Everett Kaser made his debut in the computer field by plunging in with both
feet -- he built his own microcomputer in 1977 based on plans in a previous
issue of Popular Electronics. The model was the "Cosmac Elf," built around
the RCA 1802 CMOS microprocessor. It had 256 bytes of RAM and programmed
with eight toggle switches. To set the value of a byte, you'd set the toggle
switches and hit the 'Enter' button. The machine's video output consisted of
a rectangular array of large squares on the screen which displayed the values
of the 256 bytes.
Why'd he do it? A couple years earlier, he became interested in John Conway's
Game of Life (originally called "cellular automata") which was featured in
Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games column in Scientific American. Kaser
found this algorithm fascinating and spent his share of time filling pages of
graph paper with calculated generations of the game. Finally he decided he
needed a machine to do the calculations for him. He started to design a
machine constructed of discrete logic gates but realized that any usable array
of cells was going to make it too expensive and impractical. So he built the
Cosmac Elf and programmed his first game, a 32 by 32 version of the game of
He obtained a position at Hewlett-Packard in 1976. Around 1979, he became
involved in the HP-85 microcomputer and was offered an engineering position
in the Applications Engineering group. The HP-85 was similar in size and
shape to the Apple II. It had a 16 row by 32 column display, a thermal
printer, a DC-100 tape drive for mass storage, and four I/O slots. The basic
machine had 16k of RAM, expandable to 32k, and 32k of ROM containing the
operating system and a BASIC interpreter. You could load one binary program
at a time which were able to add new keywords to the BASIC language.
Kaser wasted no time in writing games. For the HP-85 and its successors,
from roughly 1980 to 1984, he wrote a long series of games, many of which
were published by HP, starting with a ASCII duck shooting game, featuring
asterisks that moved back and forth across the top of the screen that you
had to shoot. Among the other ASCII graphics efforts was "Heebie-Geebies,"
a road race game where you had to dodge an increasing assortment of obstacles
and pick up gas cans.
Later on, he designed graphics-based games such as "RatPack," where you look
down on a mesh of city streets, drive around in a car, and shoot masses of
rats. There was "Mouser," a real-time first-person 3D game (in 1983!) where
you played a mouse that had to move around a randomly generated maze, pick up
cheese balls, and avoid the cat that was hunting you. This game even had
modem, serial port, HP-IB, and GPIO support for two player mode, where you
could also hook up two machines over modem, serial port, HP-IB, or GPIO and
two people could play together in the same maze, seeing who could pick up
the most cheese balls. In another early innovation, the game had an
auto-mapping feature that displayed a bird's-eye view of where you had been.
Kaser bought his first IBM PC in 1985. For $4200, he got a 4.88Mhz 8088,
two floppy drives (no hard drive), and a CGA monitor. A single 360k floppy
had DOS 2.0, a text editor, assembler, and linker. He wrote his own
programmable text editor called "Farkle," and a bunch more games, including
TigerFox, a take-off on Pac Man where you have to chase a fox through a maze
while avoiding a tiger.
1986 marked the start of Kaser's interest in puzzle games when he wrote
an ASCII game for the PC called "Floyd's Bumpershot," named in honor of a
friend who died in a car accident. Another game he wrote around this time
was Qix, a version of the classic arcade game.
In January of 1988, he wrote Snarf, a game where you try to find your way
through a maze without getting overrun by the swarms of snarfs that ran
through it. It was released as freeware, along with its source code, but
did not bear the "Everett Kaser Software" name.
Solitile was the first game to do that. It was written in the first half
of 1989 and released as shareware in July of that year just to see how it
would fare. Although the revenue it generated wasn't enough to live off by
any means, it was more than enough to encourage him to release more shareware,
especially considering he'd written the game for his own pleasure. Shortly
afterward, he decided to rewrite Snarf and release that as shareware, but it
never sold as well. He realized that it was the puzzle aspects of the game
that made Solitile so much fun, and this was what first interested him in
puzzle games. To date, Snarf is the only action game ever produced by
Everett Kaser Software, and there are no plans to produce any more.
Until 1997, Kaser was burning both ends of the candle, so to speak, working
a day job at Hewlett-Packard and raising two kids in addition to trying to get
his shareware business off the ground. At last, he quit his day job on
May 2, 1997, to write games full time.
In October 1998, Everett Kaser Software games became available on CD as
well as on disk.