Gene Hitz
A most prolific programmer
1931 - 2009

photo of eugene hitz

Eugene "Gene" Hitz started his involvement with the TI-99 Home Computer in the very early 1980s as a contributor to the 99/4 Users' Group Owner Written Software Library with programs like Bonkers and the creation of public domain educational software such as Math/Aid. From his numerous creations, one can see that as Gene's programming expertise grew he began to produce clever game software that not only offered the user entertainment, but also showed off Gene's sense of humor. Where other programmers might describe different levels of difficulty as Beginner, Intermediate and Expert, Gene would often replace the descriptions with "A piece of cake", "Maybe with practice", "You gotta be kidding", or "Space puppy", "At home in orbit" or "Glutton for punishment".

Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s Gene produced a variety of entertainment and personal productivity programs that showed off his creativity and his apparent interest in meeting needs of the entire spectrum of TI-99 system owners. He aimed his software at those who could only run TI BASIC programs, those who had Extended BASIC and he even crafted assembly language games for those who could afford memory expansion and the Mini Memory or Editor/Assembler packages. His target audience filled the spectrum from easy, educational games for children to challenging arcade games for teens and adults.

Although Gene's name is typically associated with games via the Arcade Action Software banner in his company name, which was Program Innovators Arcade Action Software, his productivity programs found their way into many user group and individual user libraries. Most of the productivity programs were included in the July/August 1997 MICROpendium On-Disk, and included tools to manage a budget, track your weight loss efforts, predict the outcome of a Presidential Election, determine the energy efficiency of your home and its insulation, a tool to estimate the value of a home with comparisons for buying versus renting, a music generation and playing program and a program to manage rental property as a landlord.

Gene was active with his church Volleyball League and wrote an assembly program called 'USVBA Power Volleyball'. Charles Good wrote a favorable review of this program in the November 1994 issue of MICROpendium.

Gene's attention to detail and completeness in his programming was ever present, as one can see quite readily in his Elections program. This program considers Democratic, Republican and Independent Party candidates and even provides the user with a complete list of Electoral College votes assigned to each state. Not the kind of thing most would even think about.

Gene's Program Innovators business came to life in February 1982 when IUG President Charles LaFara announced, "A new source of low cost game programs has been brought to our attention. Program Innovators is now offering to all 99/4 owners several game packages authored by Mr. Gene Hitz. Mr. Hitz has been a big help to the International Users-Group with his program submissions for the Owner Written Software Library. He is a creative programmer in both text and graphic programs.

In April 1983 Program Innovators ran their one and only advertisement in 99'er Magazine announcing the availability of Bonkers II, Cockroaches & Killer Bees, Colorado Slalom, Crunchman, Destroy Klaatu, Galactic Guardian, Interstate '80', Klaatu, Kling'n, Klingon Encounters, L.A. Freeway, Looney Lander, Moonracker, Mousie Mousie, Snomobile Derby, Space Invoiders, Wall Street Analyst, Warlords of Xorbitron, Worms & Bugs, Zombies Galore. Some of these programs would be updated and re-released over the next 6 to 7 years as Gene discovered better ways to accomplish some part of the coding or released Extended BASIC versions of TI BASIC games already available.

To look at the list of "Things TI" that Gene was involved in, it seems he was always looking for ways to promote 99/4A interests. Gene was the last active founding member of his home user group, The Milwaukee Area 99/4A User Group (MAUG) where he often mentored newer members. He hosted the annual MAUG picnic at his cottage, and true to form there was at least one TI-99/4A present.

He was also the long time editor of the MAUG newsletter 'HOCUS' that stood for, 'Home Computer Users Spotlight'. In January 1999 this newsletter was converted to an email newsletter named 'The World Wide 99'er Newsletter' and was distributed until Gene's death. Through this involvement as newsletter editor, his expanding interests into the TI Forth programming language, and his involvement in the MAUG TI Fairs that would follow the Chicago TI Faires for so many years, the name Gene Hitz became all but synonymous with MAUG. In the late 90s and into the new millennium Gene also maintained the website for MAUG.

The list of software produced by Gene is impressive, ranking right up there with the most prolific authors in the TI-99/4A Community. In fact, with over 60 titles to his credit, Gene may have been "the most prolific programmer" ever in the TI-99 Community. With only a couple of exceptions, Gene's software programs were placed on the Altman Fairware Distribution list in the mid-1990s and remain available online.

Gene died on November 14, 2009 and is survived by his wife of 58 years, Theresa, five children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Biography prepared by Bill Gaskill

Inducted into the TI99ers Hall of Fame on January 14, 2010