the day, I would be coding EasyWriter, and just before I left
work to go back to jail, I would get a complete listing of
EasyWriter to take back with me. Then, I would examine the
code for mistakes. I would be up late at night in my little
cubicle, examining code, writing new code, getting ready to
type it in when I returned to work the next day.
It was a perfect coding environment, coding in jail. The guards
were very cooperative and I took the time to explain to them
the concepts of programming in my very enthusiastic way. Naturally,
the info went in one ear and out the other, but the guards
were happy that I was so focused in my work.
While at the work furlough program, they had a bank of 10
pay phones, but they had taken the numbers off the phones
to discourage people from receiving calls on them. But I dialed
the ANI number and extracted all the pay phone numbers and
gave them out to everyone so they can receive phone calls.
I was working like a dog, relentlessly with pure focus and
tenacity, tirelessly day in and day out, because I knew that
if I pulled this off, I would have a corner on the marketplace
Rumors were that Barny Stone was feverishly working on his
own version of a word processor but was writing it in basic.
Then, one day, Barny came over and played with EasyWriter
for the first time. Because I wrote EasyWriter in FORTH, I
didn't need or use DOS, so I developed my OWN file format
for EasyWriter. So, when I booted up EasyWriter, it booted
up very fast, and loaded in less than 3 seconds.
With Andy Hertzfield's help, I changed the disk interleaving
so that disk reads and writes were twice as fast. When Barny
played with it, he was floored by the awesome speed it scrolled,
and how fast the disk accesses were. Then, he told me that
I was much further than he was, and he gave up on his development
effort after he saw EasyWriter.
At that time, in the CPM world, the Electric Pencil was the
word processor of the day. I took the care to contact Dave
Schrayer, author of Electric Pencil and asked if I could use
the same "dot" commands for printer formatting.
This way, electric Pencil users would already know the commands
if they decided to go to EasyWriter. Or go with Electric Pencil
if they had to work in CPM.
By this time, I had worked on EasyWriter for only two months,
and had enough of it working to show it off at the 4th West
Coast Computer faire. I had just met Matthew McIntosh at the
Apple PI meeting where he bought a copy of Forth Ver 1.6 from
me. I had just completed Forth Ver 1.6 and was ready to sell
them at the computer stores. But I lacked a word processor
to write the documentation, thus was the real reason I wrote
"TexWriter" which eventually became EasyWriter.
During the development phases of EasyWriter, I used it to
write the documentation for Forth Ver 1.6, thus giving me
a really good test bed for EasyWriter. Matthew was organizer
of the Apple PI's booth at the 4th Computer faire, and arranged
a machine to demo EasyWriter. It also turned out that the
Apple PI booth was right next door to the Forth Interest Group.
So it was a match made in heaven. People would ask the Forth
people about what applications are written in FORTH, and would
point to EasyWriter next door.
While people were viewing EasyWriter's blazingly fast performance,
they would ask "What language is it written in?"
I would point next door and say FORTH and Assembly language.
Huge crowds gathered at the Apple PI booth as word spread
about the first word processor for the Apple II. During one
of the demo's Woz came bopping by and said "Get over
to the Apple booth right away, something's going to happen".
Just as I arrived, Chris Espanosa (one of Apple's Star programmers),
was holding a pie behind his back, and was walking up to Dave
Gordon. And with a quick flip of the wrist, and with great
finesse, SPLAT!! and Dave's face was wearing an Apple (of
course) pie. Dave was working for Programma International
at that time and was very active in the L. A. user group scene.
Rumors had it that Dave had copied the new Apple II monitor
ROM onto a floppy and was showing it off. How he managed to
get it was sheer speculation, but Chris Espanosa was rather
Meanwhile, at the Apple PI booth, it was a frenzy, as publishers,
press people, and software gurus were scrutinizing EasyWriter,
swamping me and Matthew with hundreds of questions. People
were begging for copies, so while I was answering both technical
and operational questions, Matt was feverishly making copies.
We decided to sell copies for $69.69 and couldn't copy the
disks fast enough to meet the demand.
