Mike Potter's Story

originally posted January 17, 2000

Mike Potter was a very early Atari 800 programmer who went on to create many of the first games from Synapse Software. I have a soft spot for Mike's games, because Protector II was the second Atari 800 game I ever played. Here's his story, in his own words.

I can't believe it has been almost 20 years since I started my programming career.

I guess it all started when my dad purchased an Apple II computer for me when I attended Granada high school in Livermore, California. My friends and I would compete with each other trying to make the Apple II do new and exciting things.

When I graduated in 1980 I moved to Washington state and started working for a electronics store. When the Atari 800 came out I just had to have one. I remember that it cost me $1040 just for the main unit with 8K of memory and think I had to buy the cassette drive separately.

My first product that I sold for the Atari Computer was Game Pack I. It was four games in one package that included Imperial Walker, Nim, Gun Fight, and Auto Racer. I packaged this product myself under the company name of Micro Mikes and I provided it to the local computer stores on consignment.

After about a year I moved back down to Sunnyvale California where I met Dave at Electronic Fantasy in Cupertino, Calif. who told me about John Bell the owner of Crystalware in Gilroy, Calif. I went and visited with John Bell and his wife Patty. I showed them some of my previous games and they hired me, and I remember getting $4,000 in advance of making Protector. To be honest I don't remember how much of the game John had laid out on paper, but he wanted it as fast as I could program it. Seven sleepless days and nights later I drove back to Gilroy to deliver Protector. When I got home I slept for 24 hours. John loved Protector and he put it on the market right away. John then gave me other products to do and from May 1981 to October 1981 I completed eleven programs.

In October of 1981 I questioned my royalties and John sent me a letter telling me that if I couldn't trust him then he couldn't work with me, so he sent me on my way, but gave me the rights to Protector.

In November of 1981 I met with Ihor Wolosenko, president of Synapse Software. At the time the company was being operated out of his apartment in Berkley, Calif. I then spent the next couple of weeks polishing up Protector. They even had QA. After John at Crystal saw what a hit Protector had become he tried to get it back, but he couldn't.

I loved working with Ihor at Synapse. In one year I developed five programs for Synapse (Protector, Protector II, Chicken, Nautilus and Shadow World), with the combined sales of 93,000 copies. My royalties started out at 30% but as time went on with Synapse getting larger my royalties shrank to only $.80 per cartridge.

It's hard to pick a favorite game that I developed at Synapse because I liked them all. I loved the music and action in Protector, Chicken was a hit with the ladies, but I would also play it for hours. Nautilus was the first dual screen game with player 1 on top and player 2 on the bottom, I liked being the sub. But I think Shadow World has to be my favorite because of the dual screen play and the action just gets intense.

Software piracy was running rampant and my royalties were plummeting—even my new brother in law had all my games pirated.

In November 1982 the first IBM PC compatibles hit the market and I started Olympic Business Systems, Inc., dba Olympic Educational Software. I came out with a full line of accounting and educational software for the Sanyo 550 computer, a total of 26 titles.

When the PC became better established I started Envision Software, and created more programs. Then in 1991 I created QuickPay for Quicken. I had the packaging all ready and I showed it to Egghead Software and they contacted Intuit and told them about QuickPay. Intuit contacted me and I sold them the rights to sell it. I also wrote QuickInvoice for them.

In 1994 my wife and I took 5 years off and became missionaries to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Most of what we did was hurricane relief because both St. Thomas and Puerto Rico went through the worst hurricanes in the last fifty years while we were there. We learned a lot about farming, concrete work, zinc roofs and just being a servant to others.

In April of 1999 we decided to move back to Washington State and restart Envision Software. In June a friend told me about auctions at eBay and I was hooked. After filling up my Favorites list in Internet Explorer with auction items I thought there had to be a better way, so I developed AuctionTamer, I released the first version in July. It was an instant hit receiving five stars from ZDnet, five cows from Tucows and five Dudes from the File Dudes. I am now on version 3.5 of AuctionTamer and just loving it. I just love the Internet! It has made running a software company so much easier, with no more making disks, updates are available on the web, people can easily pay with credit cards, and customer support is via email.

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