Anyone knows if Jim Button is still alive?


Thread Starter
Oct 13, 2003
I used to get for my first PC (had an Atari before) shareware programs that were mostly programmed by Jim Button. Does anyone remember him? Is he still alive? So many of his programs were the basis of wordprocessors, database and spreadsheets. :confused: Just wondering


A True Heart and Soul - Gone But Never Forgotten
Mar 10, 2001
It turns out that "Jim Button" is actually a pseudonym.I can't find a obit, so I suspect he is still alive, but very retired by now.

Internet Magnifies Popularity, Possible Earnings for Shareware Writers.(Originated from The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News; 10/15/1995; Borowski, Neill A.

Oct. 16--When Jim Knopf needed a computer program to print mailing labels for his church in 1981, he wrote one.

Then he shared it with his IBM colleagues in Seattle. They loved it. And then he shared it with the public, mailing copies to computer hobby clubs and asking $10 for registration of his PC-File program.

"My own wife said that I was 'a foolish old man' if I thought that even one person would voluntarily send me money for the program," Knopf says.

She was proven wrong. Not only did hobbyists voluntarily send money for the program, the Boeing Co. bought thousands of copies for its corporate computers as did his employer, IBM, which gave Knopf's new company a six-figure contract. At its peak in the 1980s, Knopf's company had more than 35 employees with sales of $4.5 million a year.

Knopf, with Andrew Fluegelman, who distributed his PC-Talk program the same way in those early days of personal computers, gave birth to the shareware industry -- a way of distributing home-grown software to the public, which was invited to "try before you buy." Typically, shareware authors are the artists of computing, getting joy out of knowing people are using their creations.

Calling it an industry actually is going a bit too far. Shareware authors, mostly working at home in their spare time, over the last 10 years tried dozens of ways to get their products distributed. They posted them on computer bulletin boards, they distributed them through CompuServe, America Online and Prodigy, they sent them out on disks and, later, on CD-ROMs. There was no organized retail-distribution channel for these programs, which sometimes are of higher quality than the shrink-wrapped commercial software.

And now, after years suffering a cobbled-together distribution network, shareware authors are facing an explosion in marketing that rivals any commercial software company: They're all over the Internet.

"The Internet is a huge boon to these guys," says Halsey Minor, chief executive officer of c/net, a diversified computer-information service in San Francisco. "I think there's going to be a whole renaissance in the shareware business."

Internet users each day are executing 100,000 searches for shareware in the Virtual Software Library on c/net online ( and downloading more than 225 gigabytes a month, according to c/net. (If a typical computer's hard drive holds about 500 megabytes, these downloads would fill 450 computers.) The library doesn't store the programs, but directs the Internet user to the archive sites.

Later this month, c/net plans to announce a spinoff of an expanded Virtual Software Library with its own site on the Internet, said Minor, who wouldn't reveal many details. Users will not be charged for the service because it will be supported by on-line advertising, he said.

A c/net competitor, Jumbo (, also features searches for shareware on the Internet. However Dick Firestone, Jumbo's project manager, says his service stands out from others because users can find out more about each program.

"When you get to these big archives, you don't know what you're getting," Firestone said. Users will spot a file that looks interesting from the phrase describing it and spend time downloading and installing only to find it wasn't what they thought it was, he said.

New York-based Jumbo -- which went on-line in mid-July -- features links to more than 23,000 shareware programs, and each program has two pages of information on Jumbo: one page describes the program and the other page provides the links to the libraries or archives to download the programs,

Firestone said. Like c/net's service, Jumbo will be advertiser-supported.

Shareware has a rich history, and several programs have become commercial successes. The standouts include PKZip, the widely used file-compression utility; DOOM, the popular and violent adventure game; the McAfee antivirus scanner; and Paint Shop Pro, a graphics editing program. Even Mosaic and Netscape -- the Internet Web browers -- are shareware. A popular DOS shareware program in the '80s was AsEasyAs, a spreadsheet program that operated a lot like Lotus 1-2-3.

"Shareware is one of the last businesses someone can go into with zero cash investment," said George Campbell, chairman of the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP), a trade group with about 1,700 members.

All you need to get into the business is a computer and a program that will generate shareware applications. Microsoft's Visual Basic is among the most popular choices among authors, although others program in Borland's Delphi and the C language, Campbell said.

"A lot of shareware fills gaps," he explained. For example, some of the programs might be diagnostic utilities that weren't readily available commercially. An author wrote it for his or her own use and decided to distribute it.

Other programs have been written as Windows add-ons, such as options for Windows file manager. And even others are stand-alone applications that do everything from accounting to publishing.

