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The Paging Game

"The Paging Game" is a wonderful article that describes virtual memory demand paging in non-technical terms as if it were a game. The article is also known as "The Thing King" or "The Crating Game". If you do an Internet search for "Paging Game", "Thing King", or "Zarking" you'll get a lot of hits (241 results from Google just now). There are several versions that are similar, but not identical. There is one version that is more purely a game and another that is tied somewhat to the technical terms associated with demand paging.

An HTML version of the article from 1974 is available from the MTS Archive and from Wikisource.

The article was reprinted in the U-M Computing Center Newsletter several times. Here is a link to a copy under the heading "Paging" from 19 June 1974 (Vol.4/No.7) in the Hathi Trust Digital Library:


The 19 June 1974 article cites the February 1974 (Vol.6/No.2) issue of the University of British Columbia Computing Center Newsletter and credits Jeff Berryman of UBC as the author.

#2: A reply from Jeff Berryman makes things clear

posted Nov 8, 2012, 7:17 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Nov 8, 2012, 7:21 PM ]

Jeff Berryman sent a reply to an e-mail message earlier today that makes it clear who wrote "The Paging Game" and where it was written:
  • Jeff wrote it.
  • He was working at the University of British Columbia Computing Centre at the time.
  • Neither he or the article have a connection to Project MAC at MIT.
  • We are a little unsure exactly when the article was originally written, probably sometime in 1974. It could have been a bit earlier, since Jeff started working at UBC in 1970.
Here is the reply from Jeff:

From: "Berryman Jeff"
Subject: RE: a voice from your past, with a question about "The Paging Game"
Date: November 8, 2012 6:51:15 PM EST
To: Jeff Ogden

Wow, Jeff, certainly I remember you!  NIce to hear you're still on-planet.

It's amazing to hear that the spirit of MTS lives on.  Please do add me to the email list, and please pass my greetings and contact information on to my old friends.  Tell them I miss them!

Now, to your questions:

1) Are you in fact the original author of the "Paging Game" article or memo?
Yes.  I wrote it as a series of articles for the UBC Computing Centre Newsletter, to help explain virtual memory to the users.  Because university computing centres widely shared newsletters in those days, it got into general circulation.

2) There are two parts to the article, one is about the game and the other follows the same outline as the first part, but is a little more technical and uses demand paging terminology. Are you the original author of both parts?
Yes, the plan from the beginning was to publish the ficitious game as the first article, then publish the parallel rules for the actual paging mechanism in the next month's newsletter.  I think I wrote a third article, too, about how users should design programs for best virtual memory use, and so on.  But there was no fun in that, so it didn't survive.

3) If so, were you working at UBC when you wrote it/them?
Yes.  I worked in the UBC Computing Centre from 1970 to 1988.

4) Do you remember when the article was first written? We have some guesses at 1972, but they are only guesses.
Good question.  I would have said a bit later, maybe 1974, but that's just a guess, too.

5) Were you ever associated with Project MAC at MIT?
No, never.  Didn't even exchange any mail with them.

6) And was the "Paging Game" based in any way on anything from Project MAC or MIT?
No, it just came to me one day.  One of those wacky moments when the brain free-associates.
I've always thought it was funny that the only publication that ever got me any fame at all in the computing field was completely facetious.

My history before joining UBC is pretty simple:  U of Wisconsin in Physics 'til I got drafted in 1968;  1968 to 1970, an enlisted guy working as a systems programmer on a rather odd M-I-S system in the Pentagon;  then straight to Vancouver and UBC.  The Pentagon gig was 99% bureaucracy, and had nothing whatsoever to do with DARPA or any other far-out military stuff.  Every month, the system printed a stack of 11x15 fan-fold that was taller than the Pentagon.  I know, I did the calculations myself.

About uses of the PG, I recall that it was also included in a book called Applied Data Management by Charles T. Meadow [Wiley, 1976] -- there still might be a copy of it around here somewhere.

It would be fun to have it in the Wikipedia ... certainly my permission is granted.  Although I wrote the thing, I have for many years considered it to be in the public domain.  So as far as I'm concerned, anybody can publish it anywhere they want.

Jeff B
Flesherton, Ontario (about 100 miles NW of Toronto)

#1: Who was the original author?

posted Nov 8, 2012, 8:40 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Nov 12, 2012, 8:22 AM ]

There is some question about where the original "Paging Game" article was written and who the original author was.

As mentioned in the introduction to this discussion, the 19 June 1974 issue of the U-M Computing Center Newsletter cites Jeff Berryman at UBC as the author.

Richard Conto's web page says:

Note: This was originally found at http://www.isham-research.com/zarking.html

It was periodically re-published in the University of Michigan Computing Center (later called the Information Technology Department) Newsletter, although I recall it being attributed to someone (probably Jeff Berryman) at the University of British Columbia

The Paging Game

by Jeff Berryman, University of British Columbia, 1972

The Paging Game was written by Jeff Berryman when he was working on project MAC, specifically one of the virtual memory systems.

 . . .

Long Live the Thing King!

And here is something close to the original version, from the Project MAC manual.


Project MAC Computer Systems Research Division

 . . .

Long Live the VM Manager!

The article also appears in Chapter 7 of
the book Expert C Programming: Deep C Secrets [1994] by Peter van der Linden, who gives credit to Jeff Berryman and says:

Some Light Relief—The Thing King and the Paging Game

The section that follows was written by Jeff Berryman in 1972 when he was working on project MAC
and running one of the early virtual memory systems. Jeff somewhat rue-fully comments that of all the
papers he has ever written, this one is the most popular and widely read. It's as applicable today as it
was twenty years ago.

The Paging Game

This note is a formal non-working paper of the Project MAC Computer Systems Research Division. It
should be reproduced and distributed wherever levity is lacking, and may be referenced at your own
risk in other publications.

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