I Owe My Job to Steve Jackson

I love my job. I currently have a position as a curriculum specialist in a large school district. It’s been over two years since I gave up my classroom for a cubicle, and I have no regrets. Much of what I do involves creating spreadsheets to analyze data, and designing web sites and so on. I am a self-taught programmer and have played around in everything from LOGO to LISP. I started playing around with BASIC on a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A which my parents purchased for me when I was 16. (My parents passed away years ago, but I would still like to thank them for this.) I quickly taught myself the rather clumsy TI BASIC and started my long programming journey because I wanted to write a program that would automate some of the features of a little game called Melee.

I don’t have a lot of fond childhood memories, but I do remember that one summer we drove to Los Angeles and had a lot of fun. I remember going to the Hollywood Wax Museum and to Knott’s Berry Farm, and I also remember going shopping in a very odd mall. I have no idea where this place was, but it was a two-story mall that had an old world fair type of theme about it. I remember there being a lot of wrought iron railings and pictures of barbershop quartets and ladies with big hats. Anyway, there was this odd little store that sold wargames and miniatures. This was probably around 1977 or maybe 1978.

wizardI purchased two games, Melee and Wizard, which I still have to this day. They were both part of a series of micro-games written by Steve Jackson for a company called Metagaming. Playing these two games led me to other RPGs and boardgames, but I have always had a soft spot for Melee. It’s a great little hand-to-hand combat simulation game, and when I had the opportunity to use a computer, the first thing I did was write some code that would simulate a Melee game. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew what I wanted the program to do, and that was what drove my learning. I learned to program because of that little game, which is about the size of a dinner napkin.

I learned to love writing programs, and now I get to play around with them every day. Thank you, Mr. Jackson.

On a side note… while writing this post I came across an entire page devoted to Melee and Wizard. How cool is that?