The giant list of classic computer programmers
July 6, 2001 2:11 PM   Subscribe

The giant list of classic computer programmers takes you back to a time when one person could realistically author a computer game and have it published. Of course most of the people on this list will have worked on small teams to produce games, but the diversity of the games on these people's resumes is awesome. In particular, I notice Michael Cranford (responsible for The Bard's Tale I and II, the Centauri Alliance, and ports of Donkey Kong and Super Zaxxon) and Robert Woodhead (Wizardry 1-5). As an interesting sidenote, Robert Woodhead went on to Animeigo, a japanese animation publishing company in the US. What memories of these old sk00l games do you have?
posted by moz (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i, for one, remember i didn't start playing wizardry 1 till i was four. you could generate characters to run around a dungeon with, and give them names that belong to heigh fantasie and what not, which my brother and dad did. when you played, you had to go to a "tavern" to add characters to your party of stalwart adventurers. in order to do so, you had to type their names. i particularly remember my dad going away on an 8th grade class trip and asking him to write down the names of the people so that i could play with them :)
posted by moz at 2:15 PM on July 6, 2001

Robert Woodhead also wrote Virex for the Mac and operates He's got a couple Mac OS X utilities too.
posted by kindall at 2:25 PM on July 6, 2001

Jorn Barger wrote the Apple II port of Berzerk?
posted by dithered at 2:42 PM on July 6, 2001

Man. It was fun just looking over that list. Talk about nostalgia.... Waxpancake and I were talking about classic games the other day.

Favorites: (Coin) Robotron, defender, stargate, tempest, galaga, qix, joust, star wars, asteroids, battle zone, centipede, Zork (all), Blue Max, Zaxxon, boulderdash, Lode runner, Ultima, Frogger, raid over moscow, fort apocalypse, miner 2049er, spelunker, shamus, 7 cities of gold, Pitfall, chopper command, dawn patrol, castle wolfenstein

I can't go on... This, my friends, is why I refuse to but any video games or a playstation 2. They would find me with a long beard and unkempt hair, lying dead in front of the monitor.
posted by fooljay at 2:46 PM on July 6, 2001

dithered: looks like it. and also wizard of wor.
posted by moz at 2:52 PM on July 6, 2001

Whew... my fiance and his best man are on that list. What oldtimers they are. :-) The best man is now working on xbox, but my fiance has left the gaming world behind (though he is still a consumer; in fact he just bought a Gameboy Advance, why? "because it's got an ARM processor, isn't that cool?"). My arcade memories are of Pacman and Frogger and my Commodore 64 memories are of Zork.
posted by girlhacker at 2:56 PM on July 6, 2001

Scott Adams all the way. The Count was one of the very first games I ever played: a fine, spooky text adventure.
posted by hijinx at 3:16 PM on July 6, 2001

fooljay! You have an excellent list there my friend. I have always counted Robotron as my favorite coin-op game ever. To that end I bought one a few years ago and it is one of my most prized possessions.

This was a great post. Thank you moz
posted by a3matrix at 3:19 PM on July 6, 2001

I remember playing 100 yen coin op games in Japan as a kid (Galaga); I remember my Intellivision fondly (Bombs Away!); I fondly remember spending a LOT of time on Ultima III and Ultima IV on the Apple IIc; I remember a lot of time playing Marathon and Bolo (authored by Stuart Cheshire) on the Mac in college. Now, I'm too afraid to pick up any of the new consoles or PC games for fear that I'll lose whatever spare time I do have.
posted by gen at 3:23 PM on July 6, 2001

I played all of these games, and still play. It really is so sad.... (anyone got the invincibility on Golden Eye 64 yet? I have yet to beat the clock on that one..) ...My first game? Pong. That should tell you how old I am...anyway, my absolute favorite was Zaxxon on ColecoVision. (3D!)
posted by bradth27 at 3:26 PM on July 6, 2001

robotron was a fave of mine as well. i think seeing a computer game on the apple II that used the word "fucked" was really cool back then.

a3: your welcome. i actually found the site while searching for another old fave just out of curiousity -- anyone remember the old game "gumball"? gumballs would drop down through this elaborate system of pipes and contraptions, and you had to catch them in carts; the colors of the carts and the gumballs had to match as well. if you beat a level, you get to see a guy walk from the factory to his house -- the harder the level, the nicer the house (and the better the job title you get).
posted by moz at 3:34 PM on July 6, 2001

Oh my GAWD. How could I forget Breakout and SuperBreakout. Yes, indeed. Robotron rawks. I must have spent a fortune in arcades and in front of the computer...

Kill me now...
posted by fooljay at 3:44 PM on July 6, 2001

You can still get published if you come up with a good Flash based game, like the mini golf sim, which seems to be a big hit with webloggers. As far as nostalga goes, I remember playing Haunted House on my TRaSh 80 Model 1 (Would you believe that there are emulators for this sucker?). I remember drooling when I saw Wizardry on an Apple II (look, graphics!).

Yes, I'm old.
posted by dr. zoidberg at 4:16 PM on July 6, 2001

Bruce Artwick's Night Mission Pinball rawked. I wasted hours on that in my tender teenage years. The reason: it had a screen you could go into and tweak nearly every imaginable aspect of the simulation. Everything from number of ball trails to flipper actuation speed to gravity itself. Playing with that was more fun than the actual pinball game.

Other favorites: David Snider's Serpentine and Benny Ngo's Drol.
posted by kindall at 5:32 PM on July 6, 2001

I used to live to play Elite, Sentinal, Paradroid and Wizball.

