Saturday, 26 June 2010

Jonathan "Joffa" Smith

26th June 2010 will be a date that any Spectrum fan will not forget for some time to come, for it is the day the scene lost one of it's brightest lights, legendary programmer, Jonathan "Joffa" Smith.

Still active on the World of Spectrum forums (as "Frobush"), Smith featured in the infamous "Commercial Breaks" documentary as a fledgling programmer honing his skills at Ocean HQ.
Taking a brief glance through his softography reveals some of the best moments you could have had on a Spectrum back in the 80's. His output may have mainly been arcade conversions; they may have also been not exactly the most complex of games - but they were all polished, technically impressive and, lest we forget, fun experiences, full of idiosyncratic quirks and delightful gameplay tics.

The breadth of genre impresses as well, giving evidence to Smith's ability to manipulate code. You had the multi-event sports titles (Daley Thompson's Super Test and the brilliant arcade conversion Hyper Sports); classic arcade conversions Green Beret, vertically scrolling shooter Terra Cresta and Mikie and this is not forgetting the fantastically original Firefly, which was developed under the SpecialFX banner, and Batman the Caped Crusader from the same team. He even turned his hand to music, creating the wonderfully catchy theme to Imagine's Ping Pong.

But perhaps Joffa's finest hour is earlier, from 1986. Few remember the desperately poor action movie starring Sylvester Stallone; even fewer actually saw it, and I was one of those unfortunate few who did. Being only 14 years old, I didn't think the film was that bad at the time (it was perhaps aimed at my age then!), but the game of Cobra was magnificent. A multi-level scrolling run and gun with echoes of Green Beret, Cobra had everything. Lovely scrolling, compulsive gameplay and some amusing game elements made this game utterly addictive, even when you had completed it's admittedly slim three levels.

There were Speccy programmers. There were brilliant Speccy programmers. Then there was Jonathan Smith.

Farewell, Joffa. You will be missed.


  1. Indeed, it's a day I'll never forget. Joff's work speaks for itself, and shows his eccentric demeanor (Pud Pud for instance) as well as his genius programming abilities. Rest in peace, you will not be forgotten.

  2. Jof was a true programming genious and a gentleman too.

    Rest in peace Jof.

  3. To be honest, his name isn't one I knew back then (I guess I was too young to care who actually made the games!). I loved many of his games, however, and still get a lot of enjoyment from many of them. RIP :(

  4. "There were Speccy programmers. There were brilliant Speccy programmers. Then there was Jonathan Smith."

    Just in case you didn't know (but I guess you did). They quoted those words at his funeral.

    RIP Jof

  5. I didn't know that, thanks for telling me Doug. An honour.

  6. One correction, which I plan to blog about soon because I've encouraged the mistake myself. In the gentle joshing about the fact that Joffa wrote the music for Ping Pong, the menu that everyone used and the crowd graphics (BUT NOT MOST OF THE GAME! LOL), we've kind of forgotten something. Jof wrote the amazing and impressive music *routine*. Martin Galway actually wrote the music.

    Although in the general scheme of things at the moment, it's miniscule, but I always think the right people should get credit where it's due.