Carol Shaw

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Carol Shaw
Born1955 (age 62–63)
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
OccupationComputer programmer
Video game designer
Years active1978-1990
Known forRiver Raid (Atari 2600)

Carol Shaw (born 1955) is a former video game designer, notable for being one of the first female designers in the video game industry. While working at Atari, Inc. in 1978, Shaw designed the unreleased Polo game[1] and designed 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe the same year,[2] both for the Atari 2600. Shaw's official job title at Atari was Microprocessor Software Engineer.[1] Later she joined Activision, where she programmed her best-known game, River Raid.[3] According to the River Raid manual, she is also a “scholar in the field of Computer Science.”

Early life and education[edit]

Shaw was born in 1955 and was raised in Palo Alto, California.[1] Her father was a mechanical engineer and worked at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. She did not enjoy the stereotypical girl activities as a child like playing with dolls. Instead, she would mess with her brother's model railroad set.[1] Shaw first became interested in computers in high school when she used a computer for the first time and discovered she could play text-based games on the system. Shaw attended the University of California, Berkeley and graduated with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1977. She went on to complete a master's degree in Computer Science at Berkeley.[1]

Atari[edit]

Shaw was hired at Atari, Inc. in 1978 to work on games for the Atari VCS (later called the 2600). While there she wrote Video Checkers (1978), 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe (1978), and, with Nick Turner, Super Breakout (1978).[4] Co-worker Mike Albaugh later put her on a list of Atari's "less publicized superstars":

I would have to include Carol Shaw, who was simply the best programmer of the 6502 and probably one of the best programmers period....in particular, [she] did the [2600] kernels, the tricky bit that actually gets the picture on the screen for a number of games that she didn't fully do the games for. She was the go-to gal for that sort of stuff.[5]

With Keith Brewster she wrote the Atari BASIC Reference Manual.[6]

Activision[edit]

She left Atari in 1980 to work for Tandem Computers. Shaw joined Activision in 1982.[1] Her first game was River Raid (1982) for the Atari 2600, which was inspired by the 1981 arcade game Scramble.[1] The game was a major hit for Activision and personally lucrative for Shaw.[1]

Shaw also wrote Happy Trails (1983) for the Intellivision and ported River Raid to the Atari 8-bit family and Atari 5200. She left Activision in 1984.

After games[edit]

From 1984-90 Shaw worked at her former employer, Tandem. She took early retirement in 1990 and subsequently did some voluntary work including a position at the Foresight Institute. She has credited the success of River Raid as being a significant factor in enabling her to retire early.[1]

Shaw lives in California and has been married to Ralph Merkle, a researcher in cryptography and nanotechnology since 1983.[7][1]

In 2017, Shaw won the Industry Icon Award at The Game Awards.[8]

Credits[edit]

Atari 2600

  • 3D Tic-Tac-Toe (Atari, 1978) [9]
  • Polo (Atari, 1978) [10] unreleased
  • Super Breakout (Atari, 1978) with Nick Turner
  • Video Checkers (Atari, 1978) [11]
  • Othello (Atari, 1978) with Ed Logg,[12] re-released in Taiwan as Chess
  • River Raid (Activision, 1982) [13]

Intellivision

Atari 8-bit family

  • Calculator (Atari, 1979)
  • River Raid (Activision, 1983) port from 2600 to Atari 8-bit and 5200

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "VC&G - VC&G Interview: Carol Shaw, The First Female Video Game Developer".
  2. ^ Suellentrop, Chris (19 August 2014). "Saluting the Women Behind the Screen". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  3. ^ Atari: 2600: River Raid. The Internet Archive Software Collection. ret. Mar 2014. https://archive.org/details/atari_2600_river_raid_1982_activision_carol_shaw_ax-020_ax-020-04
  4. ^ Hague, James. "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers".
  5. ^ Spicer, Dag (November 12, 2012). "Mike Albaugh Interview" (PDF). Computer History Museum.
  6. ^ Atari BASIC and PET Microsoft BASIC. A BASIC Comparison by Joretta Klepfer cites the draft as a source.
  7. ^ My wife is Carol Shaw., Ralph C. Merkle
  8. ^ Alexander, Jem (8 December 2017). "Carol Shaw awarded 'Industry Icon' honour at The Game Awards". Develop. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Atari 2600 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe", Atari Mania
  10. ^ "Atari 2600 Polo", Atari Mania
  11. ^ "Atari 2600 Video Checkers", Atari Mania
  12. ^ "Atari 2600 Othello", Atari Mania
  13. ^ "Atari 2600 River Raid", Atari Mania

External links[edit]