Joel Billings approached Avalon Hill to publish a computer game called Computer Bismarck, and when they turned him down he decided to found his own company to publish the game. Billings started SSI in 1979 just after finishing college, with a $1000 initial investment. The first product was Computer Bismarck, which he co-wrote. Designed for the TRS-80 and Apple II home computers, it is viewed as the first computer war game ever published. It sold 7000 copies, considered reasonably successful for its time. The company was an industry leader for years in war games and role-playing video games.