I started my computing life with a TI-99/4a in 1981, the year it was introduced. What sold me on the TI-99/4a was the speech synthesizer which a TI Representative was demoing at a local department store. The TI-99/a was an expensive piece of machinery back then-- I think I paid $350-400 for the console and another $100 for the speech synthesizer. After a week of playing around, programming and composing digital music, I returned to the store and purchased the tape cassette recorder so I could actually save my programs on tape. The Rep remembered me but seemed unconvinced that within a week I could have already mastered TI-Basic. I returned days later with my cassette tape of programs and showed him, thus starting my computing life as a programmer.
For the first several
years I did music programs with graphics. My first online service was "The
Source" and I won first prize in a programming contest on it for my
graphical music program "Siegfried's Funeral Music" (by composer
Richard Wagner) in 1983. For those who don't know, the "Source"
eventually merged into CompuServe which eventually turned into AOL with
the birth of the internet. I also ventured into the BBS (bulletin board
system) world long before the days of the internet (I want to say around
1984) with a Cal-Tex BBS system. The "KBGB BBS" ran for
about 3 years and featured TE-2 16-color for TI systems that logged on as
well as text graphics, online games and a message forum for all users.
Online games ranged from a Beatles trivia multiple choice quiz to a role-playing
Old West reenactment.
In the heyday of my BBS, I was introduced to TI-99 user groups and started a membership in the San Fernando Valley 99ers. I began assembling the many music-graphic programs I had written and started to create shareware disks. The most popular of these was the text graphic images of my BBS's monthly "Girlie Calendar"
I owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Peterson, after studying many of his programs I learned how to expand the TI’s musical octave range and added voice to my music programs. This started my series of “singing” disks which included musical and song from musicals such as South Pacific, the Music Man and Wizard of OZ. I cringe at the thought of hearing the TI sing through Patsy Cline’s hits, but yes, I take full responsibility for that horror, too.
Its funny how one perceives things, I always assume my shareware music disks were popular for their music but I soon discovered that it was the graphics and animation that really caught people’s attention. I found this to be true after Asgard Software contacted me about making clipart for the popular TI-Artist program. I started by creating a typefaces. One doesn’t think too much about typefaces now with the huge array of TTF and PFM fonts, but back then there wasn’t anything available.
With the Tunnels of Doom Editor being released I started creating hybrid adventures on my “still” favorite TI-99 game. Asgard ended up marketing some of these as well in their Doom game collections. My first solo commercial release was “Disk of Dinosaurs” which started the “Disk of” series. The “Disk of” series in many ways was a forerunner to what companies would eventually called “multimedia”. They were theme-based packages which consisted of images/clipart, music, educational text materials and in later volumes, a game. My last release through Asgard was “Disk of Pyrates”. After that release, I decided I wanted more control over how my products were packaged and markets and of course there was only one way to do that… form your own company.
Since I had come from a Nordic sounding company (Asgard) it seemed appropriate that I stuck with the theme. “Notung” (the name of Siegmund and Siefried’s sword), seemed like a good choice. Notung translated into English means “needful” (which I was at the time) and the logo concept of a sword through the diskette cemented my choice in company names. I threw together what projects and shareware programs I hadn’t released and long-time friend, Ray Kazmer, joined in under the Notung banner and my company was up and running at the start of 1990.
I released more of “Disk of” series (Son of Disk of Dinosaurs, Bride of Disk of Dinosaurs, Disk of Horrors”) and started my own typeface collection with “Fonts and Borders” to moderate success.
I gave my father a TI-99/4a for Christmas along with many of the better gambling game programs on disk. While he liked the present , he complained that the games were too confusing; he couldn’t keep track of what key presses worked with what games and there was no way to pass your winnings from one game to the next. After looking at the programs, I decided it would be less work to start from scratch than fix the existing games—and that’s how TI Casino was born. I guessing I have some bragging rights in that TI Casino was the first “casino” (multiple gaming tables) based game I’m aware of on any computer. TI Casino was clearly Notung Software’s break-through product and became my best selling TI product of all time.
A year later, I released “TI Casino Supplement” which cleans up some minor bugs and added more games and features to the Casino Disk.
I had written some Printer’s Apprentice tutorials in the late 80’s, and ever since then have had numerous requests for reprints of them. Printer’s Apprentice was a great desktop publishing program with a very difficult to understand manual. I decided to branch out and write a softcover book using the existing tutorials I had written and adding several more new chapters. This project began known as “How to Use the Printer’s Apprentice (and not go insane)”. To this day, I still get an occasional request for that book. Around the time of the release of the book, I received an honorary "Pagemanship Award" from the program's creator.
Finally, the “Disk of” series gained popularity with the release of “Old West”, “Ancient Ones” and “Medieval Times”. These three disks I consider to be some of my best TI work. "Disk of the Ancient Ones" included a 3-D maze game that predated many of the PC popular 3D shooters.
I returned briefly to my music roots when Midi Master allowed the TI-99/4a to hook-up to a Midi keyboard. I also experimented with the Geneve 9640 and writing in the “C” language for it. I signed Darin Andrade, a up and coming Geneve programmer to Notung and he produced a series of 9640 games.
As TI Faires began to close and sales began to wane, I renewed my interest in oil painting. In 1993, the Orlando Gallery in Los Angeles, decided to represent me. For my remaining “TI-99” years I focused mostly on painting and did little programming. This paid-off in 1995 with a Gallery Show at the Orlando.
In 1996, with the dissolution of MS Express Software, Notung picked up Mickey Schmidt-Cendrowski and Norman Rokke as authors.
The last Notung Product was released in 1996—an add-on for TI Casino called “Casino Solitaire”. It was programmed on the V9T9 TI emulator.
Notung Software continued its mail-order catalog until 2000, when it finally close it’s doors. I became interest in 2D and 3D art on the PC in the later 1990's and began creating digital content for 3D software applications such as Poser professionally with the close of Notung.
In 2011, I was honored to be inducted in the TI Hall of Fame.