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Matthew Smith Interview

Description:

This interview was featured on a British television program called 'Thumb Candy' which documented the history of computer games. It was produced by Talkback television and broadcast via Channel Four. The program was presented by Iain Lee. The interview with Matthew Smith is also conducted by Iain Lee. In the interview Matthew talks about Manic Miner and what he has been doing since.

The transcription and audio digitizing of this interview was performed by Hercules. The interview you may download by clicking the link below:

Download times for 14, 28.8, 33.6 and 56kbs modems:

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14.4 40 minutes, 11 secs
28.8 16 minutes
33.6 14 minutes, 30 seconds
56kbs 8 minutes

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Hover your mouse pointer over the download link below, click right mouse button and select 'Save As' or 'Save Link As...

I have included eight digitized pictures which were taken from the documentary which I have included at the end of the text transcription of the interview

I have provided the interview for download. Alternatively, I also have provided a text transcript (See below):-

With regard to the text transcription of the interview, I have abbreviated the initials of the individuals during the interview:

SP: Is 'Steven Poole' (Author of 'Trigger Happy').
IL: Is 'Iain Lee' (The interviewer).
MS: Is 'Matthew Smith' (The interviewee and programer behind Manic Miner & Jet Set Willy).

My own comments with regard to the interview with Matthew are surrounded in square brackets to describe what is going on during the interview to avoid any confusement. Now onto the interview...

Matthew Smith interview with Iain Lee.

Matthew Smith photographed in 2001SP: "The Spectrum was massive because it was the first time there was a really relatively powerful consumer computer that you could buy games for and you could buy magazines and type games in from the magazines. Err, They never worked but it was fun for a while and it encouraged alot of people to start programming games and you didn't need a large budget, you could do it in your bedroom all yourself over a couple of months and some people made alot of money out of it".

[Manic Miner music plays with a brief introduction by Iain Lee regarding Manic Miner:]

IL: "Manic Miner was Britain's first software blockbuster. You played Miner Willy, who had to jump his way through 20 screens of platforms collecting treasure, all to a continuous soundtrack which was previously of thought impossible to do on the Sinclair machine. It also had a very British sense of humour when you died a pythoness foot descended to crush the hapless miner. As if that weren't daunting enough, their were also mutant jellyfish and flying lavortories to contend with".

[Some past footage of Matthew's appearance on UK's Granada television's Bits and Pieces dating back to 1983 is then featured. Matthew is seen wearing a multi-coloured tank top and still has his lank hair]. The interviewer of Bits and Pieces introduces Matthew: "Here is Matthew Smith". He then proceeds to ask Matthew: "Matthew, how on earth do you come to write a program like Manic Miner ?".

MS: "I do shut myself away for a while to actually get the program written".

[The documentary then proceeds to give some commentary (see below) courtesy of SP]:

SP: "Matthew Smith became very wealthy very quickly with the success of Manic Miner and it's sequel, 'Jet Set Willy', but then he disappeared. He stopped writing games and he vanished into video gaming myth. Errr, for the past few years, there's been a website up called 'Where is Matthew Smith?' and people have been calling in sightings. According to some rumours, he was planting tulips in Amsterdam, other people claim to have heard him call in on radio talk shows or seeing him in the local supermarket".

[The documentary then jumps back to the television footage of Granada television's Bits and Pieces dating back to 1983].

Matthew tells the interviewer on the Bits and Pieces television program: "I think it's going to get to the stage where one person can't write a whole game".

[The documentary then jumps back to the present - 2000. Matthew is facing the camera with Manic Miner in the background. This is Matthew's second television appearance. Prior to this he appeared 17 years earlier in a television program called 'Bits and Pieces' which was broadcast on Granada Television in 1983. He is now 35 years old].

MS: "I was seventeen when I wrote Manic Miner. From start to finish, errr, I was in Italy drawing pictures of some levels with some water running down and I came back and in eight weeks we were duplicataing cassettes".

MS: "I had errm, a Tandy TRS 80 - it crashed everytime somebody put the kettle on so I had to work at night". [The documentary then shows a photograph of Matthew with him sitting at his Tandy TRS 80 with his long hair].

MS: "My favourite monster in Manic Miner, errm I got the most compliments on the telephones". [Matthew proceeds to do a strange impersonation of a ringing telephone"].

