Silas Warner


The creator of 'Castle Wolfenstein' for the Apple II along with several original titles including 'The Voice', one of the first digital sound titles which ran on the Apple II.


Silas Warner recently died

I got e−mail forwarded from Tommy Tallarico

A great legend Silas Warner has passed on.


For those of us who knew and worked with Silas he was one of the most unique, brilliant and memorable characters you could ever meet. There are so many amazing Silas rumors and stories that I have heard and shared with people over the years. Some of which I saw with my own two eyes.

Programming in his underwear... TRUE!

Ramming his car into the Virgin building... TRUE!

...and many others that can only be appreciated and told in person.

He was misunderstood by some but he had an amazing heart to match his amazing mind and I was lucky enough to spend many days at a time with him implementing audio and talking about the "good old days" of video gaming.

For those of us who knew him he will be sadly missed.

Lets all raise our glasses at GDC this week and toast a true legend!!

If anyone has contact info for his wife Kari Ann Owen please pass it along to me. thanks,

Tommy Tallarico

Silas was quite a character. 6ft 7inches and somewhere between 300 and 400lbs.  I was lucky enough to work with him at M.U.S.E. where he did his most famous works, Robot War, Castle Wolfenstein, The Voice (as far as I know the first home digital sound program), and several other lesser known low−res games for the Apple ][ that I've since lost track of. A bug eating game, a fire fighting game.

I was introduced to him by our producer, Marty, and he pointed to a cake tupperware container on Silas's file cabinet that had something gross inside. Marty said they didn't know what it was and no one was brave enough to find out. It remained their during my entire employment at M.U.S.E.

Silas and I worked together on Leaps & Bounds for the Atari 800 and Commodore 64.  I was in charge of the Atari 800 version and Silas the C64 version but they shared code.  There were a few animations that only the C64 could do because it had 8 3 color hardware sprites available where as the Atari only had 4 1 color sprites and so I redid those ones specifically for the Atari.  As my art was better I ended up redoing several of the common ones as well.  That was back in the day when us programmers did it all.  All the program AND all the art AND all the sounds. Leaps and Bounds was written 100% in assembly and used an interesting system Silas had designed where code for drawing was inserted directly inline in the assembly like this

     lda    #100
    sta    myvar
    jsr    drawgraphics
    db    g_color,1
    db    g_line,10,10,20,10
    db    g_color,2
    db    g_box,10,20,20,30
    db    g_circle,15,15,5
    db    g_end
    lda    myvar

No setup required, the function drawgraphics would check on the stack to find out where it had been called from, lookup the data following it, walk the data and update the return address on the stack so when the function returned it would continue after the end of the data. This was useful for more than just graphics because it basically allowed you to make more C like function calls to functions that took multiple arguments.  Now a days if you were using assembly on a nice processor you'd probably just load all your parameters into registers but back then, a 6502 only had 3 8bit registers.

I wish I could find a copy of both version of Leaps & Bounds as I have neither anymore.

M.U.S.E. laid off half the company as soon as Leaps & Bounds was finished.  A few months later they were closed.

We worked together again at Microprose although we were generally not on the same teams.  I'm guessing it was hard for Silas to go from kind of a co−founder of M.U.S.E. to just another employee at Microprose although I never asked him about that.

As for stories I remember a few. Some are second hand, some I experienced

Silas's wife, Kari Ann Owen wrote me, forwarded Silas's obituary and said I could post it here so here it is.

Dr. Kari Ann Owen, Ph.D.


My Husband’s Obituary:

My beloved husband, Silas Sayers Warner, passed away on Thursday, February 26, 2004. Silas was 54 years old and suffered from kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis and hypertension. He was six foot nine and two hundred ninety four pounds.

Silas led the bravest and fullest life possible.

He was born in Chicago and at age seven barely escaped a violent death at the hands of his father, Forrest Warner, who threw his young son against a wall. A short time later, when Silas’ beloved mother Ann was driving with her son on a Chicago freeway, she pulled over to find the brake linings had been cut.

Forrest Warner never served a day in jail for attempted murder or any other charge, possibly because he was a very successful industrialist. He did not willingly share one fraction of his wealth with his wife or son during the remainder of their lifetimes.

