Bernard Hughes

Occupation: freelance software developer/creator of virtual worlds

Bio: The rumours are true—he really did invent spell check. But we’ll get to that. First, he was born in Manchester, England where he built his first computer in 1958, at the age of ten. He attended university in Liverpool and got into programming computers after graduation. He embarked on a few projects which gave him enough money to have his first retirement at the ripe old age of 21, during which he hitchhiked across the Sahara and traveled across Africa. He wound up in Australia, where he picked up a few jobs in order to finance his subsequent two year jaunt through Southeast Asia, during which he ended up in Laos at the beginning of the Vietnam War. He spent the seventies in London and ended up in Vancouver where he was trying to build a program that would play Scrabble …which led to his creation of a spell checker. It was the first spell checker for personal computers on the market. One of his roommates in Vancouver told Bernard to explore Newfoundland, and back in 1999, Bernard headed east and has been here ever since. He just returned from Central America and is now resuming his work creating worlds to be used as settings for computer games.

Virtual worlds, eh? The real world wasn’t enough for you?: “I reached a point, in my traveling, where things began looking the same, and I wanted to move on to something else. So that’s where the online world comes in. For example, in creating an online world, you get to create a bank and create your own currency and justify why one piece paper is worth more than another. In the real world you can’t have those kinds of experiences.” He’s even incorporating time travel into the world he’s building now. “I’m kind of thankful that we don’t have time travel in this world, though, I’d probably still be on my first date.”

A little juicy programming gossip: “The guy who invented the first grammar checker was a most irritating guy who knew exactly what was right and what was wrong… The grammar checker perfectly encapsulated him. Every time I use the grammar checker, I can’t help but think of him.”

Words to live by: “Retire early and retire often.”

­ ­— Sarah Smellie

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