Somehow, the Leslie Bunder plan never came to pass. Leslie was working more and more on Teletext.co.uk, and I suspect the higher-ups realised he might not be the best fit for an audience that had become inured to our deplorable whimsy.
Instead, they were dragging me away more and more to work on the Teletext website, sending me on Photoshop courses, and making me sit next to the editor because I was A Naughty Boy. It was hard not to feel like I was being punished in some way.
What's more, they had told Tim he was no longer welcome in the office. He'd already started working from home a few days a week - some nonsense about him being freelance meant that he was no longer entitled to a desk full time.
It was to be a gradual transition, but a date had been set for Tim to work from home permanently. I think he was looking forward to it, but I was forlorn. I didn't want to work at Teletext without Tim. I couldn't have imagined anything worse.
Teletext - without Tim - wasn't an environment I wanted to be in. There was more ambition floating around, bigger egos, more paranoia... people were more grown-up - in that horrible way that grown-ups can be...
There were some good people there, particularly among the rank-and-file, but underneath all the fun with Tim and Digi, I felt completely out of place. In fact, I'd probably felt that way ever since Teletext's original editor, John Holme, had left, taking a vital slice of soul with him...
Tim and I had already started thinking beyond Teletext, however.
We knew people liked how we wrote together, and we'd been working on a radio sitcom script called We Two Vets. It was a show revolving around a psychotic, abusive vet, and his innocent, idiotic, assistant. It featured a magnet museum, and a sequence in which an entire herd of cattle are mown down by a combine harvester. Very mainstream.
We sent it out to a bunch of different production companies - and were rejected by all of them (one sent it back damning it memorably as "Nothing more than a series of absurdist sketches").
One person, however, wrote to us raving about it; Robert Popper, who worked in development at Planet 24. You might know Planet 24 as the production company responsible for The Big Breakfast, and you might know Robert as the writer of The Timewaster Letters and Friday Night Dinner.
We arranged a meeting with Robert and his colleague Mark Freeland - now very high-up in the BBC - where they simply kept quoting the script back at us. They loved it, payed us £250 to option it for a year, and... nothing else happened with it. Well, that's not strictly true: I got a TV writing career out of it, in the long run - and I owe both Mark and Robert hugely.
But that's another story.
In the short term, Tim and I wrote up some other ideas - one called Bobby Carr is Coming Back, about a washed-up celebrity luvvie, and another about a detective agency; Husk & Hornblower. Both of which were also little more than series of absurdist sketches.
I think we were hoping that, if they were going to split up the Digi team, we could at least get together to write other stuff... maybe even build a career out of it.
Bizarrely, we'd also been approached by Nickleodeon. The kids channel had an on-screen digital cat character, and were able to make it talk in real time. They asked if Tim and I would consider a job writing the cat's dialogue. We would've done if they hadn't offered us a salary of £6,000, and asked us to split it 50/50.
It was the first week in June, 1996. I was away on paternity leave - I'd become a dad again, which kept happening, inexplicably - but I'd stayed in touch with Tim while I was off.
The day before I was due back in the office, I learned that Tim had gotten into trouble over a piece he'd run on Gossi the Dog - our dog-hosted gaming gossip page.
Acting on a tip-off from a friend of ours, who worked for the same magazine company as Dave "Games Animal" Perry - a veteran games journalist, who'd been promoted to a senior publishing role - Tim/Gossi reported that he'd been given a carpeting from his bosses over declining readership numbers.
Unlike with previous complainers, Perry went directly to Teletext's editor. It was a familiar line: he was appalled, and he was going to sue unless they removed the humiliating article from the air.
Conveniently forgetting the one thing you don't do in journalism, our bosses apologised immediately, removed the offending pages from air, and accepted full liability. Had he wanted to, Dave Perry could've sued the arse off them, and won - all because of how they reacted.
I returned to work the next day, arriving before Tim.
