Jim "Button" Knopf, "Father of
Question: Jim could you tell our visitors a little about
Answer: My name is Jim Knopf. Computer geeks are more
likely to recognize me by my marketing name: Jim Button. (Knopf
means "button" in German.) Im sometimes called
the "Father of Shareware" because in 1983 I pioneered
the shareware method of software distribution with the late
Andrew Fluegelman. My software company was called
I grew up in Walla Walla, Washington,
got my BA degree in Sociology from Brigham Young University, and
did post graduate studies at the University of Washington.
Question: How did you get started programming?
Answer: IBM taught me everything I needed to know. I
worked there for 18 years. I have written computer programs in
over 20 computer languages.
Question: How many hours a week do you work at writing
Answer: None, now. But before I retired I spent a
minimum of 40 hours per week at programming
. In addition to
running my software company.
Question: How many programs are you currently working
Answer: Im not working on any at present. I have
socked away several ideas to work on in my spare time after
winter arrives again.
Question: What percentage of your time is spent on the
different aspects of Shareware?
Answer: My only shareware activity at present is
toying with my "Father of Shareware" web page. I spend
around two hours per day working on the page.
Question: Do you mind users getting in touch with you
about your products?
Answer: I definitely do not mind. I always felt that
the strength of shareware marketing lied with the close contact
that the authors have with the users. Most of my good ideas came
from my users.
Question: Do you feel the users of shareware are
supporting the shareware concept as it was originally intended?
Answer: Yes. If an author feels unrewarded for his
work, its most likely his own fault, not the users.
Question: Do you see any relationship from downloads to
sales? Is it predictable?
Answer: Wider distribution is one of the cornerstones
of sales. Its predictable: no distribution, no sales. All
other factors being equal, if you can double your distribution
you will double your sales.
Question: Do you believe being a shareware programmer
will make you rich someday?
Answer: Well, it already has. My shareware program
PC-File netted many millions of dollars in sales. If I had spent
the money more wisely in my business, I would be a gazillionaire
today. But as it is, Im merely comfortably retired.
Question: What do you see for the future of shareware?
Answer: Im sorry, but Im not a visionary
man. I never saw the future, but I was lucky enough to be in the
right place at the right time with the right ideas and a proper
amount of energy.
Question: If someone were interested in writing a new
program, what advice would you give them?
Answer: Pick something that hasnt been done very
much before, and do it better than anyone ever has.
Question: How would you explain to that person the costs
involved in marketing a shareware program?
Answer: I would emphasize that the largest cost is in
terms of personal time and involvement.
Question: What do you see as the pitfalls of programming
and marketing of shareware?
Answer: You might end up spending a lot of time and
effort with no results. Some people become disillusioned when
this happens. Its like most things in life - there are no
Question: Do you get a lot of people sending in ideas as
to how to improve on your program(s)?
Answer: Yes, a lot. I always said that PC-File was
more than 90 percent the result of ideas from the users. I
personally ran out of ideas for improvements after about the
first year. After that, I have to credit the users for the
features that were implemented. Before the term
"Shareware" became common, I used to call it "User
Supported Software" largely because of this component of
user design input.
Question: Do you get many complaints from users?
Answer: Not very many. Its a good thing, because
one nasty complaint can ruin my whole week.
Question: Do you feel that interviews of this type will
be helpful to authors and users, alike?
Answer: I hope so.
Question: How do you feel about software pirates, from
the authors point of view?
Answer: As an author, I always felt that pirates were
an ally. If a person isnt going to pay for the program, the
next best thing he/she can do is pass it along to others.
Question: Please tell us a little bit about the software
you write, and why you chose this type of software:
Answer: I prefer to write shareware programs that are
business oriented productivity tools. I like the thought that
people are become more productive as a result of my work. And
secondly, I believe that this category of programs is better
supported by the people who pay.
Question: Is there anything at all you would like our
viewers to know?
Answer: I would like to thank my user community for
all the support and encouragement they have given me over the
years. The feedback and positive reinforcement is extremely
Question: What advice would you give to other shareware
Authors? And, why?
Answer: I always advise authors that users will only
voluntarily pay for shareware if they LIKE the author. If they
dont like you for some reason, you are sunk at the start.
Therefore, dont get off on the wrong foot with your users
with things like crippled programs, time limited programs, and
other negative incentives to register your software. If you
cant trust your users to pay for truly good software, then
you should stay out of the shareware business. Also, too many
authors expect instant success. A shareware programs takes at
least a year to generate enough response for you to know if
its going to be a success. Dont become too quickly
Question: What advice would you give to the users of
Shareware? And, why?
Answer: If you like the author and the program is a
good one which you will use, reasonably priced, by all means pay
for it! This is the only way to keep shareware distribution
alive. If you dont intend to pay for it, then please do the
- Write to the author and explain
why you are not sending in a payment. This feedback may
help him in his future actions. Was it too high priced?
Was it too poorly done? Too many bugs? Not useful to you?
Any of these responses will be helpful.
- Delete the program in its
entirety from your system. You will like yourself more
because of your honesty and integrity.
Thank you very much for participating
in our SharewareJunkies.com Interviews!
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