Introducing Davis Newhart.

Over the years I’ve created numerous characters and mentally revisit them so many times that I’m able to create a fairly vivid picture of them through short articles that summarize their exploits. I’ll be sharing some of these articles here, starting with Davis Newhart, a computer programmer based in San Francisco. Keep in mind he’s only a fictitious character.

Davis Newhart is a San Francisco-based programmer who made a name for himself with his catalog of shareware utilities and games. The classic Asteroid Terror comes to mind, and it should, considering it was one of his best-selling titles. They continued selling especially well during the 1990’s but as the 2000’s rolled in, Davis found his bank accounts running dry. One contributing factor was the looming presence of Windows and Newhart’s programs were written for MS-DOS. Normally a programmer during this era would take the time to learn how to program Windows applications but Newhart took a different path altogether. And his accomplishments thus far have put his business back on the map, but for all the wrong reasons.

While looking for inspiration for future programs, Newhart came across GRC, that web site run by PC industry gadfly Steve Gibson. Newhart marvelled at his software created in assembly language and was impressed with how small they were. So Newhart decided to learn assembly language for himself but had not the luck or the patience needed to hone his craft. So Newhart gave up and was more desperate than ever.

Then one night, Newhart locked himself in his apartment with his computer and feverishly worked on some unknown project. He completely isolated himself from the world and lost all human contact, but some months later he re-emerged with not only a new catalog of programs, but a new catalog of programs written in a programming language he claims to have developed.

HTX Language, the 8th wonder of the computing world!

HTX Language, as Newhart claimed, allowed him to write programs directly in the machine’s language, in fact, he claimed to assemble the actual executable file entirely from scratch. He created some of the smallest programs ever released, including a clock program that displays the time in 24 bytes and a notepad clone that needed only 82 bytes to run. Wow! People were so impressed with his clock program that they lined up by the thousands outside Newhart’s apartment just to take a look, that is, at least that’s what Newhart claims.

Then he worked hard on developing additional HTX-based applications, including the hard-drive maintenance utility SpinCor and NaviWeb, the world’s smallest web browser. So far, so good, that is until SoftwareWeek got hold of the programs and blasted them in what has got to be the most scathing software review ever written:

While it’s one thing to be able to create extremely small programs is one thing, but making those programs work is something else altogether. None of Newhart’s programs we tested ever worked and we regret the time wasted testing them.

No doubt this infuriated Newhart who responded with:

Sirs, one does not review software without testing, and I sense you instead to make your derogatory remarks about my software instead of seeing for yourself the amazing results they produce. History is decorated with stories of those who pay a hefty price for their innovation, and I myself am one of those unfairly criticized and mocked to be burnt as a modern-day witch.

(Speak for yourself, sir.)

Then came forth the most damning of allegations regarding Newhart’s genius and blazing vision, allegations even Newhart couldn’t deny. SoftwareWeek further analyzed the programs and found snippets of Javascript and HTML code saved as an HTA file.

Yes, Davis Newhart’s “programs” are really HTML files!

And he thought he could get away with fooling the public. He got a crude wake-up call when the authorities investigating him for fraud invited to have him show up at the police station with nothing but his laptop for the purpose of creating an HTX program in the presence of the police. If the program worked, all charges would be dropped. If it didn’t work, then he would be jailed.

So Newhart did the next best thing: he fled the United States and lived in airports all over the world with Internet access. He continued “developing” HTX applications and tried selling them from his web site. All the authorities had to do was trace the source of the computer transmitting the updates to the web site and they had him cornered.

Newhart was extradited back to the United States, tried and convicted of fraud. After serving his sentence, guess what: he’s at it again, this time swearing up and down his HTX programs really do work this time but no one’s buying it or even wants to do business with him ever again.

He really should have stuck with Asteroid Terror.

UPDATE: It seems that after we posted this page, we got an angry e-mail from Davis Newhart himself. He writes:

I do not appreciate your derogatory remarks regarding my software. Please remove your article immediately or I will seek legal action.

Nope. The article stays, and we gladly await your response, if you even have the nerve to do so. At least our use of the Internet is legit. How about you?

UPDATE: It’s been 3 months since we last heard from Newhart and he has not followed through on his threats. All bark and no byte. Pun fully intended.

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