Elonka Dunin's Bio
(last updated, 7/23/2000)

Hmm, where to start?

Let's see.  I was born December 29th, 1958, in Santa Monica, California.  My parents are Elsie Ann Ivancich and Stanley Edward Dunin, and I have one younger sister, Teresa (TJ) Dunin Vine.

Until I was six, my family lived on Dorothy Street in Brentwood, and I attended Brentwood Elementary School (30 years later, that neighborhood would gain infamy because that's where O.J. Simpson murdered his wife, over on the next block).

Long before O.J., however, my family had left Brentwood, and moved to Westwood, over near U.C.L.A., where both of my parents have been teachers and professors -- my mother in the Dance/Ethnology department, and my father teaching mathematics.  There, on LeConte Avenue, is the house where I lived until I was 18.  I did get dragged off on foreign trips every so often, got stuck (I hated it) in a Swiss boarding school in Lausanne during the summer of 1969, and also lived with a French family for awhile in Bretagne (northern France) in the early 70s.

As for schools while in the U.S., I attended Warner Avenue Elementary School through the 6th grade, then Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High for 7th through 9th grade, and then University ("Uni") High School, from which I graduated in 1976.

I attended UCLA for awhile, majoring in Astronomy, but wasn't very motivated towards getting a degree, and so dropped out after about a year.  Then I enlisted in the U.S.A.F.   I attended Basic Training at Lackland AFB near San Antonio, Texas, then electronics tech school at Chanute AFB in Illinois, and then I was assigned to my first permanent base at RAF Mildenhall, near Cambridge in the U.K.  There, I was what's known as an "Avionics Instruments Systems Specialist," a 325x1.  Basically, you know all those little dials in the cockpit that the pilot & co-pilot look at?  I fixed those, the transmitters that sent signals to them, and the wiring in between.  I worked mostly on KC- RC- and EC-135 aircraft, though some other types of planes would come through for the occasional TDY (Temporary Duty) or airshow.

When not working on planes, I spent a great deal of my time reading, and also getting involved with the growing "Dungeons & Dragons" game community (this was back in the days when the game rules were printed on small pamphlets that came in a white box).  I became the GameMaster or "Dungeon Mistress" quite often, and ran games in the base recreation center.

After RAF Mildenhall, I was assigned to Beale AFB in northern California, where I worked on SR-71, U-2, TR-1, T-38, and more xC-135 aircraft.

I had gotten fairly bored with working on instrumentation by that point, and tried to cross-train into another USAF field, such as satellite technology, or some other field that could better use my natural computer skills.  However, after wading through all of the paperwork, I learned that the instrumentation field that I was in was what was called a "shortage" career field, which meant that there weren't enough qualified individuals to fill it, and so you couldn't cross-train out of it unless you were going to another "shortage" field that had an even greater demand, such as to become an Air Traffic Controller.  I extended my 4-year enlistment another 2 years to try and still get cross-trained into something else that I wanted, but I continued to be turned down because of the "shortage" problem.  So after my 6 years were up, I "got out," and did not re-enlist.  Oh well, the USAF's loss.

I went back to college fulltime at that point, attending Yuba College since it was nearby.  Since I was more motivated to actually learn something at this point, I had no trouble maintaining a 4.0 GPA.  I studied digital electronics, tutored in sign language, and actually took my first-ever programming class, in Pascal.  Up until that point I'd been one of those self-taught computer naturals  who could go into a computer store, listen to the salesman for a few minutes, and then be able to use the computers in the store better than any of the staff there could.  The Pascal class was interesting though, and I learned some stuff about structured programming and sorting techniques that I hadn't known.

After a year or so there, I went back to L.A. for a bit, and did a stint for the Los Angeles Olympics, doing word-processing and typesetting for the bilingual French/English newsletter, which we stored on 8" floppy disks.  After that, I worked for my father's company, Title Data, in Denver for about a year.  I did some programming, mostly translating old code from an HP3000 to the new "C" language on a Fortune computer running Unix.   I eventually got tired of that though, and decided to do some traveling.

