"I'm a 34-year-old software engineer, originally from Belfast in Northern Ireland. I earned a degree in Software Engineering at Edinburgh University, and it was during that time that I experimented with 3D graphics and created Flurry. After Edinburgh, I briefly worked in the games industry in Reading before moving to London where I worked for Bloomberg for 10 years. I have recently moved back up to Edinburgh with my wife, and started a new job where I am happily back to doing 3D graphics again."
Where did you find the ideas for your screensaver?
"When I started experimenting with 3D graphics I created a lot of particle systems, which involved coloured points moving around on a black background, like a fountain or solar system. It's a simple idea but it taught me a lot about colour and moving objects around in 3D space. One day I found some code on the internet by Brian Wade for moving the particles in streams, so I spent a week or so playing around with it until it moved in a sort of natural, relaxing pattern. Flurry isn't an attempt to recreate something that exists elsewhere, it's just the emergence of complex behaviour from a few simple mathematical rules.
Which challenges did you encounter when making the screensaver? Was the initial idea very different from the final software?
Although it looked very similar, at the start of development the movement in Flurry was much more frenzied. It looked interesting, but a screensaver should be relaxing in my opinion. I also played around with making it a single colour but settled on the rainbow effect as it provides more interest for the eye.
Were you surprised by the public response?
I had released a few bits of software before and got maybe a few hundred downloads, so I was surprised when I got a few thousand in the first few weeks. When the product manager at Apple emailed me to ask if they could include it in Mac OS X I was completely shocked. At first I thought it would be an extra option for users and after a year or so it would be replaced. But Apple made it the default for over ten years. I always get a kick out of seeing it pop up in unexpected places, like TV shows and movies.
What are some of your favourite screensavers?
I have fond memories of the original flying toaster After Dark module. At weekends my dad used to bring home a Mac Classic from his school with After Dark installed, where I would play around with MacPaint and anything else I could find.
Do you currently use a screensaver on your computer?
At work my desktop is set up to turn off the monitor instead of show a screensaver, and my iMac at home doesn't get used much as we tend to use iPads. At the moment my Apple TV shows some of my personal photos, but if I could get it to show Flurry I probably would.
Do you see a future for screensavers?
It's a shame, but personal computing devices these days are mostly run on batteries so it's hard to see a future where people are willing to spend spare energy on a purely aesthetic feature."