The following biography was talken from Infocom-IF.org,
an excellent resource for Infocom history.
A simple fountain pen and ink were what Michael Berlyn (*1949) used to put his first works, two novels, down on paper. These certainly did not include the term "interactive," but they eventually and through a detour brought him to include the term in his later work: He used the money he received from the publisher of the novels to buy himself an Apple II, one of those machines he had heard, in those days 1979, could do miracles to aid you in writing.
As Mike found out, for professional writing these "computers" were not really apt yet, but were able to do something else greatly: Let you play games. It was still 1979 when someone showed him the now legendary "Colossal Cave" game, which awakened his interested in computer adventures and Mike used his computer less and less for writing and more and more for playing.
He realized the potential the new medium could bring to telling stories, went on to write text adventures of his own and founded a company to publish them - Sentient Software.
Sentient Software published a number of titles but unfortunately was not too successful, which, in 1982, brought Mike's attention to a job offer from Infocom, a company that was following goals very similar to his own. Mike applied for the job, was accepted and made his debut with "Suspended."
"Infidel" and "Cutthroats" (co-authored with Jerry Wolper) followed, but his final work at Infocom as an employee remains his contribution to "Fooblitzky," the not very well received attempt to cross a board- with a computer game. After that Mike left, unsatisfied with the Infocom policy to not employ the spouses of authors, which kept his wife "Muffy" McClung Berlyn from working at Infocom.
He and his wife then formed a small company, Brainwave Creations, and freelanced for a number of software houses. Among them was Infocom, but one of the titles developed for them, "Confetti," was not finished and another, "Dr. DuMont's Wild P.A.R.T.I.," moved to First Row Software, as Activision cancelled all of Infocom's outside contracts after their takeover of Infocom in 1986.
The Berlyns also gave courses in Creative Writing at Harvard University, but following the demise of many east coast software companies the couple moved to California, as they wanted to keep active in entertainment software. In California Mike worked for Accolade and other software companies and published his fourth novel, "The Eternal Enemy, " in 1990. The book was written on a Mac - the first he actually wrote on a computer.
In 1994 he and Marc Blank got together and they formed Blank, Berlyn and Co., which was later renamed to Eidetic. The company at first published crossword puzzles and other word games for the Apple Newton, and later specialized on PC and Playstation titles.
At Eidetic Mike also came in contact with text adventures again, when in 1997 Activision asked him and Marc to do the small "Zork: The Undiscovered Underground" as promotion for the release of their graphical game "Zork: Grand Inquisitor." Writing the text game, Mike felt that this was what he still really wanted to do and decided to leave Eidetic to go on his own again with a company he called Cascade Mountain Publishing.
In 1998 Cascade released the first title, "Once and Future," written five years earlier by interactive fiction enthusiast Kevin Wilson. In 1999 a revised version of "Dr. DuMont," which had not been circulated widely, as First Row Software went out of business shortly after the original release of the game, followed.
Another title had been supposed to be in the making, but only months after the re-release of "Dr. DuMont" it became quiet around Cascade Mountain and Mike as well. In 2000 the company's website was finally shut down.
After Cascade's end, Mike left the entertainment software business for five years, following, in his own words, a "devastating and demoralizing experience in the business."
Mike and his wife now live in Florida, where Mike is marketing new PC and Macintosh products as well as planning a new software company.
The Get Lamp documentary got off to a pretty bumpy start, mostly due to the
fact that Mike Berlyn, creator of Oo-Topos, Suspended, Infidel, Cutthroats,
Tass Times in Tonetown, and a bunch of other games, was leaving the country.
Possibly permanently. (As of this point, he wasn't sure when or if he'd be
back.) As a result, I pushed through a bunch of things, including the purchase
of my new HD camera and the equipment needed to run it. I also got a total
of 3 days of study/practice with the combination of new microphones and
camera and recordable "P2" card media.
I flew to Florida to interview Mike at the home of a local artist who has
been collaborating with him and his wife, Muffy Berlyn. The artist was very
kind and left us alone in the house for basically all of the day. Since
this was my first time with the equipment after travel, it took some time
to set up. Mike was very patient about all this.
The first 20-30 minutes of recording is very dark, a consequence of learning
the camera. The sound, however, is excellent, so we have that covered. We
then recorded another hour of footage, and that all came out very well.
We discussed his days with Infocom, being a writer, the work post-Infocom,
and jumped around to the stories of creating text adventures and other games
in his 25-year history of doing so.
His wife, Muffy, was around but ultimately decided to let Mike be the only
interviewee. She helped us remember some events to capture on video, between
We had an excellent lunch at a local diner, and discussed where I hoped this
project would lead and what we'd accomplish. All in all, a great time.