|Highlands Computer Services was based in Renton, WA, and released 5 adventure games for the Apple II, as well as a few utilities. The company was started by Butch Greathouse and Garry Rheinhardt in early 1980. |
Butch Greathouse explains: "We were both big time Apple II enthusiasts and belonged to the local club in Renton called A.P.P.L.E. We even had Steve Wozniak attend one of our meetings once.
Garry and I were working at the Boeing Company and would spend evenings, weekends, holidays, vacations and sick days pounding away on the Apple II. Garry and I created two utilities called CRAE and MCAT and got a lot of praise from club members about them and were encouraged to try and sell them.
We started to get pretty good response in 1980 even though at that time everybody wanted games. We started HCS by printing up some business cards and a few flyers to mail to computer dealers. We created a number of games and an accounting program called EZ-LEDGER, and we also produced an EPROM chip with CRAE on it.
The entire operation was run out of our basements and all the manuals were produced by us and a local printing firm. We started on a shoe string and it was just a passion for writing programs that would drive us. There were all night sessions, lost weekends and it was strictly learn as you go. As I recall, the two Utilities (MCAT, CRAE) probably took close to 6 months of development because we were picking apart the Apple OS and learning how things worked. We would ask questions at the A.P.P.L.E. meetings and one person or another had the answer then we would be up 2 days straight making some new feature work. Creature Venture made it up number 8 or 9 on the best seller list then quickly faded.
The games went faster once we developed the utilities we need to make screens and parse input but it still took 3-4 months to generate a game. Sometimes, the phone would ring and I would answer it then ask what they needed. If they needed a hint, I would pretend they had reached the right person and give them a clue or answer their questions any time day or night.
During the day I would always answer the phone and if it was a dealer wanting to place an order, I would then become the order desk. It was usually a manager at a Computerland somewhere looking to buy more software! This was before the days of software distributors who were about to take over those type of things. There were no answering systems at HCS, what you got was the whole thing with one phone number.
Now we get to the heart of the downfall of HCS. The people who answer the phone, package the orders, write the manuals, and program all day can't be the same two people. We couldn't create new products and do everything else so we just sort of starved ourselves out of business. All the money went right back into the business and we weren't the greatest business people in the world.
The handwriting was on the wall (expenses greater than Income) so Garry and I went back to work at A.P.P.L.E.. I was in charge of the Technical Hotline at A.P.P.L.E. for 3 years and talked to thousands of APPLE II enthusiasts from all over the world and answered their questions.
The company faded in about two years time. We never made any money but we loved every minute of it."