott and Carl Eugene Loeffler, Guest Editors, Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications, Leonardo 24:2, 1991, pp.195-202.

3. Memories of Art Com and La Mamelle

4. Judy Malloy, Artists Books

A Party in Woodside
File 1: A Party in Woodside

Silicon Valley
File 2: The Blue Notebook

File 3: Terminals

How to Access Uncle Roger: History, Documentation, BASIC Version, Web Version

Uncle Roger
copyright 1986-1988 Judy Malloy
web adaption copyright 1995, 2003, 2009, 2012 Judy Malloy
These notes were last updated on December 1, 2012.