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ESR Announces The Open Sourcing Of The World's First Text Adventure ( 118

An anonymous reader writes: Open source guru Eric S. Raymond added something special to his GitHub page: an open source version of the world's first text adventure. "Colossal Cave Adventure" was first written in 1977, and Raymond remembers it as "the origin of many things; the text adventure game, the dungeon-crawling D&D (computer) game, the MOO, the roguelike genre. Computer gaming as we know it would not exist without ADVENT (as it was known in its original PDP-10 incarnation...because PDP-10 filenames were limited to six characters of uppercase)...

"Though there's a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods's final version -- Adventure 2.5 from 1995 -- has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license. Until now, that is. With the approval of its authors, I bring you Open Adventure."

Calling it one of the great artifacts of hacker history, ESR writes about "what it means to be respectful of an important historical artifact when it happens to be software," ultimately concluding version control lets you preserve the original and continue improving it "as a living and functional artifact. We respect our history and the hackers of the past best by carrying on their work and their playfulness."

"Despite all the energy Crowther and Woods had to spend fighting ancient constraints, ADVENT was a tremendous imaginative leap; there had been nothing like it before, and no text adventure that followed it would be innovative to quite the same degree."
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ESR Announces The Open Sourcing Of The World's First Text Adventure

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  • by coastwalker ( 307620 ) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [reklawtsaoca]> on Monday May 29, 2017 @03:51AM (#54504303) Homepage

    I remember playing this with a group of friends on a teletypewriter overnight in the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology Cardiff in 1981. We played the whole thing through from start to end in one session. I did the typing because I could touch type. I think we finished at about 5am. No computer game has really interested me since. Once you have played ADVENT you have played them all. I still have the printout somewhere, it weighs about five pounds.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 29, 2017 @04:04AM (#54504325)

      The real game is being able to navigate in the source code. The dungeon stuff is just a bonus side effect.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You can download a literate programming version from Donald Knuth page here []. Here is the direct link to the source file []. That's much nicer.

      • "It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a gnu."
      • You're not kidding; GOTO L12345;

        L12345: this thing has more goto's than your; GOTO L54321;

        L54321: typical Basic program!

        • by Anonymous Coward

          That was what preprocessors like Ratfor or Flecs generated. There are many old versions of Adventure in DECUS library sources, from the 1970s on. Among these you can find the Ratfor version if you like.

          Good BASIC compilers back then were hard to find; Basic was done via an interpreter and tended to be notably slower than compiled languages. If you wanted speed, you used assembly language or a compiled language, choices being Fortran or (if ytou were well equipped) Cobol.

          There were a few others but not as wi

        • Somone, somewhere must have must have written a version of this in INTERCAL. []

          COMEFROM ?

    • by thegreatbob ( 693104 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @04:05AM (#54504329) Journal
      There's no +1 Awesome mod, and my mod points expired, so I'll just leave this comment instead :D Hearing about stuff like this makes me feel as though I was born a couple decades too late to enjoy computing to its fullest, but reading other folks tales from the earlier days of computing brings me no shortage of enjoyment, so it'll have to do.
      • It was a great era for computing and anyone who used it knew it was going places, so yes it was a special time. You could already see where it was going to go from things like Douglas Adams 'Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy' and its talking book. And so it has come to pass, the mobile phone gives everybody on the planet access to all knowledge. Sadly a lot of them only use it to get sports scores and slag each other off on social media, people are funny like that. But it is still true that all of the amazing possibilities of computing are available for peanuts to most people now, so the promise was largely realised. Whilst you might not feel that computing itself is quite as exciting today as it was before we had today's hardware you can still get a lot more out of it.

        If you really want to get a buzz out of technology these days then you should probably be working in genetics or personalized medicine which to repeat an old joke "could be a cure for cancer". More importantly we can already see that gene therapy, the microbiome and genetically modified plants are going to be as important to humanity in thirty years as computing has become. All these worlds are there ready, waiting to be explored.

