Berkeley Systems, Inc.

Moby ID: 1199

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Berkeley Systems, Inc. was founded in the 80's by the husband-and-wife team of Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, to create handicapped access software for the Macintosh. Soon after, their friend Jack Eastman suggested the idea of a modular screensaver as an alternative to the plethora of single-display screensavers then popular. Making a modular screensaver meant providing some modules, so they made a handful of them, including the rather odd concept of the Flying Toasters.

Sales of After Dark rapidly swamped the original Access Software, and the company achieved iconic status in the Macintosh community. The company took on some venture capital and began a growth phase. Unwilling to "dirty their hands" with a Windows or DOS product, but also unwilling to forgo the much larger potential market, the contract to produce After Dark for Windows was put out for bids. The company also pursued and acquired the license for a module pack based on Star Trek. The Star Trek pack was so successful that the franchise was expanded, acquiring other major licenses such as Disney and The Simpsons.

Meanwhile, the Windows version of the product had become infamous for poor quality (most IS departments of the era banned its use), and the company decided to bring the product in-house at the same time as work began on a third generation Macintosh engine. Module pack work continued, including new licensed properties and original products. During this era the Berkeley Systems Access Software division continued to operate in a corner of the facility mostly occupied by screensaver development.

By 1995, the future for Berkeley Systems was beginning to look very bleak. Most of the "A list" licenses had been done or the licensors had commissioned work elsewhere. After Dark for DOS, a product that could have sold like wildfire in 1992, was finally produced just weeks before Windows 95 put the nail in DOS's coffin. The market for pricey, artistic and highly animated screensavers was cannibalized by cheap slideshow products. Attempts to find new products that would fit the quirky "utilitainment" niche of After Dark had come to rocky ends - notably a children's desktop product that was not really portable to Windows and a very nice customizable calendar program, which the company did not want to expand into the very competitive PIM market.

At this point in time, the company's iconic position in the Macintosh culture quite literally saved it. A company called Jellyvision had a prototype of an original game called You Don't Know Jack, which they approached Berkeley Systems with. The game was irreverent, quirky, and fun, and if handled even moderately well would be a huge success. The deal was signed, and the rebirth of the company began. With the strength of this deal, the founders were able to swing a "white knight" buyout of the company by Sierra and hence a move fully into the computer game market. Also as part of this transition, the Access division was finally spun off into a separate company.

Credited on 24 Games from 1991 to 2003

Displaying most recent · View all

You Don't Know Jack: Volume 6 - "The Lost Gold" (2003 on Windows)
Backstage Pass: The Ultimate Rock & Roll Trivia Game (2000 on Windows)
You Don't Know Jack: Louder! Faster! Funnier! (2000 on Windows, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack: Offline (1999 on Windows, Macintosh)
Get The Picture (1999 on Windows)
Austin Powers: Operation: Trivia (1999 on Windows, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack Jumbo (1999 on Windows, Windows 3.x, Macintosh)
After Dark Games (1998 on Windows, Macintosh, Windows 3.x)
Head Rush (1998 on Windows, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack: Volume 4 - The Ride (1998 on Windows, Macintosh)
Acrophobia (1997 on Windows)
You Don't Know Jack Sports: The Netshow (1997 on Windows, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack Pack (1997 on Windows, Windows 3.x, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack: Television (1997 on Windows, Windows 3.x, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack: Volume 3 (1997 on Windows, Windows 3.x, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack: The Netshow (1996 on Windows, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack: Volume 2 (1996 on Windows, Windows 3.x, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack: Sports (1996 on Windows, Windows 3.x, Macintosh)
Saturday Night Live Goes Political (1996 on Windows 3.x, Macintosh)
You Don't Know Jack: Movies (1996 on Windows, Windows 3.x, Macintosh)

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History +

April 1997

Aquired by Sierra.


Berkeley Systems founded

Trivia +

During the long crunch time for the Disney Collection Screen Saver an engineer named Steve Zellers brought in his hamster, named Trurl, because it was spending all it's time alone at home. This was great because he was nocturnal and, at the time, so were we. There are many, many stories that can be told about that hamster, and that crunch time, but in the end just as RC3 had gone Gold Trurl passed away calmly in his sleep. So if any of you live in Berkeley around Rose and Shattuck know that near you is buried the first Disney Collection Screen Saver box off the line with disks and manual; it's the tomb and final resting place of Trurl the hamster, who gave his all for "Da Mouse".

Location and contact information in Nov. 1995:

Berkeley Systems

2095 Rose St

Berkeley, CA 94709

Technical Support: 510-549-2300

Fax Support: 510-849-9426

TTY/TDD: 510-540-0709

Related Web Sites +


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