Today's High-Tech Entrepreneurs Make Multimedia Software

Article excerpt

NEW YORK _ It's only a few blocks from Yee-Ping Wu's apartment to an airy loft where the company that she and her husband own is finishing The Magic School Bus computer program.

But to her, the distance is as far as Steve Jobs' old garage was from Apple Computer Inc.'s headquarters or Bill Gates' college computer lab was from Microsoft Corp.'s wooded campus.

"When we got all the computers connected here, it really felt like what it must have been like the first time the telephone was connected," Wu said of the new headquarters for Music Pen Inc. that overlooks Union Square in New York's Flatiron district.

Visionary engineers who produced personal computers or software in basements and garages two decades ago have been replaced by entrepreneurs like Wu.

They are artists and scholars, even retirees, people with a lot of imagination who know a little about personal computers. They are in the exploding business of multimedia software, programs usually on compact discs known as CD-ROMs that mix animation, sound and video with text.

And they are everywhere.

In Lake Ariel, Pa., retired airline pilot Jim Moore used his home as collateral to help a niece launch a CD-ROM business called Westwind Media. She and a few friends have created several storybook discs that are being distributed by Compton's New Media, the computer arm of the encyclopedia publisher. Moore and his wife Jane oversee the business.

In Arlington, Va., a five-person company called LunaCorp sells instructive CD-ROMs about NASA's flights to the moon and the geography of Earth. They hope to raise funds for private space exploration and research.

In the Bronx, 26-year-old Vatche Kalaidjian leads 12 people who created Millenium Auction, a futuristic game in which players trade valuable art and collectibles such as Bill Clinton's saxophone.

In Mesquite, Texas, the five partners of Id Software Inc. will soon roll out Doom II, a game first distributed on the Internet that is popular for its unabashed violence.

And in Spokane, Wash., brothers Rand and Robyn Miller created Myst, an ethereal exploration story that is the best-selling CD-ROM program with more than 400,000 copies sold.

"We're in a garage here, but we've got the potential to compete with some pretty heavy hitters," said Rand Miller.

That competition is growing as the software tools for creating multimedia programs get simpler and more people give it a try.

"So long as you have access to creative talent of some kind and also the technical teams, you can be more or less anywhere," said Kalaidjian, president of Eidolon Inc. …