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @05:07AM (#54504435) Journal

      I enjoyed the Zork series when I was a child and my father said I should play this game and see the original. We found an old IBM 8080 machine in the back of a store room along with the OS and ADVENT on a pair of 8" floppy disks and played it on the terminal (the entire machine was a big blue box with the backplane and various circuit boards - we had to pull a couple apart to get the full set of working ones - another big blue box containing two 8" floppy disk drives, and a blue [you might spot a theme here. Big Blue was really into branding] terminal). The entire machine was bigger than I was back then.

      A few years later I bought a Psion Series 3 (256KB of RAM, also used for persistent storage) and a 128KB flash SSD (a single cell, so you could write to it at arbitrary granularity, but erasing didn't free space and you had to back everything up, erase it, and restore the things you wanted). I bought Infozip (Infocom interpreter) and The Lost Treasures of Infocom to play on it. Most of the games fitted happily on the 128KB flash drive, with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (a 150KB monster) being the one exception.

      Infozip came with a port of ADVENT. I think that was the first time I'd really appreciated the rate of technological advance. The old IBM monster was less powerful than a machine that I carried around in my jacket pocket.

      • by Layzej ( 1976930 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @10:07AM (#54505107)

        Here's the original code and data for anyone interested:

      • by obsess5 ( 719497 )
        Not to question your memory, but the "IBM 8080 machine" sounds more like an Intel development system. In 1977, a friend took my brother and me to his office at NASA's GSFC, where he designed 8080-based experiments which flew on high-altitude balloons (with $200-at-the-time military-hardened 8080 chips). He had an Intel 8080 development system, all blue boxes. In 1984, I worked on a project using an Intel 8086 development system, again all big blue boxes and 8" floppies. (We were using 80286 processors runni
        • Not to question your memory, but the "IBM 8080 machine" sounds more like an Intel development system

          Could be. I think I was 8 or 9 at the time, so my memory is pretty hazy. The company did quite a lot of RMX work, so it seems more likely that they'd have Intel systems than IBM ones.

    • by clovis ( 4684 )

      This was the first computer game I played on a general-purpose computer.
      I remember playing this around 1980 on a Burroughs B6900 at work.
      It was the Algol port, and I had the source code on a 9-track tape that I kept for many years.
      I swear, I used the source to cheat only once. I believe I was stuck at a dam in the power control room.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      That's a nifty memory of the gaming session.

      No computer game has really interested me since. Once you have played ADVENT you have played them all.

      But seriously? "Eh, I watched the Godfather once. I figure that whole movie thing is dead to me now."

    • Is this where trolls appear, where you can "throw axe", and where there is a Plover room, etc...?
  • PLATO (Score:5, Informative)

    by tricorn ( 199664 ) <> on Monday May 29, 2017 @04:11AM (#54504343) Journal

    Not going to say that ADVENT didn't inspire a lot of things, and I played it in several variants (including a version that was written on PLATO, called "adventl"), but there were certainly dungeon games written before ADVENT, specifically "dnd" on PLATO was written in 1974. Oubliette was released in late 1977 (so was unlikely to have been predicated on ADVENT) and Avatar was already being written by then as well, the first version of Moria was written in 1975 ...

    • Re:PLATO (Score:4, Informative)

      by tal_mud ( 303383 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @05:19AM (#54504449)

      Memories! I played dnd, Oubliette and Moria in 1977 on Plato. It was an amazing system for its time. MMORPG (trek) and touch panels way back in '77

      There even exists a PLATO emulation for those who really miss it: []

      • by tricorn ( 199664 )

        We even still have an Empire battle night on Sundays for a few hours on Cyber1, usually have 4-8 people show up - 6pm Pacific if you're interested.

