What happens when your Whac-A-Moles stop responding? You don’t call in animal control–not when you’re talking about an arcade game.
Instead, the game gets slapped with the dreaded “out of order sign” and stops generating any revenue…it just takes up space. So when an unusual outbreak of Whac-A-Mole malfunctions forced amusement park operators to start making service requests, did anyone think much of it? Well, yes, and no.
As it turns out, an Orlando, FL-based ex-contractor for Bob’s Space Racers (the company that makes Whac-A-Mole and many other arcade games) was recently arrested on the grounds he tampered with intellectual property. Marvin Walter Wimberly, Jr., 61, a former programmer with the company, essentially found a way to take the fun out of the popular arcade game by getting the moles to stop popping up after a certain number of days.
In the February 24, 2011 issue of the Orlando Sentinel, Gary Taylor writes:
Wimberly, who was treated as an independent contractor, began working there in the 1980, according to the arrest report. His job was to write and maintain computer programs that operated the company’s games.
Company officials told police Wimberly received a fee for creating and maintaining the programs and that when the volume of work declined in 2002, an hourly consulting fee was added to his compensation.
In 2008, company officials began encouraging Wimberly to become a full-time, salaried employee and set a deadline of March 31, 2009, to reach an agreement, according to the report. His response was to increase the maintenance fee he was charging the company by 250% just before the deadline, police said.
Police believe Wimberly began writing the virus into the computer codes in August 2008 and sold the company 443 computer modules with the infected code for a total of more than $51,000. Once the modules shutdown, they were useless, police said, and total loss to the company was more than $100,000.
A year ago, Wimberly supplied the company with modules which contained an even more complex virus, according to the arrest report.
Company officials believe Wimberly did it to profit from selling the modules to the company and charging the maintenance fee and that he intended to start a company that would sell working modules to customers of Bob’s Space Racers who were having issues with the modules that were infected with the virus, the report said.
In the end, the alleged offender failed to program the most essential code–the one that erased his trail and made it possible for him to avoid arrest. And so the mole got whacked in the end…