Report on the death of Jim Nitchals

Giant List archive, June 9, 1998

In sad and unexpected news, 6502 guru James Nitchals died this past Friday.

In the glory days of the Apple II Jim co-founded Cavalier Computer with Barry Printz and Richard Moore; wrote Bug Attack, Asteroid Field, Star Thief, and Ring Raiders; and co-authored Teleport and Microwave. This last title was the first Apple II game to feature in-game music, something considered impossible at the time. Later he worked for Electronic Arts and had a substantial hand in games his name isn't usually associated with, including Hard Hat Mack and Music Construction Set. I've talked to a number of people who worked with and learned from Jim over the years, and they consistently regarded him as brilliant.

In recent years, Jim was the technical lead for the Cyperpunks' Supercharger CD, a compilation of games and development tools for the Starpath Supercharger (a hardware add-on for the Atari 2600). He spent considerable time, right up through this past April, helping teach 6502 and 2600 programming to a new generation of programmers. People would bring him code snippets, asking if any improvements were possible, and Jim would whittle and optimize them in astounding ways; he was credited for doing just this for Oystron, a new hobbyist 2600 game released earlier this year.

In the last few months Jim unexpectedly gained wide exposure as the "leader" of the anti-spam movement. A recent interview with him on the subject is available.

In the words of Doug Ansell, who learned the ins and outs of Apple II programming from Jim when they worked together at Cavalier, "The industry has truly lost a legend. Time and time again he made the impossible possible."