Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Berkeley Systems?

You remember Berkeley Systems, don't you? They made After Dark, the first wildly popular commercial screensaver. AD was created in a time before Windows 95 made screensavers truly integrated, and it was created with flair. Who could forget the Flying Toasters? Lawnmower Man? The Simpsons version of AD?

Apparently, everyone. AD fell by the wayside as Berkeley hit it big with a little Jellyvision program you might've heard of called You Don't Know Jack. Jack turned out to be the future of the company, and as the 123 different versions of Jack can attest to, it's been profitable. Oddly enough, Jack was similar to AD in that it was a bit of a prelude to what was coming down the pipe: online gaming.

Berkeley's embraced that, too; the game network Bezerk was one of the first commercially successful net gaming sites. But they outsourced that to won.net last year. So what's left at Berkeley? Not much. While you can still buy AD, why? It doesn't work on Win 2000 or Mac OS 9, let alone modern systems, and as their FAQ points out, upgrading software is cost prohibitive. There are dozens of free screensavers out there. And you can still get Jack, but who doesn't have it already?

The interesting part of the whole story is that Berkeley was bought out by Sierra - formerly Sierra On-Line - which also used to be a highly profitable company. Now, Sierra is but a shell of its former self because it didn't keep up with the times. Berkeley, whether under the Sierra umbrella or not, succumbed to the same fate.

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