'Graphics Magician' Mark Pelczarski headlines KansasFest

Apple II’s original ‘Graphics Magician’ headlines KansasFest


Mark Pelczarski
One of the most popular games published by Mark Pelczarski's company, Penguin Software
Screenshot: Penguin Software/YouTube

Mark Pelczarski’s first contribution to the personal computing revolution came in a zip-lock bag.

With no App Store in 1979, Pelczarski bagged disks and photo-copied instruction manuals for what was then one of the first digital paint programs for the Apple II.

Mark Pelczarski
Pelczarski at Penguin Software in 1983
Photo: KansasFest

Today’s creatives – anyone who has designed graphics, created music or built a computer game – owe Pelczarski a debt. He will receive some much-deserved appreciation this summer when he delivers the keynote address at KansasFest.

KansasFest, July 16-21 in Kansas City, Mo., is a week-long convention that brings together fans of the first mass-produced Apple computer, the Apple II. It draws retrocomputing geeks from all over the world, most of whom still hack, play games or write software emulators for the beloved classic machine.

Pelczarski was a co-founder of Penguin Software and Polarware, best known for Graphics Magician, a graphics creation tool kit used by software publishers all over the world and one of the best-selling programs of all time. It was considered a forerunner to Adobe Flash.

Penguin Software and Polarware also published a number of games, including Spy’s Demise, The Quest, Transylvania and The Coveted Mirror.

After leaving his software company in 1987, Pelczarski wrote software for online teaching and digital music performance that allowed performers to incorporate computer devices to accompany their live performances.

That first software packaged in the zip-lock was called Magic Paintbrush and was designed specifically for the Apple II because of its color graphics capability. Rather than sell it, Pelczarki would swap it for parts and supplies at local computer stores.

In a 1985 article in the Chicago Tribune he said he wrote Magic Paintbrush, “Just for fun. I wanted to see how far I could take Apple’s new color capabilities… I like to make computers do things.”