Karateka, a lesson in free software

In the world of programming there are basically two types of software, proprietary and free software. The first is the one that make it companies like Microsoft, Oracle or Apple, to mention a couple of them, and that they do not deliver the source code and they only sell it in binary format to be used on computers. They do this because the software is a business for buying and selling. On the other hand, we have the open source code, where the programmers openly share their source code, that is to say, how is that a program does things, and so allows others to change if they so wish.

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Each approach has its pros and cons. The proprietary code many times, when there is a “bug”, a bug, you must wait until the company that makes enter the appropriate corrections. On the other hand, their quality control is much higher at times, because they have to justify somehow the money to pay them for that software. In contrast, when we speak of free software, and open, if a problem occurs, it may be immediately, in specific forums, it has been reported and that the solution might be very quickly, because there will be who will finish hand code, find the bug and correct the difficulty.

But in addition, the open version allows others to see how programmers do things. And this is finally the teaching that we must take. When we can see how those who know how to do things, we can learn about it. And this is what happened with the program Karateka, which came out originally for the Apple II and it quickly became a classic. Karateka is a character that must save the princess from an evil being. To do this, you have to go through various rooms and fighting with your only weapon, karate, against other characters who are also good at this martial art.

Karateka was written by Jordan Mechner, and was probably the first program that you used something as well as motion capture to make the characters look realistic. However, Karateka was for a single player, and probably more than one person would have wanted to be on the side of the evil and fight against the good of the film.

Mechner wrote actually a book “The making of Karateka” and put the source code in assembler for the 6502. 30 years after, the user Reconnector, in his blog, shares with us his experience with the program and how, knowing the assembly language of the 6502, parchó the original code of Karateka so that they could fight two people. The patch is only 42 bytes, and managed to, surprisingly, a game for two people. The game can be played online here.

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