Mavis Beacon was a fake character dreamed up by a video game marketing team. But don’t tell the internet that. Much like the misremembered phenomenon of the non-existent Sinbad movie Shazam that people insist was real, there are still netizens that claim to have seen her on a talk show or winning a typing competition. Let’s take a look at all the things that made Mavis the greatest typing teacher that never existed.
Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing! was one of the most ubiquitous computer programs in everyday households for at least a decade following its release in 1987. One reason for that was the growing need to be proficient with typing as personal computers became an item that everyone owned. But another factor was the beaming face of the model on the cover of the software’s package. For most, this woman was Mavis Beacon and she lodged herself into our popular imagination as someone who obviously had her shit together and would help us do the same.
According to this excellent video essay from Lazy Game Reviews, the game’s publisher, The Software Toolworks, was inspired to create Ms. Beacon following the success of its chess simulator Chessmaster 2000. That game’s box art imagined a bearded wizard as the ultimate chess opponent so that players could imagine themselves competing against a flesh-and-blood expert. Mavis Beacon was simply a woman who looked like a trustworthy teacher. Over the years, the photos of model Renee L’Esperance were doctored in order to update her clothing and were eventually swapped out for new models. The gaming company still considers her their Betty Crocker.
There’s more to her story but you should check it out in video form below. We also get some great anecdotes from the burgeoning computer industry of the eighties, a look through the elaborate packaging of the original software and, of course, take the old game for a spin. Nostalgia and proper typing posture are sure to follow.