For people who worked at The Software Toolworks in the 1980s and early 1990s, it's the end of an era: Les Crane, former CEO of The Software Toolworks, has died at age 74. That''s a much-younger Les Crane in the picture, with his then-wife, Tina Louise (taken in March, 1972).
I first started working with Les when he produced Software Golden Oldies, Volume 1. Later his company (Software Country) and Walt Bilofsky's company (The Software Toolworks) merged to form The Software Toolworks, where I spent 10 years (1986 - 1997) in various roles.
The semi-iconic characters of "The Chessmaster" and "Mavis Beacon" were his invention, and reflected the creativity he brought to software marketing. His vision of playing chess on a computer being as obvious as playing chess on a physical board were the reason that Chessmaster 2000, with its 3-D board, almost immediately supplanted Sargon as the best-selling personal computer chess program (running on MS-DOS, Macintosh, Atari ST, Amiga, Commodore 64, and Apple II).
The most valuable advice I received from Les regarding software development was this: "It's not brain surgery -- no one dies from it." I used to have more trouble keeping things in their proper perspective.
Thanks, Les. Rest in peace.
Update: Here's the San Francisco Chronicle obit for Les Crane.