For anyone interested in the history of the Z-machine, it is very much the history of Zork itself. Zork was inspired by an earlier (non-Infocom) game sometimes called 'Colossal Cave' or 'Adventure', which also has an interesting history and was inspired by a real cave in Kentucky. I've been to the end of the real road where the game Adventure begins. It may sound a bit silly but it was fun just being there.
My fascination with Zork began on a dark and stormy night in 1984. I was visiting a cousin of mine who had just gotten one of the first Macintosh computers and we sat down to play the first game he had gotten for it: Zork I. I was thrilled by the game and quickly become a fan of all things Infocom. Even though this was my introduction to Infocom it was not my first foray into text adventures.
I got my first computer in September of 1983. It was a Commodore Vic-20 and my first game for it was a cartridge of Scott Adams' adventure game 'Pirate's Cove'. I got several more of his cartridges over the next year, including Voodoo Castle, The Count, and Adventureland. The next year I upgraded to a C-64, bought a 1541 floppy disk drive and started getting Infocom games like Zork, Deadline, and The Lurking Horror (my all-time favorite). I also got a very interesting program called 'Adventure Writer' (also known as 'Quill') which allowed you to make your own games and came with two game compilations: The 'Junkyard' series and the 'Thriller' series. These were the first computer games I owned, but even they weren't my first contact with text adventures.
In 1981 I was in fifth grade. Once, I stayed overnight at a classmate's house. He and his brother had a TRS-80 and we made a trip to Radio Shack to pick up a game to play. We picked out Raaka-Tu and played it much of the night. The game was very unforgiving by today's standards, tending to kill you off rather randomly, but nevertheless I was enthralled. This was what first sparked my interest in computers and text adventures especially.