>> own projects (working all weekends without sleep, on a “borrowed” computer equipment) to accomplish their goals
Which didn't work out well for Softdisk, their employer. Since they were employed as developers, they were obligated to offer the technology (2D EGA side-scroller for Commander Keen), but Softdisk turned them down since they still wanted to do CGA games. Off then went to form ID, and you know the story from there.
Also similar to how Woz had to get HP to sign off on the Apple I. They didn't want anything to do with it as they saw the original Apple computer as a toy device, which freed Woz to go start a computer company with Steve Jobs...
Sure you could give those companies the tech. Then Carmack and Woz are both going to eventually quit and go out into the market place, and create something new and better. Meanwhile HP would have been sitting on the old Woz tech, having no clue what to do with it or where to take it.
In other words, would large companies in general be as keen on signing away rights to pet projects by their best and brightest today as they seem to have been in the past?
Or maybe I'm just young/naive...
That said, you might be right, it just seems weird.
Softdisk (SoftDisk?) was a company who sold subscriptions similar to companies like MicroZine. Each month or two you'd receive a disk in the mail with games, utilities, and other software. The ID guys had recently moved from writing Apple ][ software to the IBM PC.
When they did a demo called 'Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement', which consisted of a clone of the first level of the NES game Super Mario 3, they sent it off to Nintendo, who of course responded that they weren't interested in doing PC games. ID ended up partnering with Apogee to do their sales and distribution, when SoftDisk found out, the guys ended up having to do a handful more games for SoftDisk.
To make it even worse, they took their PC's home on the nights and weekends from their desks at SoftDisk!
Also, the PC games market then was very complicated and segmented, making side-bets quite risky. I've personally never met anyone with an EGA card, whereas CGA and VGA were popular. The PC market was also smaller than other games-oriented ecosystems back then.
But somehow those 50% jobs are only available in industries where 50% don't pay for a living...
I tried it with freelancing once, but I felt the overhead eradicated the benefits :\
I've found that the best way to do it is to focus 100% on client projects for a month or two, and then take a month or two for yourself. IMHO "single-tasking" results in much better quality work.
While you're working on your own thing, you should be meeting with potential clients and setting up your next paying gig, since the sales cycle on a couple month project large enough is about a few weeks to a month anyways.
It's clearly better financially than academic jobs _and_ I am not restricted by grant topics & timelines or a place.
I am just curious what can go wrong? (I.e. I don't know personally anyone living this way.)
If someone could solve the business development end of freelancing, that would be more valuable to me than matchmaking. The work was never the problem for me, but the angst surrounding it.
An alternative to freelancing is a not-too-demanding day job that you enjoy, and which is sufficient to pay the bills. It was good enough for Albert Einstein...
Or putting things in a different way - we need "noise" to get further of a local optimum, so we can explore more distant (and perhaps: better) optima.
I'm trying to attempt to introduce 20% time in my department, trying to convince the management that it is worthwhile is going to be hard I think.
Some of the benefits I can see, learning for staff, fulfilment for staff both of which aid retention, and potential products or product improvements that would otherwise not see the light of day.
Anyone got any suggestions of ways of introducing 20% time, other than listing benefits and crossing fingers?