Chapter 20. Wizard vs. Wizards

In December of 1982, Tom Tatum, lanky, dark-haired, mustached, and as cool as his lazy Southern drawl implied, stood at the ballroom podium of the Las Vegas Sands. Behind him, sitting uncomfortably on a row of chairs, were ten hackers. Tom Tatum, former lawyer, lobbyist, and Carter campaign aide, now a leading purveyor of video “docusports” programming, thought he had serendipitously latched on to a jackpot bigger than that of any slot machine in the casino only yards away from where he stood.

“This is the event where Hollywood meets the Computer Age,” said Tom Tatum to the crowd of reporters and computer tradespeople in town for the Comdex show. “The ultra-contest of the eighties.”

Tom Tatum’s creation was called Wizard vs. Wizards. It was to be a television contest where game designers play each other’s games for a set of prizes. Tatum had gathered programmers from companies like On-Line and Sirius because he sensed the arrival of a new kind of hero, one who fought with brains instead of muscle, one who represented America’s bold willingness to stay ahead of the rest of the world in the technological battle of supremacy: the hacker.

Unlike Tom Tatum’s previous sports productions, which included the 1981 Maui Windsurfing Grand Prix and the Telluride Aerobatics Invitational, this Wizard vs. Wizards had the potential to draw a new audience to the docusports genre. “Only a small percentage of the population will own a Super Cross bike,” he later explained. ...

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