A friend of mine from high school, Connie Seidman, had become a travel agent, and every so often she'd call up and say, "Hi Lonk, I just got two free tickets to Amsterdam next weekend.  Wanna go?"  So, via Connie, I'd been to Europe again, and Burma, and Thailand...  Then in the mid-80s, she called me up and asked if I wanted to go to Hong Kong for the New Year.  I said sure, and then thought about it for a few days, and then called her back and said, "Connie, you know that ticket to Hong Kong?  Make mine one-way."

I spent the next three years or so traveling around the world (and I do mean all the way around).  From southeast Asia I went down to Australia and New Zealand (so I could see the sailboats on the round-the-world Whitbread race as they left their halfway point, Auckland, and headed east for South America).  Then I headed north up to Japan (when I boarded the plane in Auckland it was summer/sandal weather, and when I got off the plane in Tokyo it was freezing winter!) to visit my cousin.  I stayed in Tokyo a few days, and then headed west across Asia, to Kathmandu, Nepal.  I spent about a month in Kathmandu, wandering the streets, visiting the temples, and typing random thoughts via a small electronic typewriter that I'd bought in Hong Kong.

Next, I traveled down across India, via Agra (the Taj Mahal really is as beautiful as everyone says), New Delhi, and Bombay, and then hopped a plane over to Kenya where I went on safari.  After that, I went up to England, where I saw the Whitbread boats as they came in at the end of the race.  I traveled around England for a few weeks, visiting my old stomping grounds and seeing other parts of the U.K., driving from southwestern Cornwall all the way up to the Scottish border, over to Wales and then hopping a ferry over to Ireland and the Isle of Man, but eventually I did head back to the U.S.

I did some temp secretary work for awhile to build up some more cash, and then went down to South America to visit my mother (who was doing some research in Chile) for the Christmas holidays.  The original intent was that I was just going to spend a week or two in Chile, but I ended up spending the next year and a half in South America, criss-crossing back and forth, visiting every country there, except for Dutch Guiana (because they were having a civil war, and any strangers seen crossing the river at the border were being shot on sight <cough>).

Eventually I worked my way up through Ecuador to Colombia, hung out in Cartagena for awhile (they've got a nice film festival), and then went up through Guatemala, and back to the U.S.

I continued to work as a temp legal secretary in Los Angeles, making very good money, but in the evening I found myself getting more and more involved with computer games, both single-player, and the multi-player ones, such as British Legends and GemStone ][, that were popping up on the online services such as CompuServe and GEnie.

It was 1989 at this point, and in 1990, the founders of Simutronics, the company that made GemStone, decided to throw a convention in St. Louis, "GemCon," so that the players could meet the writers of the game.  I was one of the dozen or so people that made the trek to St. Louis for the convention.  Afterwards, I went back to L.A., deep in thought.  A month later I moved from L.A. to St. Louis, where I helped the CEO (David Whatley) shift the base of operations of Simutronics from his bedroom in his parents' home, to an apartment loft in St. Charles.  Within six months after that I was doing a great deal of the administrative work for Simutronics, running the GemStone game, and doing a lot of the programming and customer service work in it.  This gave David more free time to write a new game, CyberStrike, which won the first ever award for "Online Game of the Year" from Computer Gaming World magazine, in 1993.

The rest is documented in the Simutronics history files...  We hired more people, and grew from an apartment loft operation to our current location in a 10,000 square-foot office building in St. Charles, where David and I each have one of the corner offices.  Simutronics was listed on the Inc. 500 list in 1999 as one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S., with annual revenues of about $5 million.

What's next?  Will I stay with Simutronics, launch my own new company, create more games, or chuck it all and go do something completely different, putting my "gaming days" behind me?  Who knows, but it's sure to be an interesting ride.  :)

For a more updated autobiography (as of April 2011), check here.

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