This small article is very much a product of my recent read of Ken Williams’ absolutely excellent book Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings. Through the book, Williams touches on his and his company’s pioneering work on the online service known as The Sierra Network. In that regard, I thought I’d show the few items in my collection that fit into that category.
As a hobbyist historian, I was more than thrilled when I learned that Ken Williams was writing a book about Sierra On-Line.
While a lot of information is available on Sierra On-Line’s games and designers, especially from 1985 and up, there’s really not much direct from the horse’s mouth and especially not on the business side of things.
Steven Levy’s book Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution from 1984 does give an insight into the company’s early years before Sierra On-Line (then On-Line Systems) became “serious” business.
Williams’ new book gives an unparalleled insight into one of the biggest and most beloved software entertainment companies there ever was. It tells the story of a man that wanted his company to be at the forefront of technology and managed to achieve this for the better part of 20 years.
One of Williams’ biggest ambitions was The Sierra Network, Later renamed to The ImagiNation Network. A project that not only was way ahead of its time but also a project that was very near Williams’ heart not only as a businessman but as a technologist as well. Williams covers this exciting vanguard venture in great detail in his book…alongside tons of other exciting memories, thoughts, and facts.
I really love the book, not only for its subject matter and unparalleled insight but because it’s very personal. It hasn’t been perfectly written and conformed by some ghostwriter – Every keystroke, every sentence is from Williams’ hand and mind.
The Sierra Network was very much ahead of its time, the network help paved the way for modern online experiences, like online multiplayer games. Ken Williams wasn’t afraid to herald new technologies, in fact, he embraced it and build products upon it
The Sierra Network was renamed The ImagiNation Network in 1994 after Sierra partnered up with AT&T, which took over the service
AT&T sold it off to AOL in 1996, which at the time acquired several other telecommunications companies. The ImagiNation Network was shut down by AOL in 1998
Ken William’s Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings. Both the paperback and hardback, alongside a digital version can be purchased from Lulu.com
Sierra’s Online, a suite of communication tools for computer with modems, released in 1989
Steven Levy’s Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution is a must-read. Levy describes the people, the machines, and the events that defined the hacker culture (people who got software and machines to do things otherwise initially not intended), from the early mainframe hackers at MIT, to the self-made hardware and game hackers. It tells the story of how people conquered the massive mainframes of the ’60s up till the time when Ken and Roberta Williams conquered the imagination of a whole generation