Also, there were some flyers floating around the Faire about
this new system called the Zaltair and it's amazing programming
language called BAZIK. It was hyped to be a new revolutionary
language, ' but later rumors confirmed that Woz had pulled
a super prank on the industry by distributing high quality
flyers on some fictitious operating system and language.
Anyway, after the Fair was over, the very next day, I was
getting calls from just about every software publisher in
the business. Me and Matt were really getting to be good friends
and I offered him a vice president position in Cap'n Software
(My new company). Matt immediately went to work, advising
me on how to deal with the publishers beating down our doors.
We had about 6 publishers who would have immediately signed
a contract with us, but some of these were book publishers
(Hayden), and offered us ridiculously low royalty percentages,
but after heated arguments with Matt, we collectively agreed
to go with Information Unlimited Software, a company in Indiana.
They had this program called WHATSIT(Wow, How'ed all that
stuff get in there), a cutsey little database program for
All this time, I was in jail, but allowed to attend the West
Coast Computer Faire, but wasn't allowed to engage in any
contractual obligations, but when the Faire was on, I had
only 1 month to go, then I would be free as a bird and have
NO MORE PROBATION!! Yay!! In the meantime, Matthew was in
constant contract negotiations with IUS, trying to make sure
we get the best possible deal. I also planned to incorperate
"Cap'n Software" as soon as I got out of the pokey.
This last month in jail, I stepped up my work energy by about
25 percent. Now working until 4 am, only to get up again at
7 am to be "kicked out of jail" and head over to
Receiving studios for another coding and debugging session.
Those long nights without the computer really got my smarts
in top gear, as I really focused in getting the code perfect
and bug free. Not having a computer some of the time, got
me to thinking more about writing good code, and less time
debugging. During this time, I wrote a really cool FORTH debugger
that allowed single stepping through FORTH code (Totally unheard
of in those days).
I also write a De-compiler that would take the compiled FORTH
code and re-generate source code. This was invaluable in tracing
down some gnarly compiler problems in FORTH. You see, I was
not only writing a word processor, but I was also developing
the language on the fly as well. Modifying the compiler, interpreter,
and I even write a DOS (In forth) to manage the easyWriter
text files, because EasyWriter didn't need DOS. So I implemented
one, using a FAT (File allocation table) and all that other
Gnarly Disk Operating system low level code. I found out that
FORTH allowed me total flexibility. If the language didn't
have a feature, I implemented it. Simple as that.
The day finally came when I was to be released from jail,
and Matt had already rented a fully furnished apartment in
West Berkeley for me, and met me at the jail when I was released.
That evening, we met at the IHOP on University Ave to sign
the contract YAY!! and the incorporation papers YAY! Now we
can call ourselves Cap'n Software Inc. We rented office space
on Telegraph avenue a block from the UC Berkeley campus and
called it our "Corporate Headquarters".
Soon we got our first royalty check of $3500, and I gave Matt
$1000 of it and put him on a salary. Michelle, Matt's roommate
and holistic friend was hired on as our Secretary, and handled
all of our bookkeeping. WOW!! I get out of jail and in 24
hours, am president of my very own software company. SUPER
Matt's contribution to Cap'n Software was invaluable. Always
a keen eye for the smallest details and constantly watching
Bill Maker (IUS President) to make sure he keeps his end of
Bill Baker, IUS President, flies back to Indiana with contract
in hand, and makes preparation to move IUS to California.
IUS Eventually moves into a house on Vincente Street in North
Berkeley. Bill then hires Larry Weiss or "EagleBeek".
I had met EagleBeek at receiving studios who was the one that
convinced me to sell EasyWriter, and worked closely with me
in testing EasyWriter and know it very well. EagleBeek was
ruthless in hammering on EasyWriter. He beat the heck out
of it, trying to get it to crash and misbehave. EagleBeek
just loved to come up to me and say "Watch this"
and then cause EasyWriter to completly lose its mind.
