I was born in ‘89 (two weeks away from the end of the 80s); I have good memories from the early 90s. Permanent waves, tracksuit and cherry blouse (together, yes), and a few other horrific trend combinations. I remember it clearly. One afternoon, I was about five years old, probably watching Sesame Street my father got after work. “I’ve got a surprise,” he said, pulling a floppy disc out of his briefcase.
That geometrical thick computer made funny sounds when you turned it on. Not as funny as the modem when connected to the internet.
“Is that a new game?” I asked in anticipation.
My father ran the program and installed one of the coolest features released to Windows 3.x.
If you had access to a computer in the early ’90s, you have certainly seen that little man (if you haven’t, let me tell you). Longbeard, white shorts, and hat lost on a small island with a coconut tree and occasional adventures. That’s right. What I want to bring back is that old screensaver with that clumsy guy: Johnny Castaway.
“It’s the story of a man wanting to escape, ending up the victim of his misfortune.”
I started playing videogames from an early age, starting with Adventures in Math, but I also spent hours observing that screensaver. Every time my parents left the computer unattended, there I was, waiting for another development of Johnny’s story. He would go fishing, look around with his binoculars, do silly things in his loneliness, wait for rescue, or do the rain dance. This screensaver did more than protecting the screen; it was just like watching cartoons. Mute, but still witty. In pieces like this, we can see how good stories engage us with simple and well-connected ideas. It’s the story of a man wanting to escape, ending up the victim of his misfortune. That’s the premise for a lot of other known plots.
Johnny is so focused on his binoculars that he doesn’t realize a boat is right next to him. That’s life right now. Everybody looking through a device as the world keeps spinning. That’s why his story will never get old.
Johnny Castaway was released in 1992/93 for Windows 3.x by Sierra On-Line, who also launched famous games such as The Incredible Machine or King’s Quest. There are recent versions of this screensaver; I installed it on my laptop in 2008. However, it only works in 32-bit systems.
Thanks to Youtube, you can watch it here. How about you? How do you remember Johnny Castaway?