Matthew Smith Interview

My original website (The Sinclair Archives) was removed from the Internet in 2000, and I thought I’d lost the content forever. But while sorting through a load of old cd-roms destined for the bin I stumbled across a 10 year old backup disk that contained a copy of my old website. On the old site was a short interview I’d done with Matthew Smith, the programmer of Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy. So, here is the interview, complete with the back story as presented on my original site back in 1999

Matthew Smith Interview – August 1999

This interview came about after I had read on the comp.sys.sinclair newsgroup that Matt was back. I decided that I should drop him an email to tell him that I’d written a remake of Styx, and would remove it from my website if he wanted me to (I’m pleased to say he didn’t!).
He also agreed to answer a few questions, here they are…

Before putting the interview onto The Sinclair Archive, I thought it would be a good idea to get some proof that it was the real Matthew Smith I had been talking to. After all, I didn’t want to misrepresent Matt by putting a false interview on the net.
I emailed Chris Cannon, a former Software Projects programmer, who replied “It is him . . . I actually spoke to him on the phone last week, and can confirm it.”
And Stuart Fotheringham, also a former Software Projects programmer, who replied “Yes, it’s definately him. He emailed me with lots of things that only the real Matthew Smith could know.”

First, a question I’ve been wanting to ask you since 1984. What happened to ‘Willy meets the taxman?
Willy meets the Taxman.
Trilogy, trilogy gotta write a trilogy.
Manic Miner took 8 weeks from notebook to final mastering. I came back from the holiday I took with the money from Styx and went for the burn.

Jet Set Willy took 8 months, although there is little extra code. most of the time went into designing and tuning the screens. I had pressure from my partners and the bugs are due to this.

Willy Meets the Taxman was to be the third in the series but I was spending more time sorting the problems other programmers were having than writing it. I was attempting to network all the software projects programmers together but my partners were just as busy trying to isolate us in individual sweatboxes.

We all know that you wrote Styx, Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy, and you also did some work on The Birds and The Bee’s. Did you work on any other games?
The Birds and the Bee’s was coded by Derrick Rowson, also of Wallasey, with graphics by me. He coded JSW II which had graphics by me and Steve Wetherill (now boss of Westwood Studios)

In the 80’s some magazines referred to you as the millionaire programmer, while there were also speculation that you were ripped off. What really happened?
I never received a penny for JSW. When the money I got from Bug Byte for MM ran out, I couldn’t afford to keep my machines working. I was forced to use inferior compilers and one inadequate disk drive when I moved onto an ST. I was getting £50 a week (and I had to break into the office for that most weeks) and they were continually sabotaging my phone line and reputation.

And finally, do you still sport the long hair and sandals?
I chopped the hair shortly before leaving SP. I do factory work when available (i.e. when I’m not on Merseyside) so I wear boots and a no.4 crop. New pics will be on my site soon. I’m worried about how little my appearance has changed ;)


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