When Ann Warner divorced her husband, Silas and his mom moved to Ann’s true home of Bloomington, Indiana, where Ann’s sister, a Indiana University administrator, found them housing. Ann began teaching studies, obtained her degree and certificate and became a master teacher, particularly of rural schoolchildren in the counties surrounding Bloomington. The movie “Kristy”, starring Kellie Martin, suggests this part of Ann’s life.

Silas grew up responsible, with a mother who fostered his independence, and although he had to spend many hours alone after school waiting for his mom to come home, he never attracted or pursued criminal behavior, but devoted himself to scientific learning and also historical reading. He began working at age twelve and did not quit until the computer industry in California collapsed and fired him in 2002, when Silas was fifty three.

Silas had said he could have been a mama’s boy, hiding from his pain and the bullies who sometimes taunted him about his weight, but his mother had the courage to allow Silas to attend a Nevada agricultural college, Deep Springs, for a year when Silas was fifteen. Silas loved that college. And Silas himself took care of the bullies: one unfortunate sherriff’s son in Indiana found himself unconscious on the school floor after Silas had had enough.

Silas, by that time, had attained much of his full height and weight, and was six foot nine and a school football tackle. Yet, he never had much confidence in his appearance or appeal to women. Until we met in the spring of 1995, he never believed he would marry, and for many years had been devoting his energies to his incredible career in the software industry, his public transit advocacy and the founding of an inclusive Lutheran fellowship in Maryland, where he lived and worked for many years.

The death of a Maryland software company brought him first to southern California and then to the San FranciscoBay Area, where we met. His integrity and our deep commonality were so revelatory that we knew at first meeting we belonged together. It did not take long for Silas to propose, and our ten month engagement was devoted to laying the psychological and spiritual foundations of our marriage. We had some private counseling sessions and attended a community marriage preparation course, which opened extraordinary (and sometimes extraordinary difficult) avenues of communication about the most painful challenges we were facing as a couple and as individuals.

When two very young adults enter into a marriage in the fullest bloom of both health and employment potential and opportunities, that creates an atmosphere of optimism. Our love created miracles of happiness amidst our very adult problems of Silas’ physical health and especially the symptom of incontinence, the result of a minor stroke some years before. as well as developing kidney failure. My own health problems at the time of our engagement and marriage included morbid obesity, which was changed in 2000 through gastric bypass surgery; and post traumatic stress because of child and adult sexual and emotional abuse and the violent deaths of many friends.

We struggled mightily with all our problems: those we defeated, those we mitigated and those we just had to accept. Silas swam and walked with me, aiding his diabetes management, and I continued my physical activities in dance and horseback riding and my writing career. Silas became great friends with my friends, who universally adored and accepted him, as his beloved mother accepted me, as Silas accepted me as I did him... at whatever weight, with whatever challenges and with our very different computers. (I have a Macintosh; he was a PC person, and termed our family “interfaith” because of that).

He had an amazing sense of humor.

New worlds opened to us both through our marriage. Silas came to see me perform as a dancer on our third date. Our first date was on a Friday at a San Francisco restaurant; the second on Saturday at an East Bay (near Berkeley) off leash park for dogs, when Silas bought my service dog $28 worth of flea control products, demonstrating he was already in love with me; and our third date was Sunday, when Silas came to see me perform in a modern dance piece,”Brain in a Box”, in an outdoor park.

He fully identified, I guess, with the piece, because it was about the spirit of a computer trapped inside its hardware. I wore a box on my head and danced on a hill. Silas did not take a picture at my request, but we both ended up wishing he had.

Sil as had always doubted his social abilities, and within five minutes of meeting a group of dancers, he was participating happily in the discussion and having a wonderful time. Everyone loved him, because he was kind and interested in their work.

The world Silas opened to me involved acceptance and love, both giving and receiving. Acceptance in the fullness of our love involved a deep intellectual understanding as well as a strong psychological grasp of each other’s worlds, and this is the most amazing love of all. I had loved and been loved by other men briefly, but there was not enough in common to make these relationships last. Silas and I shared much of the same mental world, although we worked in very different areas. His vast historical knowledge, coupled with deep empathy, enabled him to grasp the subjects of my plays and other writings, and I struggled to absorb what I could of his immense scientific and technical knowledge, particularly concerning computer programs and web site design and development. The design and some of the content of my web site is his creation, and we did all of it together.

