Robert Donner

Robert Donner

Robert Donner is the co-author of Windows Minesweeper.

Robert joined Microsoft in May 1989 around the same time as Curt Johnson1,2. He had previously released two games under the label Casablanca Software and was hired to work on Word for Windows 1.01 which was released on 25 November 1989.

Curt had been hired to maintain a debugger program for OS/23 and he used those skills to write a game that year called "PM Mine" named after his favourite MacIntosh game ("Mine") and the OS/2 windowing system ("Presentation Manager"). The object of his game was to cross a minefield from the bottom left corner to the top right corner using number clues. He shared the source code and Donner released "PM Mine 2.0" in May 1990 with Johnson credited for "original programming" and Donner for "additional programming"4. Windows 3.0 was released on 22 May 1990 and Donner re-wrote the game as "Win Mine"5. The game became so popular at work Bill Gates became addicted6 and it was included as "Minesweeper" in the Windows Entertainment Pack released in October 1990. Two versions of Tic Tac Toe written by Donner were also released in WEP as a combined game called "TicTactics".

Donner wrote several other Windows 3.0 games at Microsoft for fun under the joke label "Duff Software"7:

  • Tic Tac Toe - Written with Johnson.
  • 3D Tic Tac Toe - Updated by Donner.
  • 4D Tic Tac Toe - Updated by Donner.
  • YATC - A "Dr. Mario" (Tetris) clone.
  • Kolumz - A "Columns" (Tetris) clone.
  • Escape - A "Robots" clone.
  • Snake - A "Snake" clone.
  • Pipe - A "Pipe Dream" clone.
  • Sissors, Paper, Stone - A "Rock, Papers, Scissors" clone.

Robert Donner graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1987 with a Masters degree in Computer Science8,9. In June 1988 he co-founded Casablanca Software in Winnipeg with his friend Gary Gouriluk9 and they released Apple II versions of the classic board games Risk and Clue. The games were published by Virgin Games for multiple platforms under the labels Leisure Genius and Mastertronic10,11. He worked as a senior software engineer at Microsoft in several stints until 20178,9.

LinkedIn profile picture
Apple II Clue (1989) front cover
Apple II Clue (1989) back cover
Apple II Clue (1989) title screen
Apple II Clue (1989) manor screen
Apple II Risk (1989) front cover
Apple II Risk (1989) back cover
Apple II Risk (1989) intro screen
Apple II Risk (1989) world map
Word 1.0 released in November 1989
Win Mine 2.6 (1990)
Kolumz (1990)
YATC (1990)
Escape (1990)
Pipe (1990)
Sissors, Paper, Stone (1990)
Snake (1990)
2D Tic Tac Toe (1990)
3D Tic Tac Toe (1990)
4D Tic Tac Toe (1990)

1 Email from Robert Donner 2001-02-21 with the author of this article.
2 Email from Curt Johnson in 2013-10-02 with the author of this article.
3 - History of Minesweeper that includes an interview with Johnson on 2014-07-21.
4 Help file from PM Mine 2.0 released May 1990.
5 Win Mine - Help file from Win Mine 2.6 released June 1990.
6 Washington Post - Interview with people at Microsoft in 1994.
7 The ISA Bus - Games by Robert Donner for Windows 3.0.
8 Email from Robert Donner 2005-07-22 with the author of this article.
9 LinkedIn - Online profile for Donner.
10 - Release history and pictures of Clue: Master Detective.
11 - Release history and pictures for Risk.

Article created 23 September 2021 by Damien Moore.