        I made some changes to the current version, but several older versions are still available (changes such as entry in center if your team has all 5 planets; all teams start off with no armies, and can coup in any one of the four corner systems as long as it isn't already another team's home system; some fairly minor fueling and bombing changes to attempt to balanc

      • by yrte ( 833796 )
        Mentions of fully-formed PLATO games like Moria and a half dozen others also was the first thing to jump to mind when the parent description suggested that Adventer was the "origin" of many things. Sorry, no. Adventure was cool and it was an important and influential piece of art, but it did not precede DnD paper and pencil, nor did it precede a number of much more dungeon-crawl 'rpg's, nor was it the first adventure game. oops.
  • Doesn't compile? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Danj2k ( 123765 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @04:22AM (#54504369)

    I downloaded this to my Linux box and tried to run "make", but it complained about needing to be in C99 mode. Is this release only compatible with the original hardware and OS it was written on or something? I thought from the README it was supposed to be a port that works on modern computers/OSes?

    • Re:Doesn't compile? (Score:4, Informative)

      by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @04:24AM (#54504379)
      This is by Eric Raymond. C99 _is_ modern. Not to you, not to me, but to some people.
      • by Danj2k ( 123765 )

        This is by Eric Raymond. C99 _is_ modern. Not to you, not to me, but to some people.

        I managed to get past the C99 error by compiling compile.c manually and then bodging -std=c99 everywhere in the Makefile, but now I'm getting a bunch of errors about macro DATIME.

        So yeah I'm guessing this thing needs a lot of work before people can actually run it on a current system.

        • Re:Doesn't compile? (Score:5, Informative)

          by sTERNKERN ( 1290626 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @04:41AM (#54504401)
          With GCC4.7 and with CFLAGS=-std=c99 added to the beginning of the Makefile it compiled for me just fine.
          • With gcc 4.8.4 I'm getting: misc.h:71:41: error: storage size of 'ts' isn't known

            • by Danj2k ( 123765 )

              With gcc 4.8.4 I'm getting: misc.h:71:41: error: storage size of 'ts' isn't known

              Yep, this is one of the errors I am seeing also.

              • This is because clock_gettime() is POSIX but not C99. The option -std=c99 enforced a strict respect to the C99 standard and so ignores POSIX features.

                As of now, -std=c99 is only needed to compile the 'compile' program. I recommend to do it manually and to compile the rest without C99.

                If you did not change the Makefile then the following should work:

                make clean
                gcc -std=c99 -o compile compile.c

      • Dude. C99 is those parts of C++ that were a good idea. Not going with C11 is just backward compatibility at this point.

      • C99 _is_ modern. Not to you, not to me, but to some people.

        And to Microsoft, too. I still don't think they've implemented some parts.

    • Built fine on my Mac.

      I did have to comment out the "LIBS=-lrt" line at the top of the Makefile, and there were a handful of warnings.

      (LLVM 8.1.0, clang-802.0.42)

    • You can invoke make as follows:

      make CFLAGS="-std-c99"

      For extra credit, add the following line to the Makefile so make simply works:


      ... then submit a patch :-)

      ESR may already have his environment set up to default to c99 mode and so may not have noticed this oversight.
    • I run the original f4 version, ported to an ICL 1900 mainframe. The C version is for wimps.

  • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @04:39AM (#54504399) Homepage

    The FORTRAN source can be found here: []

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )
      Awesome, thanks! It's crazy reading C code that is using goto's and labels representing line numbers to make a direct port hopefully minimizing the possibly of side effects in the port. Wow.
    • When I saw the github files had .c extensions I was disappointed because I wanted to see FORTRAN.

      Then I looked at the actual code. Wow! It's like a developers worst nightmare. I kind of love it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In 1980....on a teletype like the other poster..... at high school in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. I was in Year 8.

    My math teacher (who's office was right next to the computer room) was giving me grief about using all the paper.

    The next year we got a green CRT terminal thing..... no more paper, and it "beeped" instead of ringing a bell !

    I feel old.

