When Colecovision Died:
We often record it as we experience it through personal
correspondence, diaries, and even family newsletters, unwittingly
documenting events in ways that will give insight to those who come after us.
“It Came From New England” was the family newsletter that my spouse and I
wrote on a semi-regular basis to share our lives with family and friends
elsewhere around the country.
Most were about the usual things that impacted our lives.
Issue 6, which I wrote and assembled over a period of several months in the
summer of 1985 contains not only a snapshot of my family life then,
it also contains my editorialized account of the collapse of Coleco’s
electronic game development department over the course of about a year and a
and brief snapshots into the lives of the designers (primarily) who worked
under me, before, during and after the collapse.
Reading it reminded me of names long forgotten,
particularly one of my managers (Marshall Caras, of whom I have good
memories), and some of the programmers, like Dan Thompson, Reggie Dion, and
Reggie, in particular, along with Zachary Smith, Michael Dougherty, Leo
and David Schulze were some of the first software engineer additions to the
Coleco dev team in the early months of ColecoVision development.
The engineer mentioned as being my final manager in Coleco was William
He “replaced” George Kiss, when George departed our sinking ship (George was
also one of the best managers I ever worked under in any job before or since
Our department head through the final crash was Charles (Charlie) Winterble,
who replaced Eric Bromley.
I’ve also left in some movie reviews from that summer, and even notice of
the new car we bought, an ’85 Ford Escort which turned out to be one of the
most classic of “lemons.”
What Happened After:
I had really wanted to join Mike Price, Lawrence Schick, and Tom Fulton in
Daedalus Design Group (if I could put my hands on their promo material.
I would share that, it included some evocative cartography and graphic
design work by my friend Darlene).
Unfortunately, the reality of being the provider for my family (I was
usually a good provider,
I could fulfill that part of the expectations on me) meant taking a job that
had assurances of a paycheck and hopefully insurance.
The Company I went to work for after Coleco, International Omni-Corp, Inc.
went on to create several consumer products, including a multi-function desk
phone, the Alphadial 2000
(I wish I could have afforded one, they were cool), and kitschy electronic
jewelry under the brand L’Ectronique.
I worked on both of those and on developing prototypes for RC fighting
Sometime early in 1986, Bromley and one of the other senior founders of the
company worked out a deal where the company “was acquired by”
a public corporation called The Penguin Group and became Penguin Products,
Our privately held shares in International Omni-Corp, Inc. became shares in
Penguin Group (and valued as penny stocks).
I was with the company less than a year in total, laid off and then replaced
by one of my former staff designers, Joe Angiolillio
(I bear him no malice for that, the events leading up to my layoff and
leaving are a story in themselves).
Suffice it to say that the weight of the world lifted off me that day and I
re-started my freelance career.
Penguin eventually tanked after miss-handling a license with Tonka toys (the
metal truck toy company) to put licensed Tonka video games on the NES,
working with 4D Interactive, one of the best of the best of the Colecovision
Although I had turned down working for Epyx earlier in 1985, my next video
game credit (and one of my only two as a freelancer) was published by them.
4x4 Off Road Racing from Ogdon Micro Design (a Denver, CO based software
development company founded by a former Colecovision and ADAM developer, Bob
Ogdon) was one of my clients then.
The video game crash greatly reduced the availability of game development
work, particularly on the east coast where many,
if not most of the Coleco dev team had their homes and families.
Some were able to relocate around the country to new positions.
However, a significant number of the Coleco development team never worked
full time in games again.
For presentation here, I've removing some names of family and friends,
including my spouse at the time, primarily to protect their privacy.*
Unlike me, none of these people are particularly public about their own
lives, were not a part of Coleco, and some are no longer in my life due to
the passage time and in some cases,
by their choice to “ghost” out of it (leave without notice) when changes
occurred (both theirs and mine).
Final Personal Insight:
One thing that I left intact was the name that I used at
the time I wrote this, despite my own dysphoria and the associated
discomfort regarding it.
That name is not who I am. It’s not how I want to be remembered.
But it was the name in use at the time.
For historians, I would STRONGLY prefer any reference to my life before and
my involvement in games,
even my credits use my current name and gender gender, rather than play
transphobic then/now games with names and pronouns. I’ve always been Jennell,
even if I lived behind a mask and another name.