I created Hexadec years ago — 1986 to be exact. I got the idea from a science fiction short story by R.A. Lafferty, in which he wrote of the origins of the playing card deck, which are based on the calendar (4 seasons; 13 lunar months; 52 cards; 364 points in total). I was musing on that, started thinking about how a design might be based on the clock, then bounced to computers and got stuck there. I friend unstuck me, while we were walking through Briones Park, by suggesting hexadecimal, or base-sixteen. It clicked, and I was off and running.

I partnered with an artist friend and computer whiz, Donald White, and we spend more than a year designing and creating the art. It was he who suggested, for instance, Job Control Language, resulting in the six JCL cards. His expertise lent a great deal to much of the detail and language that went into Hexadec.

Meanwhile, I’d cobbled together a prototype, using two regular decks and white-out, and, having adapted traditional games and invented several of my own, using the cards unique to Hexadec, got together with a friend, Paul Goeway, whom I’d met at a gig of mine, and proceeded to test all the games to make sure they were playable.

I should note two individuals who made major contributions. One is a fellow whose name I cannot recall and only hope to discover in my notes somewhere, sometime. He lived in Hercules and was listed in the phone book as Ira Corn, an in-joke I’ll explain some time if you’re curious. Anyway, he is a Life Master at contract bridge, and spent an evening with me adapting a sixteen-card deck, no small feat if you’ve any idea of the complexity of bridge. He even, when it was done, called up a friend of his in the City at two in the morning, described the adaptation and asked his friend if he thought it would work. His friend ran it through his mind and said he thought it would.

My friend, Andy Baltzo taught me cribbage so that I could adapt it to Hexadec, bless his little heart (not so little, but truly great!)

Then I drove myself close to bankruptcy getting a prototype manufactured, and here we are today.

Some of the most fun I’ve had with Hexadec has been the lexicon, all the card names and the adaptation of computer terms. For instance, there is a Punch Card with a big punch bowl as a graphic; an Access Key card; a Viper (“Snakes for the memory”, croons Bob Hope) a Worm (Peanuts’ “Happiness is a warm puppy” becomes “Happiness is a worm program” – though as a 60s guy, I’m particuloarly partial to the one that goes, “hippiness is a warm poppy”) and a Bug (as the Bud commercial goes, “This Bug’s for you!”) Of course, the picture on the Bug is a VW Bug and what do you get when you put a Viper, a Worm and a BUG together? Don called them our ‘critter cards’. So I guess that assembling them all together would create a crittercal mass.

Sorry, but I can’t resist just one more. As we were naming the files, and there were two each of the “critter” cards, one got named Bug1.jpg. Anyone remember the name Bhagwan? Well, my nickname for that card was Bugone Rashneesh.

Only it just gets worse from there. If an eight card is a Byte, then a 9 is an over-Byte and a 7 is an under-Byte. Old-time programmers will remember when 4 bytes was called a ‘nibble’, so that’s the four card. Regular cards have two jokers? Hexadec has two hackers, each with a big, honking ax in his hands and a maniacal grin.

Welcome to my world!