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Thursday, May 26, 2016
Ahead of My TimePosted Friday, October 10, 2008, at 10:04 AM
Who needs 'em?
The setup is this: Seems that one day it's raining, but not really raining very much. It's more of a mist kind of deal. And this guy realizes that his windshield wipers are keeping his windshield too dry. But if he turns them off, the windshield eventually becomes too wet!! What's up with that? So he comes up with this idea of a windshield wiper which doesn't go real fast, but it doesn't exactly go slowly, either. It goes intermittently. He calls it the Intermittent Windshield Wiper. He is overwhelmed by the visions of all the ways his discovery will benefit a downtrodden Humanity, but then big-time evil automobile manufacturers, caring only for their bottom line, see the potential of this idea to make them billions of dollars, and they steal the idea away from him.
Almost exactly the same thing happened to me. When do I get my movie? But more to the point, keep your movie: where are my royalties?
It was 1979. I was in college in Fayetteville, Arkansas. No one had ever heard of Bill Gates, and Apple was something we walked past in the dining hall to get to the chicken casserole and the ice cream freezer. (The dining hall was named Brough (pronounced "Bruff") Commons. We called it "Barf Commons." You have that kind of clever inspiration when you are a brash young University Wit. I won't tell you the waggish cognomen we budding Christopher Marlowes came up with for a girl's dormitory called Humphrey Hall.)
In those heady days when Disco was finally dying, there was a craze going on among the students. Well, among the male students, anyway. Well, among the male students who couldn't get a date, anyway. It was role-playing games. Dungeons and Dragons and its two million clones were sweeping the campus. Well, the undateable male parts of the campus, anyway.
Then, one day I was walking through the lounge area of the boy's dorm, Yocum Hall (we didn't need to come up with a witty name for that one) to Brough Commons to get my usual quart of chocolate ice cream for breakfast (it was GOOD to be out on my own!!). The room was filled with little knots of guys crowded around the coffee tables. They hadn't gotten up early---they had been there all night. There was much flipping of manual pages, the clatter of arcane, multi-sided dice on the tables and the general roar of debate. One particularly spotty young man was waving a copy of the Necronomicon and shouting, "You can't turn me into a twoll! I'm a furd wevvel Magus wiff a Wod of Wightning!!"
And that's when it happened. I was looking at a group of guys screeching and slapping at each other angrily over three eight-sided dice and two twelve-sided dice, disputing the calculation of probability of a Magic Arrow of Finding being misled by a Spell of Semi-transparency, when I stopped and said, to whomever was within earshot, "This is way too much trouble. What they need is a computer program to do all the calculating and stuff. Yeah. Somebody needs to come up with a way to play these games on a computer, so that the computer does all the figuring and stuff. And they could put Frazetta paintings of girls in fur bikinis on the box." Of course, it was a wildly innovative idea. The only computer game I knew of at that time was a Star Trek "simulation" game written in machine code that required a large chunk of the school's mainframe to run at all. It drew the Enterprise using parentheses, asterisks and ampersands.
So I gave it no more thought. But somebody was obviously listening. And I'm pretty sure who it was. The resident assistant on my floor was always a shady character. He once arranged for several of the guys to flush all the toilets while I was in the shower. And as resident assistant, it was his sacred trust to prevent those sorts of shenanigans. Somebody who would do that wouldn't hesitate to steal another guy's billion dollar concept.
So anyway, I figure half a buck on every copy of a computer game sold since 1979 would be fair, and I only want what's fair. Surely there's a lawyer somewhere both greedy enough to take such a case and stupid enough to pursue it on a contingency basis.
And I want Johnny Depp to play me in the movie.
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