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The rebirth of Pathfinder

A modern American interpretation of three pillars of wisdom from the ancient world (the I Ching, Tao of Power, and Art of War), all integrated for the first time ever into a single work.

Contribute to Pathfinder's full resurrection

This page last updated on or about 8-18-08
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Pathfinder is now online again!

Or at least the text portion anyway. The original Pathfinder was an interactive program running on the Apple Macintosh, way back in the early nineties. Basically it was a slick integration of the I Ching, Tao of Power, and Art of War, which would answer user questions typed into its window.

I've been a computer geek for somewhat longer than personal computers have been around, and have a very short list of favorite programs of all time. The More II outliner from 1990, Apple's HyperCard, and my own Pathfinder top that list (and not necessarily in that order).

Version 1.0 of Pathfinder's computer code was written in C by my brother. A second version of Pathfinder was created later by me to run atop HyperCard.

The first Pathfinder ran in Mac System 6.x, and got broken by the release of Apple's System 7. My brother and I were too exhausted by previous development efforts to fix the new problems (A commercial program being brought to market by just two guys on a shoe-string budget is really tough!).

After I ported Pathfinder to HyperCard, Apple promptly killed HyperCard, and left me high and dry again. Grrr.

Time passed, and multiple computers aged and died, making it ever more difficult to keep a copy of Pathfinder alive for my own use. But I did it. By repeatedly cobbling together parts of ancient Macs to keep Pathfinder alive and accessible.

During that time, Pathfinder helped me write my science fiction novel, my future history timeline, and the Rise and Fall of Star-faring Civilizations. And much, much more. I used it pretty regularly for brainstorming new ideas, or solving particularly thorny problems.

But then three bad things happened almost simultaneously, and I lost Pathfinder.

Firstly, the hard drive in Pathfinder's ancient Mac died. I was actually using Pathfinder in the moments before the drive gave out, and Pathfinder abruptly warned me it couldn't properly answer my last question, because it was corrupted(!) As I was puzzling over this odd answer which seemed to ignore my question, a terrible loud noise (like a garbage disposal) suddenly emanated from the hard drive, and the computer crashed. That's the last time I was able to use my interactive Pathfinder.

The second thing which happened was my nephew finally returned the Performa 6400 which had quit working for him maybe two years earlier. He didn't need it back, because I'd bought his family a new Sony PC.

I was thrilled to get the Performa, which could use System 7.5, and so I figured should be able to run HyperCard and Pathfinder-- and on a PowerPC CPU!

So I spent quite some time getting it working again.

But alas, when I fired up Pathfinder, it reminded me of an unpleasant fact about the newer machine: its PPC chip had to emulate the older 680x0 chip to run the old HyperCard-- which meant HyperCard and Pathfinder atop it both ran slower than they should have.

You might think this wouldn't be a problem for a program which accepts text questions and spits out text answers. But according to Pathfinder, it was.

I asked Pathfinder how it was doing in the new environment, and it said 'sorry, but I can't think fast enough here. My answers will be compromised'.

So I needed a native PPC code HyperCard. There did exist one at an earlier point in time. But when I went to Apple's web site to buy it, I couldn't. Steve Jobs had pulled it off the shelves.

All these efforts of mine to regain an interactive Pathfinder were part time in nature: I was busy as hell with lots of other duties as well.

I struggled to figure out some way to solve all the problems, when a new one smacked me out of nowhere.

I began to go blind. With fast-forming cataracts.

My fading vision quickly limited my capacities across-the-board, and I had to let go of many things-- including Pathfinder.

Now, a couple years later, I've had my clouded lenses replaced-- but apparently remain iffy in terms of my long term vision prospects. Besides glaucoma, I suffered some bad adverse reactions to the steroids the docs had me use after my operations. The medicine seemed to cause blood vessels to burst in both my eyes, permanently clouding them with blood, as well as monster versions of the 'floaters' I'd possessed for maybe a decade or two before the surgery. And they caused other problems too. Grrr.

Anyway, as always, I'm doing the best I can with what I have.

I can't at this time recreate an interactive and much more convenient to use Pathfinder-- but I can post its text online for my own reference and that of others. And access it the old fashioned way, by throwing three coins to decide the hexagrams.

So why is Pathfinder such a big deal to me? Mainly it helps tremendously to unlock my own creativity in brainstorming sessions; get new perspectives on matters.

But I've also used it as a sort of virtual reality simulator. By posing theoretical scenarios to it of my future actions, to see what it says would likely come of them.

The program-- and its traditional I Ching form before it-- have both given me shivers at times with their eerily aware-seeming responses to my queries. And their accuracy.

Back in college when I was still experimenting with the I Ching and unsure of its usefulness, I once asked it if I was going to have a tire blow out on a trip I was soon taking. I was concerned because all my tires were pretty worn, and I couldn't afford to replace them.

The answer was a definite yes. So I arranged for a friend to follow me on the trip in a separate car-- plus I made sure to drive more slowly and carefully than usual. And sure enough, the blow out happened.

Up to now in my life, I've never had a tire blow out on a car I was driving but the one time: and this was it. Since I'd heeded the warning though, I was well prepared for it.

Another time I was using the I Ching to brainstorm up ideas for a futurist contest. In particular, I wanted to come up with an idea better than the space shuttle for accessing orbit.

However, bringing up the space shuttle made the I Ching jump off track, and produce a dire warning that the space shuttle was a disaster waiting to happen.

Up to that time the shuttle had experienced few problems that I was aware of. So I sort of dismissed the warning.

But only a few months later the Challenger exploded just after launch.

Stuff like that helped me to begin taking the I Ching more seriously.

Once I had the interactive Pathfinder at my disposal, I was able to have much more interaction with the intelligence embedded in the I Ching, Tao of Power, and Art of War than ever before. And gained still greater respect for it.

All this left me feeling like Pathfinder was my own little artificial intelligence program. And it became the inspiration for the Staute A.I. I write about in various spots on my site. The A.I. which eventually evolves into the advanced software entity of Ovizatataron, seen in the novel.

I sincerely wish I could present to you here the interactive Pathfinder, but I can't.

I can, however, offer you the text. And let you use the old fashioned coin-throwing method to access it.

I hope you find Pathfinder as intriguing and useful as I have.

I hope to one day give Pathfinder back its interactivity, this time on the web. Heck: that may be the biggest shot I'll ever have at truly changing the world!

Pathfinder the online book

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Copyright © 2008 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.