Meet the Whiz Kid Who Works for Apple Computer Teen Designs Software - from Interactive Music to Video Games

By Eric Moskowitz, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 1995 | Go to article overview

Meet the Whiz Kid Who Works for Apple Computer Teen Designs Software - from Interactive Music to Video Games


Eric Moskowitz, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Tom Williams looks and sounds like any other teenager. He has his hair parted down the middle, wears loose-fitting clothes, and punctuates his sentences with phrases like "totally killer" and "stoked."

But instead of trading barbs with his high school buddies, Tom spends his days working in Apple Computer's interactive music group. "I was Mr. Student Council in the eighth grade," says the Victoria, British Columbia, native. "But I was sick of dealing with the principal and all those bureaucrats, so I went to work for Apple."

Tom not only works for Apple, he lives there. When he dropped out of school last November, he moved to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. His age makes him a one-of-a-kind employee there.

"We call him 'The Kid,"' says Duncan Kennedy, Tom's boss and the manager of Apple's interactive music division, which recently sponsored the New York Music Festival. "He is the kind of guy who buys this type of music, so he becomes a valuable member of our team at these events," says Mr. Kennedy, alluding to the wide range of alternative music at the festival.

Even though he currently makes "a pretty nice salary for a 16-year-old," Tom grew up like any other kid. It was not until he was 11 that he operated his first computer. One year later, he was starting up his own software company.

"I just sat myself in front of my computer with books and learned how to program my own games," says Tom, who was repeatedly called over by older colleagues to help solve one cyber-glitch after another at the interactive festival, where he helped design Apple's site on the World Wide Web, the graphic part of the Internet.

Tom began Desert Island software in 1991 so he and his friends could sell their computer game called Legal Avenue, a cross between the Canadian television show "Street Legal" and "L.A. Law." "My friends and I sold the game in malls for $5 - we were really psyched to make $100."

Making $100 is one thing. But joining the ranks of the high-tech computer industry is another.

Under Canadian law, Tom cannot be financially responsible for a company until he is 18, so his mother presides over his company.

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