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Gary Shannon and Altair 680

Shannon with a MITS Altair 680 at Dick Heiser's The Computer Store.

Gary Joseph Shannon (born August 28, 1945) is a retired software engineer and an early employee of Apple Computer.[1]

Early life and education[]

Shannon graduated from high school in 1963 and learned computer programming from a neighbor who worked for IBM. In the 1970s, he worked for California State University, Northridge where he also took courses towards a masters degree in computer science. He dropped out of the program, but discovered the Apple II computer.[2]


In 1976, Shannon began working for Dick Heiser at The Computer Store, believed to be the world's first dedicated computer retailer.[3][4] Working as a specialist on the MITS Altair series, he developed a dialect of Tiny BASIC called VTL-2 (a "Very Tiny Language") that fit on 3 ROM chips of only 256 bytes each.[5][6]


Nightmare Number -6 - (1978) - Apple II - WIN! HD

Shannon subsequently worked for early Apple II retailer Rainbow Computing in Northridge, California, where he met Ken Williams, co-founder of Sierra On-Line, and David Gordon, founder of Programma International. Shannon wrote Apple II games that were published by Programma and Softape. One of his text-based game programs, Nightmare #6, was distributed by Apple Computer in 1978.[2]

Apple Computer[]

Around January 1978, Shannon joined Apple Computer as employee #38, where he provided a 6502 assembler to the Apple II software development team. The assembler was extended to accommodate Steve Wozniak's "Sweet 16" virtual machine for 16-bit integer support. However, his colleagues later suspected that he was moonlighting to help his sister Kathe Spracklen port Sargon II, which was released for the Apple II in 1979.[7][8] He had been anecdotally misidentified as employee #17, though that position was reportedly held by Apple's first accountant Gary Martin.[9]

After Apple[]

In 1979, Shannon began contract work developing sound boards for Gremlin Industries in San Diego, California. There he worked with Barbara Michalec to create the shooter game Astro Blaster, which was released by Sega in 1981.[2] He was later part of the programming team on Field & Stream: Trophy Bass 3D and Trophy Bass 4 for Dynamix, a subsidiary of Sierra On-Line.[10]


  • Advanced Dragon Maze (1978)
  • Camera Obscura (1979)
  • Dragon Maze (1977)
  • Forte (1979)
  • Jupiter Express (1978)
  • Nightmare #9 (1978)
  • Sargon (1979)
  • Super Othello (1979)[11]


  1. Is a Collaborative Conlang Even Possible? by Gary J. Shannon, Fiat Lingua. 2012-09-01.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Programma International - Coin-Op Breeding Ground: Gary Shannon by Keith Smith, The Golden Age Arcade Historian, Blogger. 2014-09-16.
  3. Entering the Store Age by Stephanie Rick, Digital Deli. 1984. Mirrored at AtariArchives.
  4. World's First Computer Store: Early Tech Retail by Ernie Smith, Tedium. 2021-12-03.
  5. VTL-2 for the Altair 8800 by Gary Shannon & Frank McCoy. 1976, 1977.
  6. VTL-2 for the Altair 680 by Gary Shannon & Frank McCoy. 1976, 1977.
  7. Each Apple 30 poster composed of every employee name, digitally (U: Removed) by Zac Hall, 9to5Mac. 2014-02-25.
  8. 4.3 System Software: Gary Shannon by Charles Mauro, Apple II Enthusiasts, Facebook. 2021-04-13.
  9. Oral History of Kathleen and Dan Spracklen by Gardner Hendrie, Computer History Museum. 2005-03-02.
  10. Gary J. Shannon: Credits by genre, MobyGames. Accessed 2022-02-12.
  11. Softape, Brutal Deluxe Software. Accessed 2021-03-13.

See also[]

External links[]