  • L6022: RSPEAK(128); /* 6023 */ for (J=50; J=MAXTRS; J++) {
    if(J == PYRAM && (LOC == PLAC[PYRAM] || LOC == PLAC[EMRALD])) goto L6023;
    if(AT(J) && FIXED[J] == 0)CARRY(J,LOC);
    L6023: /*etc*/ ;
    } /* end loop */
    L6024: DLOC[6]=CHLOC;

    • The FORTRAN origin of the code is obvious.

      The original code was written in 1977 and so was probably using Fortran 66 (or a derivative) []

      Compared to modern languages and even to K&R C, the Fortran 66 language had very of the features that we all take for granted.

      Variable names were case insensitive (so UPPER CASE in practice) and limited to 6 characters

      The IF statement was applied to a SINGLE statement so any complex behavior had to be implemented using conditional GOTOs (

      • by Wulf2k ( 4703573 )

        Sounds less fun than just writing asm.

      • I am pretty sure the original would have been Fortran 4. Just cos Fortran 77 existed, did not mean people playing games would have used it. People familiar with Fortran 4 (like me) were in no hurry to upgrade anyway.

        Sure new projects MIGHT use Fortran 77.

        no stack, no recursivity, no dynamic allocation nor pointers, no function prototypes, no struct nor classes, no strings of variable length,

        Are you some kind of wimp? Real Fortran programmers don't need that kind of new fangled clap-trap!

        We did, of cou

  • Gee, I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @05:14AM (#54504445)

    Who wrote the C version while converting the game from 32 bit to 24 bit Hollerith code on a Harris H-800 at Weber State University n the 1980's.

    P.S.: It was Open Source when I did that; it had been declared public domain.

    P.P.S.: Public domain is better than a freaking license.

    • Re:Gee, I wonder... (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @06:34AM (#54504583) Journal

      Public domain is better than a freaking license

      No it isn't. In some countries, public domain as a concept doesn't exist. In some others, public domain does exist, but things can't be explicitly assigned to the public domain and only end up there once copyright expires. In any of these jurisdictions, in the absence of a license the default remains that you have no rights. Additionally, if you simply place something in the public domain without a disclaimer of warranty, then you may find yourself liable for any of bugs in the code.

  • GitLab & GitHub (Score:4, Informative)

    by mpilsbury ( 513793 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @05:54AM (#54504527)

    The summary says that ESR put the repo on GitGub. It's actually on GitLab.

    It's nice to see not everyone slavishly uses GitHub all of the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    retro is cool and all, and thanks for making the code available.. but fuck, man...

    where's the linkable, clickable web version?

  • Though there's a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods's final version -- Adventure 2.5 from 1995 -- has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license. Until now.

    What world is this where 1995 is before 1977? Or is there some new, fangled definition of "first" that I've never heard of?

    • by fisted ( 2295862 )

      If you find the time, try to figure out the difference between a program and a version of a program.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Assuming there is one, the version from 1995 does not predate the one from 1977, and if there isn't one, then the version from 1977 was already open source long ago.
  • Plugh! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eric T Duckman ( 4391433 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @06:54AM (#54504629)
  • by aglider ( 2435074 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @06:58AM (#54504635) Homepage
    Actually []:

    This code is a forward-port of the Crowther/Woods Adventure 2.5 from 1995, last version in the main line of Colossal Cave Adventure development written by the original authors. The authors have given permission and encouragement for this release.

    For the sake of precision!

  • by spaceman375 ( 780812 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @07:43AM (#54504725)

    I was playing "Hunt the Wumpus" on IBM machines in 1974. That was a text adventure set in a maze of caves. Colossal Cave Adventure even seems like a rip-off of the Wumpus game.
          Actually, I was playing on printing terminals at Bell Labs in holmdel NJ, running the game on a big IBM box 45 miles away in Murray Hill NJ via telnet. Ah, the innocence of unencrypted sessions and clear-text passwords. They wouldn't let me play blackjack because we had to pay for our cpu cycles, but the 300 baud acoustically coupled modems were easily fast enuf for simple ascii.

  • You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

    • I still have brain cells dedicated to 'frotz me', 'aimfiz Belboz' and remembering grue repellent.

