While civilizations worldwide have celebrated the transition from one year to another for thousands of years, I’m quite sure most didn’t tie screensavers into that celebration… I was looking for a title that, in some form or shape, celebrated the New Year but wasn’t able to come up with any, then it struck me that Johhny Castaway, an enjoyable and humorous screensaver by Sierra On-Line, I enjoyed back in the day, played into holidays and other celebratory days.
While screensavers might seem a novelty, the history of trying to save screens goes as far back as the dawn of personal computing. Some games for the 1977 Atari VCS console such as Combat and Breakout, included color cycling in order to prevent burn-ins of images into 1970s-era televisions and so did the Atari 400/800 home computer from 1979 if left inactive for a specific amount of minutes. With the advent of Microsoft Windows, a new era of screensavers was upon us, who didn’t like flying toasters, aquariums, or even 3D pipes. You could choose your own or even customize one but common for all was none of them had any story to tell.
Johnny Castaway was released for Windows 3.1 and was marketed as the first Windows-based screensaver to actually tell a story. It was created by Jeff Tunnell Production with lead designer Chris Cole and art director Brian Hahn. Cole and Hahn came up with and produced all the gags while animator Sherry Wheeler made much of the animations. The screensaver tells the story of Johnny Castaway and his ongoing attempt to escape a very small tropical island. The story slowly unfolds as the year progresses, with special episodes keyed to important dates. Much like the castaways of Gilligan’s Island, Johnny repeatedly comes close to being rescued but ultimately remains on the island as a result of various unfortunate incidents.
I hope you all have a happy and prosperous New Year
After almost 30 years I once again tried Johhny Castaway and yes, the poor guy is still stuck on the same island