The Birth of The Octagon Theory, Part 5 (The Debut)
I came up with the idea of making a simple side-scrolling escape game where the player had to move his character from one side of the first screen to the opposite side of a second screen without getting killed. The player would start out in a rocket ship with flying saucers firing at him. Since it was a simple concept there was no need for a design document. Instead I just wrote my thoughts in pseudo code in my paper notebook. Too often I would find myself doing this on my way to Computer Luv in Ochanomizu to have my Apple II repaired. I didn't look forward to going to Computer Luv every few months or so. It was a pain, lugging a computer on a crowded train, ninety minutes each way. Those old Apples were the most unreliable things. I was told the problem was where the chips were connected to the motherboard, that it was a weak point in Apples.
After putting my Apple in the shop for repairs I'd usually have a week or so to do nothing but write more game ideas along with the corresponding pseudo code in my notebook until I could pick up my 'repaired' computer, take it home, then type in the Basic code to see if it worked. For the next few months that was how I spent my life; working on my game, tuning it, changing things, debugging, adding things. Even when I was out drinking alone at a local izakaya (pub with snacks like a tapas bar) I was writing routines in my notebook.
Things continued like that for a few months until one day two new students started coming to the world-famous language school in Shibuya where I worked.
These two new students happened to be senior engineers at C.Itoh Electronics (CIE), a subsidiary of C.Itoh, a big Japanese trading company. After taking my lessons two or three times and learning about my programming hobby they'd always request me to teach them since I was the only teacher in the school that had any kind of tech experience. The two students didn't really care for the teaching system of my school and they would always bring hardware manuals to class to use as learning aids. These two engineers needed to speak and understand technical English really well because their company was getting dot-matrix printer hardware from TEC (Tokyo Electronic Company) and writing the firmware for the printers. The printers were known as the Apple ImageWriter, and the hardware manuals that my two students always brought to class were Apple ImageWriter User manuals.
The two students and I got along really well and we always had a good time in class. The younger one, Sumioka san, was already pretty fluent in English. The older one, Murioka san, was Sumioka's boss (Little did I know how much Murioka san would impact my life. He is a friend to this day). During one lesson when they were asking lots of questions about how to explain a certain printer option in English I joked that they needed a native English speaking tech advisor at their company. Laughing, they said that that was a good idea. I though they were just joking!
It wasn't long before they invited me out for drinks and yakitori (skewered barbecued chicken, or more likely pork) and they asked me to come by their company to see what they do, and maybe I could give them a demo of the game they knew I was making.
We parted company after a very enjoyable evening and man was I ever excited. Although nothing was mentioned about a job, I could see, or at least hoped, where this was leading. I had about a week to get ready.
The day came. I never wore a suit at my Eikawa job, just a tie. But I put on a suit for this event. It wasn't an interview, it was more like a tech tour that two Japanese engineers were kind enough to give to their Eikaiwa teacher who they liked. But I was treating this like an interview, or more like a debut because I was going to show them my game.
I packed my game floppy and set out on the ninety-minute commute to Shibuya in the center of Tokyo.
C.Itoh Electronics offices were, if I can remember, on the 13th and 14th floors of the Shionogi Shibuya Building, not far from my school and just on the other side of Shibuya JR Yamanote line train station.
Sumioka san met me at the door to the CIE office and showed me around. Like most Japanese offices it was a big open room with rows of desks grouped by function or project with the leader's desk facing his team. The higher level managers' desks were in front of the floor-to-ceiling glass, facing in to oversee all the rows. What a beautiful view of Shibuya from those floor-to-ceiling windows! I thought to myself that I'd sure love to work in this beautiful, glamorous office.
First I was introduced to the Bucho (section manager). His English was fluent from having worked in the USA for a few years and he was a very nice and stylish man. He explained that Murioka san and Sumioka san were 2nd and 3rd in command. I guess I was making the right connections. Something can be said for working an Eikawa job after all.
While being shown around the office I noticed strange computers that I'd never seen before on some of the younger engineers' desks. I was introduced to the short, chubby, young engineer who'd designed those computers. He humblily said his design was inferior. I was shown the lab rooms where printers were being tested with new firmware that was being developed for Apple. Finally I was shown the special enclosed room where their hundred thousand dollar VAX computer was installed. Did I mention that I was also introduced to some very beautiful secretaries.
After the tour and the introductions Sumioka san asked me if I had brought my game and if I could give a demo. I said yes and he turned to the group an announced "Huffman san has brought a game that he has developed and he would like to show it to us".
My time came. They took me to a side corner of the office where an Apple II was waiting. About ten engineers gathered round, I took out my floppy, stuck it in the slot of the 5.25 drive and turned on the power to the Apple II.
I picked up the game paddle and waited while the Apple II+ floppy drive started making it's well-known grinding sounds..