      The Infocom games were generally quite good, but somebody needs to go back in time and bitch slap the devs for having logic in the game like 'with no hints that it's even a thing until step 500, you must perfectly perform a sequence of actions in the first 30 moves or the game cannot be completed'.

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @09:06AM (#54504935) Journal
        Let me guess: you pirated the games. This kind of logic was an early copy protection mechanism. When you bought them, you got a little pamphlet with hints and clues for the hardest puzzles.
        • The HHGttG game came with pocket lint, a microscopic space fleet, and a pair of Joo-Janto 2000 Peril-Sensitive sunglasses. I don't remember the pamphlet, but I wouldn't have read it anyway; hints and clues are cheating.

          Regardless, bad logic, bad gameplay.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I believe he may be talking about Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which could make the game unwinnable even if you purchased it. There was some randomness to the game and you might fail to perform certain actions early on - I recall Douglas Adams talking about this.

        • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

          Let me guess: you pirated the games. This kind of logic was an early copy protection mechanism. When you bought them, you got a little pamphlet with hints and clues for the hardest puzzles.

          Oh? And I suppose that's why every computer game publication in the 80's and early 90's had a section devoted specifically to solving particularly difficult puzzles in various different games including many Infocom games?

  • I remember playing this game in high school on our time-shared PDP-10... and I graduated in 1975. How is that possible?

  • XYZZY, plough and Y2 are still stuck in my brain..
    • XYZZY, plough and Y2 are still stuck in my brain..

      "plugh" surely?

      Good job they didn't have autocorrect in the 1970s or the grues would have been well fed....

  • Code is extremely readable. Haven't seen a goto statement in 2 decades.
  • It was run in a TI portable terminal with a 300-baud acoustic coupler, dialed into the PDP-11. Caused considerable loss of productivity...
  • I remember playing this after hours at my first job in 1978/79. We had these 3278 monitors from IBM that displayed green characters on a black background. It must of been around 9 or 10 at night when I wandered into the volcano room and the screen painted itself with this wall of glowing, green text describing what I was seeing in the room. The lights were off in my office and it glowed green from the light of the monitor. I was totally mesmerized. I eventually solved the whole game and moved on to other th

  • I have a working copy on the INVENT3K machine at INVENT3K.OPENMPE.COM (use simple telnet):

    HP3000 Release: C.75.00 User Version: C.75.05 MON, MAY 29, 2017, 12:22 PM
    MPE/iX HP31900 C.45.05 Copyright Hewlett-Packard 1987. All rights reserved.

    (banner snipped because it does not pass the slashdot junk filter)

    9712 OF 9800 WORDS OF MESSAGES
    742 OF
  • I was looking through the text of the game and came across this gem:

    270 A dark fog creeps in to surround you. From somewhere in the fog you
    270 hear a stern voice. "This Adventure has been tampered with! You have
    270 been dabbling in magic, knowing not the havoc you might cause thereby.
    270 Leave at once, before you do irrevocable harm!" The fog thickens,
    270 until at last you can see nothing at all. Your vision then clears,
    270 and you find yourself back in The Real World.

  • Inform7 ( []) , Twine ( Quest ( , Adrift ( and other text adventure programming engines may get a nice boost from this.
    • no. no, they won't. there is absolutely no way whatsoever that inform7 could benefit from a 50 year-old relic remarkable only for the amount of effort it took to get it running on the hardware of the time. the only fortran code anyone uses anymore is for numerical analysis, and i'm not sure whether the real reason for this is that programmers are superstitious, lazy and, mathematically illiterate, or something more serious.

      from what little i know of twine, it's designed to be easy to use at the cost of expr

  • “lots of lubricants, some plastic tubing, and a yak.” []
  • Do you eat with that mouth ?