Sales of EasyWriter shot through the roof literally. IUS had
a staff of about 5 people copying diskettes as fast as they
can. Distributors were constantly trying to keep EasyWriter
in stock. Immediately, an effort was being undertaken to implement
an 80 column version of EasyWriter with a WYSIWYG display
of the text, instead of that old funky 40 column (upper case
Us old timers know that the early Apple II character set was
UPPER CASE only. So, how did I solve that problem? Easy! I
converted all characters from Upper case to Lower case in
the text file. Ok, so now, how did I do upper case? Simple.
Whenever I wanted to capitalize the first letter in a word,
I hit the "Esc" key then type in the word. Only
the first character would be uppercase. "Esc" twice
switched to all upper case (Caps lock).
Upper case characters would show up on the Apple 40 col screen
in "inverse video". When printed, would be lower
case. VIDEX, M&R, and one other 80 column manufacturer
came out with cards that have a video output where you connect
to a video screen. The Apple II could now handle upper and
lower case characters and also 80 columns of text.
The 80 column conversion of EasyWriter took a long time, because
we wanted to make it so EasyWriter would work with ANY card.
Each card handled the interface differently, so EasyWriter
had to know all three.
The new EasyWriter
was called EasyWriter Professional, and we debut at the Minneapolis
Word Processor show, summer of 1980, where we went up against
WANG, DEC, and IBM Mainframes. By that time, we had TRUE proportional
spacing on the Diablo and Qume daisywheel printers. People
at the show practically laughed at our little dinky Apple
II word processing system until they saw the super high quality
prints it made.
Orders were coming in so fast that IUS (Information Unlimited
Software) had to hire additional people to handle the copying
and shipping. Just after we released EasyWriter Professional
for the Apple II computer in 1980, sales literally took off,
and at that time, SoftTalk magazine had the TOP 20 Software
products, and EasyWriter was #2, just below VisiCalc. Just
about that time, Electric Pencil was THE word processor to
use with CPM systems.
We had just completed the drivers for the VIDEX card, so we
now could work with the Videx, and the M&R 80 Column card.
At that time, Apple computer didn't have an 80 column card
available. I can remember going to Minniapolis to a word processor
show, where we were up against Wang and the Big Boys.
At around July in 1981, just after I get back from Hawaii,
I get called in for a meeting at IUS (Information Unlimited
Software), the company that was marketing EasyWriter. I can
remember these dudes in pin striped suits who handed me a
non-disclosure agreement. At that time, IBM was secretly looking
for outside contracters. So we didn't even know what company
these dudes were from. IUS President Bill then set up the
deal to port EasyWriter to a new IBM "Personal"
computer. We DID know that it used an 8086 like processor,
but none of us ever worked on one before.
Once I knew the CPU, I got a FORTH language up and running
for this CPU, thanx to the Forth Interest Group, who was publishing
public domain FORTH systems for all CPU's. We went out to
purchase a TEI S-100 bus 8086 system, running on Seattle Computer
Products DOS (Which eventually became MS-DOS).
I went out and hired the best 8086 Assembly Language coder
that money could buy, and hired him to help me implement FORTH
on this TEI system, while waiting for the IBM computer to
It took us 2 weeks, working together to Get the Forth Kernal
working. Eventually, the IBM computer arrived in our "Secret"
lab. Within 30 minutes, I had Forth up and running on the
IBM-PC, partly because we just ported the ".HEX"
text file over (Just for fun). But surprisingly, when we ran
FORTH, it just came up and ran, once we converted it to the
.COM file. IBM'ers were totally blown away that a language
could be operational so quickly. The next day, IBM's best
software engineers were quizzing us on how we did it so fast.
A few days later, we got the EasyWriter editor up and running
on the PC, but did most of the source code editing on the
Apple II, using a Corvus Constillation (First Distributed
Networking system). We had 5 Apple II's and 3 IBM-PC's connected
to this "Network". Remember, this was 1980.
I actually had to "Butcher" one of their parallel
COM cards so that the bus was bi-directional so it would plug
directly into the Multiplex. Boy!! those boys in BIG BLUE
weren't so happy about THAT! :-)