And he participated in my plays, working the sound board, contributing his magnificent voice to performances. Silas read the role of Richard Nixon in my play “Moneda” about Salvador Allende, basing his interpretation on the memory of his father, whom I hope is in hell along with Richard Nixon, Allende’s probable murderer−at−a−distance along with Henry Kissinger, subject of the play. When I was asked to speak at a Cleveland, Ohio conference on AIDS and the arts about another play I had written and produced, Silas financed the trip for both of us outside the $100 honorarium the arts organization could provide. And when I won a national award for another play at the Moondance International Film and Stageplay Festival in Boulder, CO in January 2001, he took us there.

We swam. We took our service dog, Mischa. We had a wonderful time.

And when the bus driver at San Francisco International Airport tried throwing Mischa and me off the bus, Silas explained the Americans with Disabilities Act, later helping to obtain a small out of court settlement for violation of mine and the dog’s rights.

Silas hated confrontations. I could erupt volcanically, especially when our rights as handicapped people were violated, either about the service dog or anything else. No one ever fought harder for the rights of a disabled spouse than we did, whether the opponent was a sadistic security guard who used his ignorance of the Americans with Disabilities Act as a weapon of personal power or a medical insurance bureaucracy.

And when I was overweight, Silas would support me in defending myself from insults, although with a sense of humor: when I attended traffic school, the would−be “comic” teaching the class said some foolish things about fat, pudgy as he was. Silas’ dryly gentle response to my report of the confrontation, which was educational but not violent, was, “Did anyone get hurt”? The class applauded my response to the teacher’s unmeant cruelty and insensitivity, and I even passed the course and got my ticket removed. Of course, my other service dog, Boo Boo Bear, may have had something to do with it: Boo Boo weighs 150 pounds, and the traffic school instructor had a very little dog with him.

And Silas and I continued to accept challenges with some humor, and his love made the pain of others’ cruelty hurt a little less, since I had what so many prettier and wealthier people lack: a spiritual, physical and emotional home with love shared, at its deepest and most comprehensive.

It was our love that sustained us when we had no home.

After my husband was fired in March 2002 during the collapse of Silicon Valley, he never found employment again, except one two hundred dollar web consulting job and a two thousand dollar consulting payment concerning the cinematic adaptation of his video game “Castle Wolfenstein”. His health continued to deteriorate, although he fought harder than any soldier I have ever met or heard of. My brilliant husband, who helped develop the video games industry and who had worked since age twelve, who had put himself through Indiana University helping run the school’s computer systems, who had never been unemployed for more than twelve weeks, never really worked again. I had been considered permanently disabled since 1995, but Silas had worked full time up to March 2002 an astonishing four years (I think) after he went on kidney dialysis.

This marvelous giant, this creative genius, this lover and husband and immensely just and honest friend, supported his family (wife, service dogs, two cats and a therapy horse) on disability and unemployment. When we decided to leave the Bay Area for a less expensive part of California where I had a mentor in therapeutic horseback riding, Silas went to find housing while I remained to earn our moving expenses, doing animal care. The only housing Silas found was at a Baptist mission; we then rented housing in the home of a woman who we thought was sincere in her sobriety, though new to it, and she got drunk and abusive and we had to flee. Those three weeks of living in three motels, with a five day hospitalization for Silas after he fell in the first motel, actually a rented cabin, were the farthest emotional and physical distance from the home we owned for three years in the Bay Area and we survived, still sober and still married in our completest sense.

The last year and a half of our married life involved more disruption after we were relocated to the Chico, CA area, due to a landlord whose niece divorced and needed housing... four months after Silas and I thought we had moved to our dream rental in Paradise, CA, a beautiful town up a hill from Chico. I was performing at Stanford University when Silas phoned me on April 20, 2003. We moved to a small apartment near California State University in Chico where Silas finally lost his battle with kidney disease.

I have lost my husband, my love, the greatest love of mind and heart and body, and I will adore him and love him forever.

The following excerpt from a letter to my career counselor is part of my current response to my husband’s death:

“I am... determined to continue the vocational goals we have identified and which Silas supported with every fibre of his being.... finishing the certification to teach therapeutic riding, achieving the personal training certification and becoming self supporting in the field of adaptive physical fitness.... Please know how grateful I am for your extreme kindness and personal consideration at this terrible time. I loved Silas with all my heart and soul. If he could, he would thank you once again for your concern for us both. I will not let him down.”

Here's a presentation Silas Warner made in 1992.

Virgin Interactive Entertainment