The history of Sierra On-Line starts back in the 70ies, a story of 2 ordinary people, living in Los Angeles, who dreamed about making enough money to, one day, move to a cabin in the woods. Ken Williams was a programmer, moving from one job to another, gaining experience on the way. His wife, Roberta, whom he met in high school and married at the early age of 19, stayed at home to take care of their son, D.J.
In 1979 Ken left a company called "Informatics", became an independent consultant and started working on a tax income program for the IBM mainframe. For the purpose of his independent business, he created a company under the name "On-Line Systems". One day he found a program, labeled "Adventure". It was the game "Collosal Caves", the very first adventure game ever made. While Ken had little interest in it, he figured Roberta would, since she always had a great passion for stories and fairytales, so he took the program home. Upto that point, Roberta, who had recently given birth to their second son, Chris, was not interested in computers at all. It took a bit of persuation before she sat at the terminal, which Ken brought home. However, once she started playing "Collosal Caves", she got immediately hooked to it. After finishing the game, she went to a computer game store in San Fernando Valley and bought all their adventure games, all of which were text adventures. While she enjoyed playing those games, she felt like she could do a better job and started becoming obsessed with the idea of creating her own adventure game.
When Ken's younger brother, Larry, brought an Apple II microcomputer at their home, Ken saw potential in the machine and, in January 1980, bought one for himself with the intention to build a FORTRAN compiler for it. While Roberta did not particularly enjoy the $2,000 that was spent on the Apple II, she also saw it as a golden opportunity to create her own adventure game. So, while sitting at her kitchen table, she started writing down her ideas and, a few weeks later, she had come up with a story: a murder mystery which takes place in an old house, a mixture between Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" and the board game "Clue". She named the game "Mystery House". One thing would distinguish Mystery House from all other adventure games. It would, for the first time ever, support graphics!
She did not know how to program though, so she would have to convince Ken to help her out with it. Knowing that Ken was fully occupied with his FORTRAN project and that he would probably not take her ideas seriously, she lured him at their favourit steakhouse, "The Plank House", and, after a good meal and a couple of glasses of wine, explained her ideas to him. As Ken saw how passionate Roberta was about it and how the entire story was already worked out, he agreed to help her with the programming. Roberta would write the ingame text and design the graphics on a graphic tablet which Ken had brought home for her. Roberta's mother, Nova Heuer, would draw the cover for the game.
The game had no colors, no sound and no animations, only 70 simple 2-dimensional drawings, made by Roberta.