A profile of Wolfenstein's Silas Warner

March 16th, 2020 12:30 PM
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Long before John Romero and company produced their 3D adaptation, Castle Wolfenstein was a 2D stealth game for the Apple II. It was the brainchild of one man: Silas Warner.

While I've long known about his most famous game, I knew little about the man himself, other than that he was also a musician and had died in 2004 at the age of 54.

Polygon journalist Colin Campbell set out to learn even more, interviewing Warner's widow, Kari Ann Owen. The resulting profile, "The man who made Wolfenstein", is a fascinating look at Warner, Muse Software, Wolfenstein, Robot Wars, and more.

Castle Wolfenstein
Campbell drew on a variety of sources for his research, from memorial pages to Silas Warner to previous interviews in now-defunct magazines. One such source was Silas Warner himself: he spoke at KansasFest 1992, and an audio recording of that presentation is available. I'm glad Campbell found this piece of history and was able to incorporate it into the profile.

But what if he hadn't? After all, audio is not indexed by Google, so depending on how Campbell has searched, he might not have found it. And once he found it, he had to put in the time to listen to the recording to find the facts and quotations needed for his article.

I thought we should make it easier for future historians to find and reference Warner's presentation, so I had it transcribed. The full text of 6,827 words is now available on the KansasFest website in HTML and text formats.

My thanks to Campbell for spotlighting this important figure in Apple II and gaming history, and to KansasFest for hosting these files for Campbell and others who wish to remember Silas Warner.

Steve Jobs '95

October 27th, 2011 12:24 PM
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When Steve Jobs passed away, a flurry of media was published about his life and times, his wisdom and accomplishments, his successes and failures. It's easy for any one piece to have gotten lost in that maelstrom — but one in particular deserves to not be missed.

In 1995, Steve Jobs sat down with Daniel Morrow of the Computerworld Honors program for a 75-minute interview, conducted in conjunction with the Smithsonian. The transcript of that interview was published the day after Jobs' passing — but something far more fascinating has since been unearthed.

As of this morning, the original video of that interview is now available. It's a fascinating and candid look at the man who was, at that point in his career (40 years old), still at NeXT and two years away from his return to Apple. Across the 16 chapters into which the interview has been divided, he talks about his early encounters with authority, the parallel between computing and artistry, and his hopes for NeXT, Pixar, and even Apple.

Steve Jobs in 1995

Steve Jobs in 1995. Screen capture from a Computerworld video.

The aforementioned transcript makes it easy to identify the passages where the Apple II is discussed. I could find only a handful of such moments, the first being in chapter six, where Jobs identifies the quality of his computers (both the hits and the flops) in which he held the most pride:

The things I'm most proud about at Apple is where the technical and the humanistic came together … The Macintosh basically revolutionized publishing and printing. The typographic artistry coupled with the technical understanding and excellence to implement that electronically — those two things came together and empowered people to use the computer without having to understand arcane computer commands. It was the combination of those two things that I'm the most proud of. It happened on the Apple II and it happened on the Lisa … and then it happened again big time on the Macintosh.

The next occurrence is in chapter nine, when he draws a comparison with Apple's competitors:

With IBM taking over the world with the PC, with DOS out there; it was far worse than the Apple II. They tried to copy the Apple II and they had done a pretty bad job.

One of the things that built Apple II's was schools buying Apple II's; but even so there was about only 10% of the schools that even had one computer in them in 1979 I think it was.

AFAIK, this Computerworld gallery marks the first time this interview has been made publicly available. I encourage anyone interested in a candid, unscripted, and in-depth conversation with Steve Jobs to take a look.

[Full disclosure: I was responsible for the layout of this gallery and participated in the editing, production, and promotion of it.]