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The Thing King
All You Wanted to Know About
Virtual Systems ....

Are you somewhat confused by virtual systems? Do you understand them but
have a hard time explaining how they work? Then the following explanations
developed by Jeff Berryman, a Systems Programmer at the University of
British Columbia (UBC) Computer Center, originally published in the UBC
Computer Center Newsletter should be of interest.



1. Each player gets several million things.

2. Things are kept in crates that hold 2048 things each. Things in  
the same crate are called crate-mates.

3. Crates are stored either in the workshop or warehouse. The workshop is
almost always too small to hold all the crates.

4. There is only one workshop but there may be several warehouses.  
Everybody shares them.

5. Each thing has its own thing number.

6. What you do with a thing is to zark it. Everybody takes turns zarking.

7. You can only zark your things, not anybody else's.

8. Things can only be zarked when they are in the workshop.

9. Only the Thing King knows whether a thing is in the workshop or in a

10. The longer a thing goes without being zarked, the grubbier it  
is said to become.

11. The way you get things is to ask the Thing King. He only gives out
things in multiples of eight. This is to keep the royal overhead down.

12. The way you zark a thing is to give it thing number. If you give the
number of a thing that happens to be in a workshop it gets zarked right
away. If it is in a warehouse, the Thing King packs the crate containing
your thing back into the workshop. If there is no room in the  workshop, he
first finds the grubbiest crate in the workshop, whether it be yours or
somebody else's, and packs it off with all its crate-mates to a warehouse.
In its place he puts the crate containing your thing. Your thing then gets
zarked and you never knew that it wasn't in the workshop all along.

13. Each player's stock of things have the same numbers as everybody else's.
The Thing King always knows who owns what thing and whose turn it is, so you
can't ever accidentally zark somebody else's thing even if it has the same
number as one of yours. (VS/2)


1. Traditionally, the Thing King sits at a large, segmented table and is
attended to by pages (the so-called "table pages") whose job it is to help
the king remember where all the things are and who they belong to.

2. One consequence of Rule 13 is that everybody's thing numbers will be
similar from game to game, regardless of the number of players.

3. The Thing King has a few things of his own, some of which move back and
forth between workshop and warehouse just like anybody else's, but some of
which are just too heavy to move out of the workshop.

4. With the given set of rules, oft-zarked things tend to get kept  
mostly in the workshop while little-zarked things stay mostly in a warehouse.  
This is efficient stock control.

5. Sometimes even the warehouses get full. The Thing King then has to start
piling things on the dump out back. This makes the game slower because it
takes a long time to get things off the dump when they are needed in the
workshop. A forthcoming change in the rules will allow the Thing King to
select the grubbiest things in the warehouses and send them to the dump in
his spare time, thus keeping the warehouses from getting too full. This
means that the most infrequently-zarked things will end up in the dump so
the Thing King won't have to get things from the dump so often.  This should
speed up the game when there are a lot of players and the warehouses are
getting full. (Not applicable to VS/1)


Dr. Michael R. Williams
Editor-in-Chief, Annals of the History of Computing
Department of Computer Science
University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta

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