This page contains interviews to people that have been involved
in CreatiVision-related projects during the 1980's.
The list or interviews will increase in the future.
Interview with Jamieson "Jim" Rowe | May 2015
Jim as suggested by Mr Dick Smith a few months ago. Jim was the Technical
Director at Dick Smith Electronics between 1980 and 1984. He managed and
produced several projects, including writing the programming books
"Fun Way into Computers with your
Wizzard" and "An introduction to
home computing with Funvision".
Jim was more than happy to share his memories and stories with
the CreatiVision and the Wizzard fans through the CreatiVEmu website. I would
like to publicly thank him for this and wish him all the best!
Luca: What were the circumstances
of your joining Dick Smith Electronics (DSE), and can you tell us a little of
your professional background?
Jim: I joined the staff of the magazine "Radio, TV and
Hobbies" in 1960, while I was doing a university course (part-time) in
electronics. Then when the magazine changed its name to "Electronics Australia"
in 1965, I was appointed its Editor (under Editor-in-Chief Neville Williams).
I remained in this position until late 1979, writing articles in the magazine
as well as a few magazine-format books on the Fundamentals of Solid State
electronics, Digital Electronics and building a baby learning computer
(the EDUC-8) which I had designed. However in late 1979 I was becoming
Our largest advertiser at that time was Dick Smith, who visited the magazine
office from time to time to find out about our latest construction projects
(so his firm could decide whether they would market kits for them).
At that time Dick was building a large office and warehouse complex in North
Ryde, and I learned that they would be moving their head office to the new
facility as soon as it was finished. They were also starting to get involved
with personal computers, and Dick asked if I was interested in joining his
company as its "Technical Director". It seemed to be an opportunity too good
to miss (especially as the salary was significantly higher than my salary at
the magazine). So I joined DSE in early February 1980, at the North Ryde head
Luca: What was your initial role
at DSE, and can you mention some of the assignments you had?
initial role was mainly to evaluate samples of new products (especially small
computers, peripherals and other technical products) obtained from
overseas, in order to help Dick decide whether they would be good products to
market in Australia. However this role quickly grew, since many of the
products had little or no documentation. So before long I was also writing
User Manuals and Technical/Servicing Manuals for quite a few of these
products. I think this began with the Exidy Sorcerer CP/M based microcomputer,
and continued with products like the System-80 (a Taiwan knock-off of the
Tandy TRS-80) and the VZ-200 and VZ-300 (from Hong Kong).
With these latter products I gained the further role of commissioning and
testing useful software that we could sell to support them.
Luca: I know that BASIC programs
released on cassette tape mostly came from VTech in Hong Kong, whereas there
were a few of them produced locally by DSE. How did you manage the
commissioning and testing activities? Were the programmers in-house at DSE or
Jim: I think you're right in proposing that some of the
software was produced at Video Technology in HK - mainly the games. We had to
produce the more serious software ourselves, and most of this was done
for us by contractors. I can't remember all of their names, but some of them
may be in your listing.
All I did was test them out and see if there were any bugs (and if they
were, arranging for the contractor to fix them) before we arranged for them to
be prepared for sale in DSE's stores.
Luca: What software programs
and methods did you use to create the books and their layouts?
Jim: From memory, I used a System 80 microcomputer
(fitted with two 5" floppy disc drives) to write most of the books, using a
simple word processor program. The text files were passed to DSE's in-house
advertising department, where we had a phototypesetter and quite a few layout
artists - plus a skilled photographer.
Luca: What memories do you have
about the "Fun Way into Computers Using Your Wizzard" book, and about Sue
Robinson, its co-author?
Jim: My memory is a bit vague about this, but I think we
first made contact with Sue Robinson when I needed some assistance in
preparing some of the user manuals and software manuals for the VZ-200 and
VZ-300. Sue proved to be very capable as a technical writer, and as a result
we also used her in preparing some of the later books.
I don't remember much about the "Fun Way into Computers Using your Wizzard"
book, but I think we asked Sue to adapt the material in a similar earlier book
she and I had produced, directed towards the VZ-200 and VZ-300.
Luca: Can you recall why the
Wizzard book was re-released as "An Introduction to Home Computing with
Jim: I can't really remember the reason for this, but I
think it may have been because Dick felt that the Funvision needed to be seen
as not just an el-cheapo video game, but an easy way of learning about
personal computers as well.
Luca: Do you remember the reasons
behind DSE starting to sell the Funvision at the same time as the Wizzard was
Jim: Again, I can't quite remember the reasons for this
Luca: What was your last job
assignment at DSE, why did you leave, and what projects you faced after
Not long before I left DSE (in mid-1984, I think), Dick had sold a
half-interest in the company to major retailer Woolworths. Before this
Marketing Director Gary Johnston had also left, to acquire and rebuild the
electronics supplier Jaycar Electronics (which he did with great success). I
was asked to take over the Marketing role, but I soon learned that I was very
poor at this.
Then I was approached by the publisher of "Electronics Today" magazine at
Federal Publishing, asking if I would be interested in taking over the
position of Managing Editor for that magazine and two others: "Your
Computer" and "Sonics". So I accepted, leaving DSE and joining Federal
Publishing in Rosebery.
Before long FPC also purchased my old magazine "EA" from Fairfax/Sungravure,
so it was added to my responsibilities.
However not long after this management made quite a few changes, and I found
myself without a job.
Luckily within a few weeks I was approached by Owen Hill, who had just gone
public with his firm Microbee Computers. Owen offered me the job of
Technical Writer, which I accepted (I had a family and there were lots of
bills to pay).
Anyway, to cut the story short I wrote various documents for Microbee (also
becoming Advertising Manager as well), but the company struck trouble within
about 18 months. Then I was approached by Michael Hannan, the MD of Federal
Publishing, asking if I would like my old job back as Managing Editor of EA
and ETI (which were being merged). This was mainly because my old magazine
colleague Leo Simpson had left to start up his own electronics magazine
So before long I was back at Federal Publishing, which had moved to
I worked at EA again until 1999, when management decided that I was a bit
too old and inflexible. So they pushed me into an early retirement, and
I became a freelance contributing writer. However the magazine didn't last
much longer (after they had revised and updated it), and the contributing
work dried up.
Luckily my old colleague Leo Simpson had achieved great success with his
magazine Silicon Chip, and I was able to keep earning a crust
contributing to his magazine. And that's the situation today, I'm happy to
I hope these answers are of interest, Luca, and best wishes.