of the Intellivision game TRON Solar Sailor. Keith is
also the Co-founder and President of Intellivision Productions,
cartoonist, and inspiration for the video game 'Normy's
Beach-Babe-O-Rama' on the Sega
at the 2001 Las Vegas Classic Gaming Expo dressed
as Peter Pepper of BurgerTime!
You designed your first computer games while in High School in
the late 60's. What type of games did you prefer to play and create
30+ years ago?
KR> The computers I had access to had very limited memories
with Teletype input/output: you typed in a command and waited
for the computer to type out a response. That limited me to programming
simple card games and puzzle-type games like Nim.
I must have programmed Blackjack onto four or five
different computer systems in high school and college.
What computer platform were you using?
We had a DEC computer - a PDP 5 I think - for a couple of months.
Some company - maybe Digital Equipment itself - was trying to
sell it to the high school. It was programmed in a BASIC-like
language called FOCAL.
We could also use punch cards to send FORTRAN programs to a local
college to run on their IBM 360. It'd take about a week to send
out the cards and get a printout back of the run. Obviously no
good for games.
Most of my work was on the Bendix G-15. This was a 1950s-era vacuum
tube computer the size of a refrigerator. UCLA had donated it
to our high school's electronics lab. The G-15 was great, because
you could hook up an oscilloscope to its rotating magnetic drum
memory and watch bits turn on and off as instructions were executed.
All the coding was in machine language or a simple assembly language.
It was a real lesson in how a computer works.
What was development like for your Tron Solar Sailor?
It was difficult to work on Solar Sailer because
Mattel Electronics was growing at a breakneck pace. When I started
we were in temporary quarters in the Mattel Toys building. After
a month or two were were moved into our own building - where we
were without development systems for a few weeks.
Because of the massive hiring, midway through the game I was promoted
into a managerial position and suddenly was interviewing, hiring,
training and supervising new programmers and graphic artists.
Then they decided to send me to France to set up a development
office there. So I had an absolute drop-dead deadline of finishing
the game before I left.
So I never had a chance to really step back and look at the design
of the game. I'm happy with a lot of the graphics in it, but I
look back at it now and can see how rushed my work was. I wish
I had had the time to play with it more back then and try to make
it more fun.
The identities of the Blue Sky Rangers were kept confidential
so that competitors could not try and lure such talent away from
Mattel Electronics? Were you ever envious of the Activision programmers
which left Atari to become household names to millions of game
There was a constant fight from the beginning for name recognition
on the cartridges and royalties on game sales. It took a lot of
our programmers defecting to Activision and Atari before the company
finally gave in midway through 1983. A few of the later 1983 releases
do have the programmers listed on the packaging.
When individuals like me call on you for an interview like this
one, do you ever wish that your identity stayed anonymous?
run around the Classic Gaming Expo wearing a BurgerTime apron
and chef's hat. You think I want to be anonymous?
How did you feel about supervising the production of titles for
the Colecovision and other competing game platforms?
Great - it's always a challenge to learn a new system. I just
made sure I would still control some Intellivision development,
since I knew that Intellivision would always be the focal point
of Mattel Electronics.
What was your reaction when you were informed that Mattell Electronics
had sold the Intellivision rights to INTV Corp. in 1984?
Not much at first. We had all been laid off by that time, and
we assumed that INTV would just liquidate the remaining stock
of Intellivision consoles and games and then shut down. It was
quite a surprise when they actually started making new games in
1985. That was pretty exciting since David Warhol produced them.
Dave and I were friends from Mattel and usually had lunch a couple
times a week. His company - Realtime Associates - was actually
in his living room at the time, so I was able to hang out and
watch the new games coming together. And then I started working
on them - writing the instruction manuals and designing the packaging.
Obviously this change provided further opportunities, as you founded
your own graphic design firm, Strand Cruisers, which created package
art for the new Intellivision games released by INTV. What type
of work did you design for Realtime Associates and Quicksilver
I drew up storyboards for Realtime for game concepts Dave was
trying to sell. Some got produced - like The Rocketeer,
Out of Gas, and Q*Bert IV - others
died. Some of the art I did for the storyboards occasionally made
its way into the actual games for character designs and cut screens.
For Quicksilver I did the actual graphics and animations for several
children's educational games, including Kid Keys,
Cyber Snacks and Gearing Up. Real
In mid 1995, the Blue Sky Rangers emerged again on the world wide
web. Did you imagine that thousands of nostalgic individuals would
visit in such force?
I originally started the site for the Blue Sky Rangers themselves
as a place to swap stories - I didn't think anyone else would
be interested. But after seeing some discussions in news groups
about Intellivision, I posted a message inviting people to drop
by. We were all quite surprised - and quite pleased - at the traffic
the site started generating.