Jim Jacobson

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Jim Jacobson
Jim Jacobson.jpg
Full name James L. Jacobson
Notability Adventure author
Location Iowa

Jim Jacobson is a programmer and game designer who was the first author after series creator Donald Brown to create adventures for Eamon. Beginning with The Cave of the Mind, Jacobson wrote five adventures around 1980-81 and subsequently worked with Brown at CE Software where he developed the original Apple II video game Mission Escape.


Early work

In correspondence with Huw Williams in 2020, Jacobson recalls first getting into computers in the mid-1970s when he coded a blackjack odds calculator and a simple moon-landing program on a programmable desktop calculator belonging to his high school math teacher. He also became interested in computer gaming when during his junior year he attended a workshop for aspiring engineers at the University of Iowa and a graduate student in a computer lab demonstrated how to call up games like Star Trek on the mainframe. Writes Jacobson, "I believe I did not attend another session at the workshop and spent all my waking time at the lab."

Jacobson bought his first Apple II in 1977 from Video Midwest, an electronics store in Des Moines where he became friends with employee James "Red" Varnum. (Though the original Apple II came with 4k of memory, Jacobson paid for an upgrade to 16k so he could play an Apple version of Star Trek.) Video Midwest soon hired him as a computer salesperson, but when the company fired most of its staff in 1979 and tried to make him manager, he quit in protest and followed his friend Varnum to a new computer company in the nearby city of Ames where he sold Apple II and Commodore PET computers, and wrote original Commodore software.

Around this time Jacobson began attending Apple computer club meetings at the Computer Emporium in Des Moines and there met fellow computer aficionados John Nelson, a programmer working for the state of Iowa, and Donald Brown, an actuarial student at Drake University and a Computer Emporium "groupie". "[Brown] was by far the best programmer I had ever met," recalls Jacobson. "He could program in both BASIC and 6502 assembler and was an incredibly smart and witty person. I believe he hailed from Colorado but he came to Drake for actuarial science."

Eamon and CE Software

Jacobson describes the Computer Emporium around 1980 as a "hotbed of Apple II development" and recalls his first experience with Eamon:

"Sometime during 1980, Donald came in to the Computer Emporium with his new game, Eamon. All of us were floored. It was text-based (very few graphical games back then, and certainly none in the FRP genre) and was similar to the Colossal Cave adventure, but you had a (somewhat) unique character that could progress from adventure to adventure, carry weapons/artifacts with you, and grow/develop. When Donald first introduced Eamon, it had The Beginners Cave and The Lair of the Minotaur."

Brown also introduced a developer's disk which let users create custom adventures, and Jacobson decided to try his hand at building one:

"I had had conversations in the past with Red Varnum about an adventure that happened in the adventurer's mind, rather than in a physical world. I created Cave of the Mind with that idea in mind, and I gave him co-credit for the adventure (even though I no longer worked for him.) I really consider that adventure pretty clumsy, but it was my first creative venture. I was very surprised at the excitement within the Apple user’s group when I brought it in (even from Donald himself)."

Jacobson went on to author four more adventures for the series: The Zyphur Riverventure, The Devil's Tomb, The Abductor's Quarters, and The Quest for Trezore. When the Computer Emporium launched its software development venture CE Software, Jacobson also coded an original science fiction-themed combat game titled Mission Escape which the company published in 1981 and which earned positive reviews in The Space Gamer and Computer Gaming World.

In the mid-1980s Jacobson moved on from gaming and built a career in corporate computing. He currently resides in Iowa.

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