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I wrote to Jo-Anne on a number of occasions but she never replied. However, there have been a few messages on the Digger Chat mailing list from an employee of Windmill Software. Edited highlights follow:
> I met Jo-Anne at a tradeshow in Toronto called > ORCA which is for retirement communities, a market > that she currently sells her property management > software to. > > I had Digger on my laptop when I was there so I > asked her a few questions about it. Apparently she > was at a gaming show in the early 80s when she had > initially demoed digger to an audience. It was in > its early stages with alot of bugs. Apparently the > folk who did Dig-Dug stole the concept and beat > Windmill to the gaming market. > > She said she hadn't seen the game in years and > asked if she could play it on my laptop. You > should have seen this. She completed the first 3 > levels without even looking at the screen. She > said that the algorithms are so well known to her > since she created them. She could play just by the > sound and music. Amazing!!! I will be seeing her > again at an upcoming show so I'll let you know > about our next meeting. > She didn't write all of the games. She did some > coding but her husband at the time (now ex > husband) did most of the real coding. Her nephew > did most of the music. I think that the Styx > concept was stolen from Qix but I don't know about > the rest of the games. > We've got original artwork (by Russ Liota) and > game boxes (Kapanese versions) in the office. > Styx, Conquest, Rollo, etc... And some > advertisements from PC Magazine. Cool stuff. > > JA is pleased with your Windows revamp of Digger. > She's a bit disappointed with the sound but what > can you do. She's interested to know where you got > the other games esp. Video Trek since she doesn't > even have the source for any of the games anymore. > She honestly doesn't play digger that much anymore > and until she found your website she didn't even > have the game. We're a real small company right > now with 7 or 8 people but growing quickly. > Jo-Anne is busy, you've got no idea. She works > like 18 hour days trying to get this company into > the US market so I can't imagine her spending > anytime in this chat room. She does love to talk > about the gaming era though. > > Here's my Windmill history of the day: All the > games were done in their home, created and > packaged, the whole process. Apparently their two > dogs (Chip and Byte) were always laying on all the > disks before they were packaged so pretty much > each copy of their games had dog hair in it! JA > and her husband had vanity plates on their cars - > Hobbin and Nobbin! > Jo-Anne tells me that there was another game. Not > sure if it had worldwide distribution or not, in > fact, she can't remember the name of the game. She > claims that it was very similar to Q-Bert but way > cooler. The name of the game started with a "J" > and may have had the word "jump" in it. I'll keep > drilling her to see if she can come up with the > name. > > Also, if you're up for it, Jo-Anne is interested > to see if you can resurrect some game reviews that > Windmill got in PC Magazine back in the 80's. They > were really good reviews - published by > Ziff-Davis.
The game described sounds like "J-Bird", but although that was out at around the right time (1983), it was published by Orion Software, written by Greg Kuperberg and "protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America". Also, the presentation is very different from the other Windmill games. The mystery deepens:
> After talking to Jo-Anne it seems as though J-Bird > was a Windmill game. It was written by her nephew, > Ray, but that doesn't explain why the rights are > owned by Greg Kuperberg. > I'm gonna sent an email to Jo-Anne's nephew Ray to > see if he's got any more info on J-Bird. Jo-Anne > says that if Greg Kuperberg's name is on J-Bird, > that it's stolen cuz she's never heard of him. > > Windmill also did a whole pile of utilities in the > early 80's as well. One was called Videograph 88 > which could take any image off a computer screen > and send it to printer. It was the best of it's > kind and it was hand-compiled based on the 8086 > macro-assembler. Apparently it got a really good > write up in PC Magazine issue #2.
The next part of the puzzle came to me on the 27th of December 2001, when I emailed an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of California in Davis, USA - a man named Greg Kuperberg - and later that evening received a 'phone call from him. After seeing Q*bert, had written J-Bird (at least, the game we know as J-bird - the one which is easy to find on many abandonware websites) from scratch. He never had anything to do with Windmill Software - in fact, he hadn't even heard of them before my email.