What's Up With "Dem Bonz"?

Barrie Sargent created a dominoes game for computers otherwise known as “Dem Bonz.” When asked what prompted him to create this game he explained:

“Before we met in 1991, my wife went to ITT Technical Institute, where she built an 8088 computer, and her materials for it included an ANSI C compiler called Power C by Mix Software (http://www.mixsoftware.com/product/powerc.htm), complete with a comprehensive manual and language reference guide. 

While I had learned computer programming in high school and college (1983 – 1987) I had gone a different direction and not worked with computers for several years.  I was intrigued and decided to use the book to teach myself C, but not being content to simply read the book I decided to pick a project to develop.  At the time I worked at a juvenile detention facility in downtown Denver, where the kids interred had taught me how to play dominoes, and after searching in vain for a dominoes game for computers (by this time I had a 286sx), either to purchase or download from a bulletin board service (i.e., CompuServe, there was no “web” yet), I decided to write my own.”

As to how the game was named “Dem Bonz,” Barrie explained that while working at the juvenile detention center, the kids commonly referred to dominoes as “bones,” and often when they wanted to play a game of dominoes they would say something to the extent of “let’s play them bones.” Barrie went on to elaborate:

“I don’t know if it was because of their poor enunciation or my familiarity with the song ‘Dem Bones’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dem_Bones), or perhaps a bit of both, but ‘Dem Bones’ sounded like a good name for the dominoes game; I simply changed the spelling of ‘bones’ to ‘bonz’ to avoid any type of copyright conflict with the song.”

A while after releasing Dem Bonz on the shareware market, Barrie had received a phone call from someone stating that he represented Willie Nelson. The person went on to explain that a multimedia CD-ROM commemorating Willie and his music was in the works, Willie liked to play dominoes and liked Barrie’s game. He then asked if Barrie would be willing to make a modified version for him for a one-time payout of $1,000 to include on the CD-ROM. Barrie explained:

“I was already working on a newer version for the game, so it was easy to put together a ‘one-off’ version for him called ‘Willie Nelson World Championship Dominoes’ that used his name and his friends’ names as the player names.  Willie Nelson himself called me on the phone to discuss it with me, one of those calls I wish I could have recorded for posterity.”

When asked if we should anticipate another game from Barrie anytime soon he replied:

“Not really. I often considered writing an updated version of the game, particularly when Windows 95 was released and windows-based games became popular.  I even made a point of choosing artificial intelligence as my research topic for a technical writing course I had during my studies for my master’s degree, just so I could one day make the game more challenging (it was never really very hard, with the AI being very simple-minded, so to speak).  But there isn’t much call for it now.  Besides, after working 40 hours per week writing code for BIT and 10 – 20 hours per week teaching online courses for National American University, I have enough trouble finding time to work on non-computer-related projects.” 

An online review for “Dem Bonz” can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aBuCw_iWz4

“Dem Bonz” can be downloaded here:

And if you get the urge to see Willie Nelson’s version, you can find his multimedia CD-ROM on eBay for $5 to $15 plus shipping.

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