ASH: Horde Software Platform for Super-Villainy

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Sat May 29 13:26:12 PDT 2010

                     an ASH Universe Resource File
                    copyright 2010 by Andrew Burton

     Horde was a multi-platform software package developed by Doctor
Developer, Software Pirate, and Pragmatician in the early to mid-1990s.  It
was started to fix several recurring problems with villainous implementations
of technology:

1. Security.  Heroes were always hacking into master computers, because every
master computer had a scratch-written OS, which lone villains never had time
to test.  The same went for communication lines, those were always
intercepted thanks to security holes that proper beta-testing would have

2. Scaling.  It's easy enough to program one warbot, but how about five, ten,
or fifty?  Then you have to coordinate their actions, make sure they don't
fly into each other, etc.  Not every robotics-oriented villain had the
resources of Doc Droid, after all.

3. Setup.  Once a villain's base was smashed, they'd have to start over.
They'd have to deal with all-new hardware architecture, new robots, new
henchmen who had to learn their workflow and interfaces.  In addition to the
wasted time and resources, repeatedly starting from scratch didn't help the
security issue, since it had to be assumed that abandoned gear at an old base
could be analyzed for security codes.

     So taking a few ideas from Java and TCL, they started working on Horde.

     Their first-step was a virtual machine that could run on a variety of
platforms: Windows, Mac, Unix (and related Linux and Magnix), larger embedded
systems, etc.  Since they eventually wanted to market Horde to other
villains, some who may or may not have the Magene or may in fact have been
Anchors, Doctor Developer did the majority of the work on the VM, with
Software Pirate tightening up his code in various places.  Pragmatician
worked on the language for the Horde VM, which ended up as two languages in
the end: OOHorde, which looks a bit like Pascal, and a dialect of HordeLisp.
OOHorde, or Ooh!, was what the majority of Horde libraries were written in,
while HordeLisp was designed for AI, statistics, weather control systems, etc.

     The first version of Horde was commandline only, which was enough for
them to not only create an Emacs clone for editing Horde software but also to
get a self-hosting second version.  The third version of Horde, the first to
run on a Mac, was the first to have a GUI.  Horde 3.1 through 3.5 moved away
from using native OS widgets and toward its own set.  By Horde 4.0 they had a
completely functional platform for villainous software.

     Horde had strongly encrypted network sockets, so Horde systems could
communicate over public, unsecured lines.  Horde supported multiprocessors
and threading, so it could be used on anything from a desktop terminal to a
super-computer.  The Horde VM was independent of the interface and toolkit,
so you could load it on embedded systems...robots, drones, deathtraps...for a
completely networked scheme.

     As multimedia, CD-ROM's, Internet, and such became popular, the trio
kept Horde up to date.  Horde 5.0 had several audio and video codecs (open
and pirated proprietary) that allowed users to create media archives,
broadcast death threats, and (with a plug-in) create 3D animations.  Doctor
Developer also created a small web server so Horde could be used to offer
henchmen web access from any browser.  

     By the time Horde 5.4 upgrade came out, updates were coming more and
more slowly.  Doctor Developer was a super-hero by that point, which made
contributing to Horde a bit difficult.  Pragmatician had started developing
financial software atop Horde that would allow him to automatically buy and
sell stocks, which was a project that took work and kept him busy with
investors.  Software Pirate still made a modest income from both helpdesk
supporting villains using Horde and as a consultant for Horde application
development.  Horde 5.5 was the final release of the standard software,
though each of the trio continued to keep their own branch up-to-date.

     Some notable Horde applications in the final years before 1998 were:

1. Streetnet, a botnet platform developed by Software Pirate using Ooh!; it
is believed to have been the world's largest botnet at the time, kept running
by an adhoc organization of hackers.  Due to the robust nature of botnets and
the fact that at least some of those hackers would have survived the passing
of decades, it's entirely possible that some evolution of Streetnet still
exists in 2026.

2. Captain Dogooder, a hero emulation engine used to predict how super-heroes
and organizations would react to plots.

3. The Lady Lawful Archive, a multimedia archive and encyclopedia of Lady
Lawful (primarily Lady Lawful II) created on Horde for personal use.

     Although Horde began as and remained a proprietary, closed piece of
software, given the nature of mad scientists, pirated and decompiled versions
could be found online and may still be floating about in old systems and deep
archives in 2026.


Editor's Note: 
     Captain Dogooder was previously seen in LL&DD #7.


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