Today, Allan Boyd is one of the world’s most experienced technology, media, and intellectual property specialists. For over 40 years Boyd has helped developed, marketed, licensed, acquired, and invested in some of the world’s best-known software products. A remarkable career that started when personal computers were nothing but a tiny spec in an otherwise giant analog world. Today the impact of his involvements is all around us.
In 1968, Boyd left Scotland to study Physics and Mathematics at the University of Bath in England, where he earned his Bachelor’s in Applied Science. By the early ’70s, he enrolled at Columbia University in the US. Following, Boyd ended up living in Baltimore, Maryland. Here he hand-built one of the earliest personal computers and taught himself how to program microprocessors, writing machine code to do complex mathematics. When he started working as a professional audio engineer at Maryland Sound Industries, designing big concert equipment, he became one of the first in the field to utilize microprocessors and programming.
Boyd met Ed Zaron, founder of Muse Software, one of the earliest independent software developer and publishing companies, and was introduced to programming prodigy Silas Warner. One Saturday Warner, knowing that Boyd was an audio engineer, called and asked if he could help him in his efforts to develop a software capable of playing back human voices. The cooperation turned into the software package The Voice, one of the very first applications able to play digitized speech on personal computers.
The Voice was later used in Warner’s Castle Wolfenstein in 1981, the first computer game to feature digitized voices.
While touring between concerts Boyd brought his Apple II with him and in the back of the tour bus, he wrote his first and only published game, Global War, a multiplayer clone of Risk.
In Applesoft BASIC Boyd created a simplified version of the popular turn-based strategy board game. There was no option for playing against the computer but two to nine human players could compete for the 42 numbered territories for world domination.
Based on the number of territories and continents controlled reinforcement armies were awarded for every turn. Following the reinforcement phase, players were given the option to attack enemy territories, with simulated dice rolls determining the outcome of the attack. A player’s turn ended with a movement phase, in which armies could be moved from territory to territory.
Global War was picked up by Muse Software and released on cassette for the Apple II in 1979.
The original release of Alan Boyd’s Global War published by Muse Software in 1979 for the Apple II
Global War was re-released in 1980, also for the Apple II, under Muse’s Computer Disk Software label. A label that republished many of Muse’s earlier tape games on the modern and conveniently 5.25″ floppy disk
Global War was primarily text-based but featured an impressive Hi-Res world map showing each player’s territories.
At the beginning, armies and territories were randomly distributed between players, this could lead to an unfair distribution and a redistribution could be chosen to even out the playing field. A game could be saved when your friends had to go home for dinner and be reloaded the next day
While Numerous computerized versions of the ever-popular board game have been released for every thinkable platform over the last 40 years, Boyd’s simple take on it with his Global War is considered one of the very first.
On one of Boyd’s tours he met and befriended Bill Gates and late Paul Allen of Microsoft.
Microsoft had in January of 1979, after four years in Albuquerque, New Mexico, moved their fledgling computer software business to Bellevue, Seattle. Here Boyd would become Manager of Product Development in 1980, assigned to identify, develop, and acquire products that complemented Microsoft’s internally developed products.
Boyd became one of a small handful of people who would report directly to Gates and would come to play a vital part early on in Microsoft’s product strategy.
Boyd set up several of the company’s core groups, including Product Marketing, responsible for bringing all the company’s products to market, and the Acquisitions Group, responsible for all licensing and Microsoft’s highly successful acquisitions.
He led the development of the first Microsoft Flight Simulator in 1981, the same year Microsoft incorporated, where he became one of a few people who received founder’s shares.
During Boyd’s time at Microsoft, he was involved in a large number of software products including MS-DOS, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Works, and Microsoft Windows.
Boyd was the Macintosh proponent inside of Microsoft and encouraged the company to support Macintosh software development. When Microsoft went public in 1986 and Gates decided to abandon all Mac development, Boyd left in search of other ventures.
After leaving Microsoft, Boyd, in 1986, conducted the world’s first hypertext browser to market and helped establish hypertext as an essential technology for the Internet. He went on to found HeadFirst Multimedia, the first integrated multimedia, and interactive television company. Here he conducted the first interactive television and streaming media trials as early as 1990.
In 1984, during his time at Microsoft, Boyd had met Madam Wu Yi, the former Vice President of the Chinese State Council, who invited him to China and advise the government on technology and intellectual property development.
In 1999 he co-founded St Banks International Group, a Shanghai-based advisory and investment franchise investing into small and early-stage technology companies.
During the ’80s Boyd was acknowledged by the Reagan administration as one of the world’s leading experts on Intellectual Properties and was employed by the US Treasury Department as an expert witness in a number of high-profile IP cases. In 2009 he was appointed Senior IP Consultant at Longan Law, one of China’s leading IP law firms. In 2011 he co-founded SmartCity Investments, the first Chinese software company to focus on the design, development, acquisition, and licensing of software needed to design, build and operate smart cities of the future.
Today Boyd is residing in London and is still involved in next-generation technology development, acquisition, and investment.
Sources: Allan Boyd, Singapore Management University, Wikipedia, LinkedIn