Ken Williams was born on October 30, 1954 in Evansville, Indiana. Williams’s father David was a television repairman for Sears, who had moved to California from Cumberland County, Kentucky; his co-workers nicknamed him “Country.” Ken grew up in a fairly tough neighbourhood in Pomona, at times sharing a bedroom with his two brothers,
John and Larry.
Ken Williams attended California Polytechnic, Pomona Campus, majored in Physics and was carrying a C average. He met Roberta (Heuer Williams) when he was sixteen and they married on November 4th, 1972, five days after he became 18. They got two sons, D.J., born in 1973 and Chris, born in 1979. As Roberta became parent during his college time he needed a job fast. He stopped studying physics, attended a nine month programming trade school, Control Data Institute in Los Angeles, and graduated top of his class. He had several jobs since then; he worked as a systems programmer for Bekins Moving and Storage, where he got hooked on pure programming, and went after one and a half year to Informatics, where he met one the of the managers in charge of Informatics’s new products, Dick Sunderland, who would become President of Sierra in 1982.
He bought an Apple II, intended to write a Fortran compiler for the Apple and hired five part-time programmers to help him implement the compiler. But things went a bit different, as Roberta, after playing “Adventure” by Crowther and Woods, proposed to make a game with graphics, a game that would become known as Mystery House (1980).
In the same year they founded On Line Systems, later known as Sierra On-Line (1982). Williams was Chairman and CEO of this highly successful and leading game company till 1996, when Sierra On-Line was sold to CUC International. He stayed on with the acquiring company for a short time, to build one of the first internet-shopping systems (www.netmarket.com), which was very successful.
Later on Williams started a dot-com called Talkspot, to do entertainment broadcasting on the web. Talkspot was transformed to a company that did paid broadcasting for companies trying to reach large audiences, and renamed WorldStream. As it wasn’t the right business for him, he retired again. The internet crash happened about a year later, and took WorldStream with it.
In 2003 Williams created a site called SierraGamers, where people can meet, talk about Sierra and upload/download Sierra related files.
After their retirement the Williams’s bought a Nordhavn 62, called Sans Souci. In 2004 they made a trip with it over the Atlantic, and in the same year they upgraded the boat to a Nordhavn 68. Williams created a website to document the trip and other trips (kensblog.com). He also wrote books about their experiences, called “Crossing an Ocean Under Power" (Atlantic) and "Cruising Under Power" (Central Am and Mexico).
In May 2009 they started with two other boats a mini rally, the so-called "The Great Siberian Sushi Run," departing in Seattle for Japan, traversing Alaska, The Bering Sea, and Siberia along the way.
The various websites are constructed with the “Website Construction Set,” which was developed by himself. He offers the “Do-It-Yourself websites” at his site TalkSpot.com.
Last updated: Jun 21, 2009
- Books by Ken Williams - World Cruising via Trawler -- Download or print books by Ken Williams about his travels with the Nordhavn
- Oct. 1999 Interview -- on Adventure Classic Gaming
- Interview with Ken Williams -- on Adventure Classic Gaming (28 March 2006)
- Ken Williams Interview 2003 -- In-depth interview with Ken Williams. He discussing the history of Sierra from it's birth to it's sale in 1996 to what Ken is up to now.
- Ken Williams Interview (circa 1997) -- Craig White of Just Adventure+ discusses 1997 and what is upcoming in 1998 at Sierra.
- Sierra On-Line Fan Site -- Website maintained by Ken Williams, offers information and chatting forums on Sierra history and games, also with links on Sierra game-related files.
- cabokenw -- Videos of Ken and Roberta Williams's Great Siberian Sushi Run