Douglas Adams wrote my favourite text based game.

There are some great memories on that page.
posted by davehat at 8:16 PM on July 6, 2001

As mentioned here a while back, there's a remarkably comprehensive history of video games over at emuunlim. Did you know that the company we now know and love as AOL got its start as a manufacturer of Atari 2600 peripherals?
posted by jjg at 8:25 PM on July 6, 2001

posted by Satapher at 8:36 PM on July 6, 2001

One of my favourite gaming experiences was the classic M.U.L.E. It taught me about commerce, strategy and the fact that great games didn't need great graphics.
It was the last game I ever played with my dad. Nothing tragic, just the fact that my dad didn't like any of the other games I started playing after that.
posted by Grum at 9:06 PM on July 6, 2001

Jeez, how much of my preteen life was spent on Bard's Tale and Wasteland...
Home of the Underdogs is a great site for classic PC games.
TRS-80 emulators? How can you forget the multicolored cursor? Thanks, zoidberg. That was my first computer - casette tape drive and all. Didn't Greg Knauss write games for that machine?
posted by twitch at 10:19 PM on July 6, 2001

One of the authors of M.U.L.E. apparently changed their gender, then passed away a couple years ago, according to the list:

Berry, Danielle [formerly Dan Bunten; founder of Ozark Softscape; RIP 1998]
posted by kindall at 11:08 PM on July 6, 2001

mmmm... Wizardy (remember the "identify 9" cheat? Tiltowait!), Lode Runner, Miner 2049er, Drol, Night Mission Pinball, Serpentine. Hours in front of the Apple ][e.

Raster Blaster, anyone?
Downloading Pinball Construction Set levels?
posted by sad_otter at 11:09 PM on July 6, 2001

oh yah, i remember the ID9 cheat. heh, it was a great way to pick up members of a party who'd died in the maze... i used to love raster blaster as a kid.

anyone remember swashbuckler? i couldn't quite sound the word right then, so it was more like spawkbawk. and karateka too. done by jordan mechner, who also authored prince of persia.
posted by moz at 11:32 PM on July 6, 2001

kindall: here's another sex change.

Fenton, Jamie Faye [formerly Jay Fenton]
[U] Computer Blackjack (1975, COIN, Bally)
Fireball (1976, PIN, Bally) home pinball game

although, i think that these instances of sex changes are just representitive of the US population in general.
posted by moz at 11:47 PM on July 6, 2001

Yeah, I didn't mean that writing a computer game was likely to predispose you to undergo sex reassignment surgery or vice versa; in a listing that size, you're bound have one or two people switching. Although I think in general that computer people are somewhat more tolerant of that sort of thing than society at large, even today, so geeks might feel more comfortable switching than some other kinds of people. Just thought it was interesting. Maybe someone will see that and go, "Hey, the guy who created one of my favorite games felt like he was born in the wrong kind of body" and, because they already respect his work, be a little more open-minded toward the whole idea than they might be if it was someone they didn't already know. I've met a couple male-to-females at programming conferences like MacHack and the attitude toward them was always predicated on: can they hack? (One of these very people happens to be a very talented network programmer and now works for the same company I work for, although not in the same office.)
posted by kindall at 12:16 AM on July 7, 2001

Dadgum's Bumbler Bee-Luxe (written by the man who maintains this list) is very very good. I've wasted many hours splatting insects in the last few years. Superb design.
posted by D.C. at 12:39 AM on July 7, 2001

How'z `bout Man-Eating Rabbit for the `ole TRS-80? I miss that.

Yes it sucked.
I was only 6, for fuck's sake.
posted by dong_resin at 12:53 AM on July 7, 2001

I'm on the list. When I was 14, I wrote Suicide! for the Apple II. The most distinguishing characteristic of it was that it was the first video game with punctuation in the title.

I still have the master disks for Suicide! and Invasion of Everything, but nothing that can read them.
posted by plinth at 5:28 AM on July 7, 2001

how about the EAMON text adventures?
posted by sad_otter at 7:48 AM on July 7, 2001

Heh....Invasion of Everything sounds like an Onion he- (ow!)
posted by dong_resin at 8:01 AM on July 7, 2001

posted by Satapher at 3:08 PM on July 7, 2001

Oh man, dong_resin, thanks for that blast from the past! I remember Man Eating Rabbit now - in glorious green and black, 147x47 resolution! 1979 maybe? Damn, I'm old...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:26 PM on July 7, 2001

what scares me about this link: ten years from now there will probably be a list of people and the websites they built. there will be a link posted to a mefi pendant of that time and it will say: "the giant list of classic web designers takes you back to a time when one person could realistically author and maintain a successfull website." and so on. and we'll all be rambling. "oh! remember that guy josh davis. i loved"
posted by ubique at 7:38 AM on July 8, 2001

Am I right in thinking the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was never sold in America? It brings a tear to my eye to think about the good times I had with my beloved Speccy. Games like Manic Miner, Lunar Jetman, Trashman, Skooldaze, etc etc.

All these games are now available for download..and strangely enough, they don't seem half as compelling as they were in the mid eighties. Chequered Flag pales in comparison to Grand Prox 3!
posted by salmacis at 6:11 AM on July 9, 2001

Manic Miner author, Matt Smith, made a lot of money and then lost it a bit by all accounts - MM and JSW were great, still in my top ten.
posted by johnny novak at 8:39 AM on July 9, 2001

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