Horizon Simulations November 1981 - March 1982 Video Game Programmer
(Company Out of Business)
This was an interesting time in my life. I had been living in Beaverton, Oregon designing and repairing computers and electronics down to the component level, fixing Atari equipment for a good portion of the Pacific Northwest of the United States and president of the Portland Atari club. I had left one company and was at another when the phone rang. It was a head hunter that asked, “Do you know anybody that can build Video Games? Everyone I talked to told me to call you as you would know!”
My response, “well let me think for a second. ME!”
So this became my first game company!
Shadow Hawk One
I went to work to help finish the 3D Space War Game and it turned out they hadn’t even started the Atari version of the program. The apple version was being based upon the Bill Budge 3D engine but nothing was available for the Atari. I wound up having to reverse engineer his stuff and essentially port it to the Atari 800 and build the game around it. So in essence this was the first 3D game available on the Atari computer that I can think of!
The company was located in Medford, Oregon in an old abandoned grocery market with a walled office area of about 5% of the floor space and the other 95% was an open warehouse. With a rectangular wall partition area where the two of us worked. The neat part was the office chair races. The bad part was I was using the Assembler/Editor Cartridge because the Macro Assembler wasn’t available yet. And this was very slow. I would take cat naps during the compiles. The really bad part was that there was a time that there was snow on the ground and we were freezing our butts off. Everyone was in a cozy area sheltered and we had colds and a very bad case of pneumonia. We rebelled and were moved to an itty bitty area that had been used for storage with the others and that was heaven! The exchange for very cramped space as opposed to freezing was worth it. We eventually shipped the project but the company had staffed up too early before the project was near completion and they were in financial trouble so they brought in a money backer.
At this point I had already reverse engineered the Atari 2600 and another company sent me a Mattel Intellivision to reverse engineer and I was suppose to send back my results which I think I did. I also sent them my copy of the reverse engineering on the 2600 and they sent me theirs and they were only around 65%. (I know this because I eventually was handed a real manual while at Atari but that’s another story). I started working on this program and lack of payroll was a serious problem and so I quit and the company folded a few hours later. Two interesting things about this. One is that the money backer they brought in tried to lure me away from the company and take the source code with me and finish the project for him but my ethics would not allow this. (Although I never told anyone!)
Problem two I heard about months later. I sold my motorcycle a mere Honda ST90 to someone I had befriended at the local electronics repair place and rented a moving truck and moved back to Beaverton Oregon. Apparently a day or so later the building that housed the company burned to the ground! Weird!
Upon my departure I called the same Head Hunter that got me this job. They set up two interviews. The next night I hopped on a plane and flew to Chicago to interview with Paul Glass and Associates to do Bally-Midway CoinOp. Flew back to Portland had dinner in the airport with my friend and Re-Ex Roommate Crunchy and then hopped another plane and flew to Sunnyvale CA to interview with Atari Corporate Research. The Coin-op group heard I was there and was mad. They sent someone over and dragged me over to their group to interview with (Apparently they planned to bring me in the following week!) Went back to finish the interviews. Called the Head Hunter with 1st, 2nd, 3rd choices and flew back to Portland. By the time I stopped in her office on the way home she had offers from all three.
I’d like to point out here that my friend Crunchy (Jim Christensen) was a life saver. Because I hadn’t been paid in a while he was able to make room for me to move back in (I was an Ex-roommate and he had long since rented out my room). Take care of my Shitzu dog named Muffet when I went on to Atari, and help me back on my feet! Even Atari was great because they gave me a rental car and put me up in a hotel for a month. Fantastic!