  • Anyone have any insight on the use of GOTO in this code? To me, at least, it seems highly appropriate, in context. I bring it up because I was reading random '...considered harmful' stuff earlier, and have generally come to the conclusion that 'considered harmful' just means one should ponder a bit more if they're thinking about using it.
    • Should have qualified that 'additional insight', as it has been noted previously that it's a FORTRAN port, and some people are apparently allergic to GOTO.
  • for a university assignment years ago.

    I didn't have it in me to do more than 5 rooms.

  • Will Crowther [], the original author of this game, is one of the most down-to-earth, humble tech pioneers you could ever meet. Not only was he one of the two main programmers on the original ARPANet team, not only was he one of he best rock climbers on the East Coast in the 1960's, pioneering many climbing routes at the Gunks in NY State, a regional climbing mecca, but he was also the sole original author of this game that started it all.

    I met him about twenty years ago, when he taught rock climbing in hi
  • [repost from April]

    FORTRAN was -- for some still is-- the 'Perl' of scientific computing. Get it in and get it done... and it doesn't always compile down very tight, but always fast because for mainframe developers getting this language optimized for a new architecture was first priority.

    At 15, the first real structured program I ever de-constructed completely while teaching myself the language, was the FORTRAN IV source for Crowther and Woods Colossal Cave Adventure, widely regarded as 'the' original interactive text adventure, a genre which would later go multi-user to become the MUD. Read about it here [], or play it in Javascript [].

    FORTRAN IV and Dartmouth BASIC (I'll toss in RPG II also) were the 'flat' GOTO-based languages, an era of explicit rather than implicit nesting -- a time in which high level functions were available to use or define but humans needed to plan and implement the actual structure in programs mentally by using conditional statements and labels to JUMP over blocks of code. Sort of "assembly language with benefits".

    Crowther's PDP-11 Adventure version was running on the 36-bit GE-600 mainframes [] of GEISCO (General Electric Information Services) Mark III Foreground timesharing system... this is in the golden age of timesharing and no one did it better than GE. It took HOURS at 300bps and two rolls of thermal paper to print out the source and data files, and I the Adventure code and data out on the floor and traced the program mentally, keeping a notebook of what was stored in what variable... I had far more fun doing this than playing the game itself.

    Then the "real life" adventure began. I started poking around on the Mark III timesharing system, and found a way to jump out of my partitioned access and explore. What really helped was a collection of FORTRAN/77 system utilities written by an engineer working at GEISCO (this is General Electric, no relation to GEICO and the year is ~1980). Their development environment as well as the commercial systems were controlled by password protected accounts, each with file/user areas... BUT there was also this command line debugger that was able to write to memory regions beyond your own job, and if you were able to parse out memory structures (reading source for the utilities helped) you could "punch yourself in" to any user number (location), effectively changing identity to that of another user and seeing their files. Or examine the buffers containing character streams of other users' terminals in real time. It was fascinating and I soon had developed a suite of tools in F77 to assist in exploration of the system, leap-frogging onto the commercial file systems too. I kept the source encrypted by the F77 'SCRAM' function, decrypting it only to edit and compile. My cache of tools was stored "in" a user number that did not exist, you can think of it as a unpointed-to lost cluster of sorts. I was totally white hat about it, never prying into customer files (McDonald's etc.) and even wrote a summary of vulnerabilities and dropped it into one of their secure areas. I just wanted to be hired. Cat 'n mouse games ensued, even a trace and FBI phone tap. GEISCO originally thought I was a rogue employee but when they learned I was just a kid the heat was off, they were afraid of public embarrassment.

    GE actually bought me a plane ticket to Rockville MD so they could pick my (now 18 year old) brain, and the matter was closed soon after. In the end I was not hired or even encouraged to apply and learned a valuable lesson about corporate culture, that it was not for me.

    Some eight months after my little escapade, the 414 kids [] made national headlines and one of them even got his face on Newsweek magazine... and I am thinking to myself, I was there first.

    Lots of peopl

  • I remember reading about this a few months ago, and I'm pretty sure it was linked from Slashdot. I'm too lazy to go look for it, but I was excited then, so I clearly remember it.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers