In the early to mid-90s my hobby was making video games of various sorts with my friend Jesse. Our tools were Recreational Software Designs Game-Maker 2.0 and your creation JASC Paint Shop Pro (PSP). I discovered both in a software mail order catalog and purchased them with my lawn mowing cash. We used PSP to design our title screens mostly.
I had purchased the shareware version of PSP, which came with a 30-day trial period. I discovered that if I simply uninstalled and reinstalled PSP, we would get another 30-days of free use. But, my conscience didn’t feel good about my discovery. It was stealing—plain and simple. I sent JASC a brief letter explaining how we were using PSP and asking for permission to continue using it. I figured, the worst that could happen is that you could say “no” and I would have to save up to buy the full version. The best that could happen is that you would say “yes” and we would be back in business.
To my shock and surprise, you sent me the following reply:
You included a boxed version of PSP with your letter. I couldn’t have been more surprised or excited. It’s still one of my favorite childhood memories to this day.
Only a year or two later, Jesse and I stopped making our games. The limitations of Game-Maker were quite real, and something bigger had arrived: The World Wide Web.
I quickly taught myself HTML and continued to use PSP as my image editor—even later paying for upgraded versions. (Version 6 was my favorite!) I made websites on top of lawn mowing to earn cash throughout high school and college, which helped pay for school. The experience set me up to be a career website and web app builder (see PC World, September 2006, page 37). I couldn’t have done it without PSP. And I always liked it better than Adobe Photoshop, which I got to use during a few summer jobs.
Your kindness taught me three things: honesty and hard work are rewarding—both spiritually and materially—and that it’s fun to surprise and delight and help those whom you can. It was no surprise to me years later to learn that JASC was acquired by Corel. Your life’s hard work, honesty, and kindness rewarded you, and I couldn’t have been happier for you.
Thank you for teaching me some valuable lessons and your gift that summer. I’m grateful.
Although Jesse and I never officially shipped a game to market, I dug up one of them for old time’s sake and to finally follow through on my end of the deal. Here’s a video of Xylon.
P.S. For folks interested in the Paint Shop Pro story, read this great Motherboard article.