[The documentary then displays Miner 2049er in the foreground - Matthew's main inspiration for writing Manic Miner.]

MS: "Their was a game on Atari, written by an American called Bill Hoag. He was very much an inspiration. The game he wrote was Miner 2049er, which was a little man jumping around on platforms collecting things and avoiding the baddies. [Matthew then chuckles to himself]. The cameraman then says "Sounds like a winner, I like it". [Matthew then pokes out his tongue and gives the thumbs up in a wacky kind of way."]

[The documentary then proceeds to film the outside of Matthews semi-detached house, which has a mountain bike parked up outside against the wall. The camera then diverts to Matt's bedroom which is adorned with rock band posters on his wall including Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd. Sitting on Matthews desk is a Sinclair 48k Spectrum with a rather poorly tuned colour television and an old looking cassette deck].

IL: "All right Matt, we're here, we got the Spectrum. Right, well let's load up Manic Miner the game that you obviously wrote. The Spectrum keys confuse me, cause it's got the words on their and it says 'LOAD' and it's 'Symbol Shift'".

[Iain Lee the interviewer then types LOAD "" on Matthew's Sinclair 48k Spectrum rubber keyboard to load Manic Miner from cassette].

[Iain Lee is then seen playing Manic Miner while Matthew rattles on about Manic Miner, and Jet Set Willy to the continuous beepy soundtrack of Matthew's Sinclair 48k Spectrum's internal speaker] which he still has today.

MS: "I made the first screen fairly hard just so a stranger to it could enjoy alot of frustration without having to get very good at it".

IL: "Ah! a simple mistake like that is enough to end it all!". [Iain losses his last life whilst playing Manic Miner].

IL: "Where did the boot come from that kills you at the end or erm, losses your chance"? [refering to the end of game sequence in Manic Miner].

MS: "Errrm, out of the top of the screen!" [Matthew says in a sarcastic manner].

IL: "Hahahaha! Well that's no bloddy use!"

IL: "Manic Miner - this is the first game. Jet Set Willy is sort of the sequel isn't it, it's the same character and stuff. How long did that take to..."

MS: "Ahhh, it was a slog getting Jet Set Willy finished".

IL: "We're they really presuring you to come up with the next big hit, we're you getting people phoning up saying "Come on, Matt you gotta do this".

MS: "Yeah, yeah the assumption was that once you do one in a certain time, you can keep doing it in the same time".

[Iain Lee gives some commentary as to what question he is about to ask Matthew next]: 'Every Spectrum owner eagerly awaited the final release of the trilogy the now legendary 'Miner Willy Meets The Taxman'. [The interview then continues with Matthew].

IL: "Wasn't there supposed to be a third one, 'Jet Set Willy Meets The Taxman' or something?"

MS: "Ahh, yeah".

IL: "Well what happened to that is that... ?"

MS: "Ahh, Taxman was well at the back of the cue there".

IL: "Oh really!" [Iain smiles].

IL: "Without being rude, how much did you make from Manic Miner?"

MS: "I did have a substantial sum but I expected a whole lot more, so I spent what I had rather foolishly". [Matthew briefly chuckles to himself].

IL: "You are the stuff of legends, you are a legend their's no doubt about it in this sort of world you are. Can I run past some rumours that are on the net about you and you can just say if it's true or false".

IL: "Err, you lived in Holland in commune".

MS: "This is, yeah".

IL: "When did that happen?"

MS: "That was a great time. I went their in '95".

IL: "Okay, you worked as a fish seller".

MS: "Ahhh, mmmmmm, No, I don't think I ever selled fish. I tried to get a job in a fish gutting factory, errr, but I applied at the wrong time of year".

IL: "Hahaha".

IL: "What does it feel like since their are alot of people interested in what your doing now, 20 years after you wrote this". [IL: is refering to Manic Miner].

MS: "Well, everything comes around and goes around. Err, like five years after I did it I was a wash out and err, ten years after I did it I was history but coming up to twenty years now and I am a legend!" [MS: raises his eyebrows with an insane grin on his face].

IL: Hahahaha

[The interview ends with a piece of footage from Manic Miner with the Pythoness foot squashing Miner Willy, and the interview comes to an end].

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