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software in basements and garages two decades ago have been
replaced by entrepreneurs like Wu.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
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. …