Today, only a handful of programmers
and games designers are widely known to gameplayers - figures
such as Shigeru Miyamoto (Donkey Kong, Super Mario
Brothers), Sid Meier (Civilization), or John Carmack
(Doom, Quake). In the early 1980s, however,
it was considerably easier to get into programming - for many,
that was the reason why they had computers in the first place.
Individual programmers soon became celebrities, fêted
as wunderkinds. Almost exclusively, they were young
men, many not even out of their teens, and canny publicists
wowed the general public with stories of 15-year-olds being
given Ferraris and improbable salaries.
Not surprisingly, the burnout
rate was high. Some cracked completely under the pressure,
most famously the still-elusive Matthew Smith of Jet Set
Willy fame. Othes survived, prospered and have today helped
Britain become a world force in software publishing.