Sunday, July 15, 2012

Maurice's Song

Here we are with the first instrumental in the Midnight Rambles. There will be some more. 

I met Maurice Jones when I was the managing editor of LOADSTAR, a disk magazine for the Commodore computer back in the late 80s and 90s. He was a subscriber and wrote a few helpful letters to the editor and when I realized he lived about 100 miles away in a small East Texas town, Judi and I went to visit him and his wife Joann. They were retired schoolteachers and even without the computer connection we had a lot in common and we all became good friends.

In 1993 when I was on my recording kick I sent a few of the songs on a cassette tape to Maurice and he critiqued them. I asked him what kind of music he listened to and he liked jazz, so I decided to record him a jazz song. The only problem: I knew nothing about jazz. 

I ended up getting a nice clean tone for my Gibson ES-335 and playing the first jazzy chords that occurred to me. I threw in an augmented chord. I programmed the drummer to play tastefully (or so I thought) and then added an organ. I amazed myself by not playing any obviously bad notes and the song was done. I sent it to Maurice and he liked it but said it didn't really sound too jazzy to him. I told him it was Calhoon jazz as opposed to Coltrane jazz.

Maurice got into computers many decades ago, before home computers came about. He programmed some of the early mainframes and when he bought his first home computer, a Commodore 64, in the mid 80s he, like everybody else back then, learned a little BASIC programming. On LOADSTAR we had a card game simulation, probably the standard Klondike solitaire, and he felt that he could improve on it. So he wrote another card solitaire and it was pretty good. Then another. And another.

Soon Maurice had a card game simulation on every issue. He bought books of solitaire rules and did some obscure ones. Then he and I developed what we called ROTATO solitaires. These were solitaire card games that used a basic 52-card deck but for one reason or another were impossible to play with real cards. There would be a tableau of cards (as in Klondike) but when you pressed a button they'd fly around in ways that you really wouldn't want to hassle with if you were using real cards.

Maurice invented a dozen or more card solitaires for the Commodore. He ended up with 64 programs of them when LOADSTAR, under my editorship, sent out its last issue, #199. As far as I know, no one programmer has produced as many card games as he has.

Maurice died a decade ago and I wish he could have heard these songs done up right. The cassettes I made back then were pretty bad.


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