RIP Jim Butterfield


In 1978, after finally saving up enough money, I got myself a Commodore PET computer. I became immersed in it, and soon was programming all sorts of things, and learning assembler to make things go really fast. I soon discovered the Toronto Pet User's Group, which grew over time to be perhaps the most prominent Commodore group in the world.

A big reason for that was the group's star attraction, a middle aged man with a great deep speaking voice and a talent for writing and explaining computers to newcomers. That man was Jim Butterfield. His talks at meetings were the highlight for many members, and he did both beginner's talks and fairly high level ones. Jim had been working on reverse engineering the OS (really BIOS) of the PET, and one of my early cute hacks was a very simple loop that copied the computer's "zero page" onto the screen at every vertical refresh (ie. 60 times/second.) The PET had characters for all 256 bytes, so this was like a live window into the computer's guts, even beyond das blinkenlights found on mainframes. You could play with the computer and actually watch everything change before you. For his reverse engineering goals, Jim loved the little program and promoted it and we became friends.

Later, Jim would be hired to write the manuals for some of my software projects, including my set of programming tools known as POWER. I'm sure his name on the manual helped sell the product as much as mine did. He was the Commodore world's rockstar and father figure at the same time. We were only in occasional touch after I left Toronto and then Canada, but the incredible longevity of Pet and C64 hacking has kept his name in people's minds. He had a sense of humour, charm and love that is rarely found in a technical guru.

Cancer finally got him on June 29th. There's a bit more at the TPUG page.

You can see this rather embarrassing advertisement that was published to sell software written by myself, Jim and fellow Mississauga software author Steve Punter with a picture of the 3 of us dressed as football players.


Just waiting for the laundry to finish and finally got around to checking out your blog (lots of people had mentioned it to me, and I think you've mentioned it in your nice entry on Mike Todd's memorial page.

I enjoyed reading this, it took me back a ways. I can hear Jim saying "What does he mean MIDDLE AGED! -- I just looked old because Brad was just out of diapers!"

But there always was something of the senior statesman about Jim, even when I first knew him when he was a lad of 27 or so. Anyhow, it was nicely put.

And where on earth did you guys dig up those old ads? When I collected Jim's stuff from the hospital there were the two ads (the other one as baseball players -- suited Jim better) in with the pile. Don't know if someone brought them to the hospital or if he'd printed them to take in to show off to the nurses. Anyhow they're now on the fridge.


To me, at the end of my teen years, anybody over 30 seemed middle-aged, I think. I would not mind a scan of that baseball ad at some point if you have it. I have the football one. I roughly recall we did another, which wasn't hockey (which would have been too obvious, Stewart thought) but I can't recall what it was. Perhaps it never ran.


Just learned of Jim's passing.. so sorry.

Maybe you wont remember me, many years have passed. I've thought of you often.

If you get this, please drop me an e-mail. We are living in Northern Ontario, having a good life, here in the bush.

A voice from the past.... Lee Paulson

Gosh, just surfing around and am surprised and pleased at the number of articles up about Jim now. He was a super brother to me (though we had our moments in pre-school times), always bought me the very neatest presents, took me to the neatest places, and as I grew older with him, encouraged me gently and endlessly when, at 60-something, I decided to take on the computer world and become much more literate...with Lyman's help the two of them worked online with me and guided me into the world of website building. Patiently.

I miss him. Not a week had gone by after he left us when I had a problem about something or other and said "I need to ask Jim about this"....only to realize there was no Jim to ask any more. Vicki has been superb, and continues to be superb...what a marvelous lady he chose to spend his life with.


I was searching the net today for names of friends long lost and was astounded to come across Jim's obituary. I guess the last time I talked to Jim was at the last World of Amiga in Toronto. How things have changed since then. But every once in a while other names such as Karl Hilden, Steve Punter, Allan and Robbie Krofchik, John Easton, Frank Winter, Donna Green, Doug MacGregor, Brad, of course, and many more will pop into this old head and bring back warm memories.

I always enjoyed listening and watching Jim make a presentation. If I remember correctly, the first time I heard him was at Sheridan College and he was doing a presentation on composing music on the Commodore PET. And his sage advice at the time was to always remove the cassette from the tape drive when you'd finished loading the program and data or nobody would believe that it was the computer generating the music.

I remember sitting in my living room in Ottawa drinking single malt prior to driving him to make a presentation to the Kanata Commodore 64 user group. When he started the presentation he quickly found out that the club had provided him with a water carafe filled with white wine. Once when I happened to be in Toronto on a Saturday at Batteries Included, he dropped by and took me drinking at a club on Spadina Avenue that featured a great blues band.

I met Vicki a few times but I doubt if she would remember seeing as Jim had such a great following. I also remember seeing Susannah shortly after she was born when Jim brought her to World of Commodore. In the event that Vicki and/or Susannah happen to drop by Brad's Blog I'd like to pass on my sincerest condolences. He was a fine man.

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