Rest in peace, Steve Bjork

Glenside found out the details

In Memoriam: Steve Bjork, Pioneer and trailblazer of Personal Computing and the Tandy Color Computer

Legendary Color Computer game programmer, Steve Bjork, is no longer with us.

I have much to say about Steve. I considered him good friend, and alwauys enjoyed meeting up with him when I would visit Southern California. I had not been in touch since the Covid-era, and I wish I had. This news comes as quite a shock.

I hope to share some fun stories about hanging out with Steve. Though many know him from his video games on TRS-80, the Color Computer, Gameboy, Genesis, Super Nintendo, and I think even something on Playstation, I knew him as my Disneyland/theme park friend.

As a local, Steve grew up around Disneyland, and even worked there in the 1970s as a Jungle Cruise skipper.

I spent many days hanging out with him at Disneyland, and early on he would tell me, “there’s more to see in California than Disneyland.” He would become my tour guide during these trips — taking me to Magic Mountain (where he worked in the 1970s), Knott’s Berry Farms, and places like Fry’s Electronics and In and Out Burger. Many of the things I love about visiting California are directly traced back to Steve suggestions.

My finances prevented me for visiting for many years, but I did meet up with him again in 2017. Then he introduced us to Rock and Brews – a restaurant connected to KISS members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

There was always a new experience I would never have discovered on my own as an ignorant tourist ;-)

There are fun trivia things about Steve… He was an extra in The Goonies (if I have the movie correct), as a reporter. He was an extra in the movie Rollercoaster, I believe loading folks on a coaster. He has an Internet Movie Database entry through his work on One On One (basketball) and The Mask (Super Nintendo). He was a magician at some point — a tidbit that came up during an early theme park visit, complete with him presenting a “Hot Rod” trick he had with him (a trick I knew well from my younger days as an amateur magician).

There are many tales about his time in the software industry – such as a story about folks working on the TRON movie visiting computer places to ask questions. I think he worked for Datasoft at the time, which was “just down the road” from the Disney Studios.

If you look at the startup screen for The Rocketeer on Super Nintendo, I believe I heard Steve was the one wearing the suit for the photo (1992). Apparently props and such were loaned out so they could be used for reference for the game.

Steve also had a haunted house effects company — creating custom hardware and software to do things like make animated skulls talk to audio. An article about one of his products (“Wee Little Talker”) was featured in Nuts and Volts magazine (September 2017). You can see a photo of a circuit board with “Copyright 2017 Steve Bjork” on it. The article was co-written by his haunt partner, Steve Koci, who also passed away in recent years. Their business, Haunt Hackers, last updated in 2021 with a “closed due to Covid” message on the now-defunct website.

And people knew him. Once I was at Disneyland with him for some special opening event. A Disneyland manager type walked up to him and said “Steve Bjork, you’re my hero!” This person had known him through computer clubs back in the 80s. And that wasn’t the only time I saw something like that happen.

So while he popped up in CoCo discussions frequently (and got re-engaged in later years via the CoCoTalk YouTube show), it was also no surprise to see him pop up in an electronics publication or a haunted house message forum. I even remember reading a Disneyland fan site report about some event out there, and Steve Bjork was there presenting some kind of plaque to someone involved with a restaurant.

He did so much, and was still designing and programming new things right up to his final years.

He will be greatly missed.

I am sad.

8 thoughts on “Rest in peace, Steve Bjork

    1. Allen Huffman Post author

      He was one of the only developers that made use of the Speech Sound cartridge. I remember learning about that from Pitfall 2 (I think) and then going back and finding Ghana Bwana and other games of his supported it. Probably from being on the inner circle with RadiO Shack and having early access, I suppose.

  1. Eric Canales

    My first game from Steve was actually The Rocketeer, Not a renowned game at all, but I loved the first stage with the flying race and still think that section of the game is quite fun and novel. I remember him talking about this race sequence and how he couldn’t make it in true 3d due to the limitations of the system and the time he had, but he did his best to simulate a 3 dimensional race, and that shows! I wonder if that discussion is saved anywhere or if that was one of the many off the cuff discussions at CoCoFEST! But you could fly the game up, down, left and right, slow down or speed up, and staying tight around the corners is how you would win.

    1. Allen Huffman Post author

      What’s interesting is that, today, we can verify most of this. We can get the ROM and play it in an emulator. But back then, he would only say he was working on a “popular handheld gaming system.” That turned out to be Game Boy. He had some VR project but never gave details. That was Iron Hammer on Sega VR. (I’d still love to find that ROM and see if he has a name credit; I don’t know if Sega allowed that.) It would be interesting to find coworkers of his from the gaming companies and see what stories they could share on working on these projects.

  2. James Brian Gerrie

    I was playing some Zaxxon just last night and my Software Engineer son Charlie who was home for Christmas commented (as he played Metal Gear Solid next to me) that the game looked impressive. We had a little conversation about Steve and his monumental contributions to Coco gaming and the 8-bit revolution in general. I think some of his Coco games even jumped the “system barrier” and got redone for the Japanese NEC PC-6001! He was a titan.

    1. Allen Huffman Post author

      It would be interesting to see a timeline of the multi-platform games (Canyon Climber, Megabug/Dung Beetle come to mind) and see when they existed for which platform. I wonder if CoCo came first for any of those.

  3. Jason Pittman

    This is a great memorial. I never knew Steve other than through the splash screens of some great games, but it was nice to read these “inside stories” on the man. Thanks for taking the time to post this. Losing someone that is both one of the best original developers and a great guy is obviously a huge loss for the CoCo world.


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