Campbell's company, OsoSoft in Los Osos, Calif., is a one-person concern,

and he's committed to keeping it that way. His products include the Rockford business-card publisher and Burn-In, a program to test new computers. He was a freelance journalist specializing in woodworking. A publisher gave him a computer to write a book about woodworking. He immediately forgot about wood chips to delve into the computer kind.

Like commercial software companies, shareware authors also will have to learn to program in Windows 95, Campbell said. (By far, most of the shareware is written in DOS or Windows. There are archives, however, that maintain shareware for the Macintosh.) Much of the existing Windows shareware will work on Windows 95, though not at Windows 95's enhanced speed.

Total shareware sales each year are between $250 million and $500 million, according to Campbell's best guess. Those sales could be more, but most people never pay for the programs -- a problem that shareware authors have faced since the beginning and will continue to face.

At best, 10 out of 100 people using a shareware product have registered and paid for it, Campbell estimated, although that total could be as low as 1 percent.

The boom in shareware on the Internet and low registration rates prompted the ASP this year to change a long-standing policy. In the past, the ASP required that shareware be a fully functional version of the registered version. Users simply were asked to pay for the product if they liked the program, with printed documentation and upgrades as an incentive to pay.

This summer, the ASP changed the rules to allow authors to become tougher about paying, Campbell said.

"Nag screens" that pop up every now and then on unregistered copies are permitted, as are "crippled" versions of the shareware that don't offer all the features. Some shareware also may have built-in timers that disable the program after a predetermined amount of time. Users who register and pay typically get a special code to enter to remove the nagging or uncripple the program, or they get a fully functional copy through the mail.

Even with low registration rates, some authors have found there is money to be made. Shareware author David Vedder, owner of Galt Technology in Saratoga, Calif., worked for a computer company and had a friend who was writing shareware. With no marketing, the friend was making $25,000 a year on his shareware product, Vedder said.

Vedder quit work, started his business six months ago, and is making a living, he said. His products include a video screensaver that shows movie clips and a video launch pad that allows users to view and manage video files on their computers. Each costs $29.

Although the industry is troubled by low registration rates, pushing shareware users to pay is controversial.

"I'm very much opposed to the crippling schemes, the begging schemes," shareware pioneer Knopf said. He recalls getting checks from people who had been using his shareware for four or five years before they decided to pay.

"What you do to maximize the payments is come across as a good guy in the program," Knopf said. If he downloads shareware that's not fully functional now, he said, the program warrants a quick delete from his machine.

Knopf, 52, who retired after a heart attack at age 49, still writes programs and distributes them on his Web site. But they're freeware -- he puts them in the public domain and expects no payment. In doing so, Knopf avoids providing technical support -- a duty that can be the bane to a shareware author. (Knopf estimates that at his company's peak half of his workforce was assigned to answering user questions.)

However, Knopf is sure he'll continue to write programs from his Redmond,

Wash., home. "When you get the fire, that's all you think about," he said. "You're sitting in church with other people, and lines of code are running through your head."

Neill A. Borowski's e-mail address is: borowski(at)

COPYRIGHT 1995 Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News


Thread Starter
Oct 13, 2003
THANKs, EGGPLANT, very interesting and educational information. I was just interested how many oldtimers remember those days when Jim Button had his shareware out, I thought his programs were all I needed and were small. Now we need huge harddrives to install anything.
AND half of my harddrives are full of antispy, antivirus, antispam programs that have to be constantly updated, what a waste of time. No wonder we at work do a lot less with computers than would we should. Despite IT, computers constantly hang and cause delays.
What a nice time it was when only Prodigy and Compuserve existed and the internet was small. I met such nice people in those days online (like here on Techguy) but never worried about viruses etc.
(Just reminiscing)
Oct 5, 2005
He is very much still alive, at least I hope so since I had dinner with him last night. Jim is my father and has been retired since 1992. He spends most of his days enjoying his grandchildren or tinkering with his Ham radio. Should you have a question for him I'm sure he'd love to hear from an old user. His email address is [email protected].


Always remembered in our hearts
Apr 17, 2002
Welcome to TSG nopper! :) never know who's lurking out there...pretty neat you found this thread! :D


Thread Starter
Oct 13, 2003
thank you guys for updating this, I am glad Mr. Knopf is still alive and enjoying retirement. What a coincidence, that a relative of his is also on this site.
I remember admiring him for all that he has done for the computerworld, and then others claim to have done programs, Mr.Knopf wrote already many years before those "famous" companies. I still think, his approach to computing was clean, fast, simple yet very well working, he was the reason that computers are my hobby, even so I don't work in that field. Thanks again !

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