There was a weird atmosphere. One of the senior sub-editors - one of the nice ones - came over to fill me in on what had gone down the previous day. I joked that "It's not like they're going to fire him!".
After all, firing Tim would've given Perry all the ammunition he needed to wipe the floor with Teletext, and name his price. The sub-editor looked at the floor, as if imagining it being wiped with Tim's face: "Actually, I think they might."
With that clanging in my ears, Tim arrived. He clearly had no idea what was about to hit him as our evil Deputy Features Editor clip-clopped over in her vampire heels, and summoned Tim to follow her to the Deputy Editor's office. She could scarcely conceal the smile beneath her Faustian scowl.
Ten minutes later, Tim burst out of the office, threw a cup of coffee over his computer, waved goodbye to the office - "Bye, everyone! I've been fired!" - and was escorted out of the building. They changed the door code so that he couldn't get back in.
And that was it.
In a daze, I got some tissue and started mopping up the coffee; I felt like Jackie Kennedy clambering out the back of the limo, after JFK's brains had been splattered all over my nice pink outfit.
Pretty swiftly, I realised that the timing had likely been no coincidence; they had probably waited until I was away. I was still too valuable to them, as their senior graphics artist. It was utterly calculated.
Dave Perry gave them exactly what they'd been waiting for.
I was next to be summoned.
It was a weird meeting... with a sort of forced jollity, like they were testing to see how I was going to respond; would I play ball, or do something dramatic and unpredictable?
Both the evil Deputy Features Editor and the Deputy Editor (you'll note that the actual Editor rarely got his hands dirty with any of this sort of mucky business) were almost trembling. I suspect it was a mix of euphoria and adrenaline. The evil one was practically bouncing up and down in her seat.
Still... they were being very nice to me, which got right under my skin. Tim was - and is - one of my best friends, and they'd just kicked him in the sternum.
They explained that they couldn't risk Tim working at Teletext any longer, and checked that I understood why he'd been let go. They said that they wanted me to rest Digitiser for a week, and take stock of what happened, before relaunching it as "Digitiser Phase 2". There was no question of axing Digi - it still brought in too much advertising money - but I was the only one left who could write it. I was pulled off all of my graphic design duties.
On the one hand I got the thing I wanted: to write Digitiser full time, without being distracted by colleagues coming over and asking me to draw them a withered prophet holding a yellow umbrella. On the other hand... it was horrible. It felt like stabbing Tim between the shoulder blades. I hated myself for being too much of a coward to follow him out of the door.
He called me that afternoon - while in the middle of writing the proposal for his first book (which he sold successfully, and was shortly afterwards named Travel Writer of the Year) - laughing about it all. Shock sometimes takes a while to sink in, and when the promos for "Digitiser Phase 2" were running he called in less of a benevolent mood. Ultimately, it never did our friendship any long term harm.
Part of me still wishes I had quit out of solidarity there and then, but I didn't know how I could; I still had to pay my mortgage, and support my family. I was trying to get a TV writing career off the ground, and one thing that Digitiser did afford me was the time at work to write scripts...
Instead, I could wait a few months...
Tim tried to sue Teletext for wrongful dismissal.
By his own admission he got himself a Tesco Value solicitor - a mate of a mate who did him a favour (but, ultimately, did him no favour at all).
He'd even spoken to Dave Perry to get his side of the story. As Tim told it to me, the story was entirely true, and Dave felt terrible that Tim had lost his job because he'd complained.
But Teletext somehow managed to prove that they couldn't have possibly fired him for wrongful dismissal, because he was never a contracted member of staff in the first place. It's hard not to feel that they planned the whole thing, and manipulated us both into a position which benefitted them.
Tim shouldn't have lost his job. Not like that. At least, not until the Gossi story had been proven to be untrue (which - apparently - it wasn't). They just saw an opportunity - Tim isolated, without me around to be taken down as collateral damage - so they took the shot... and to hell with the risk of Teletext being sued.
That's how much they hated Digitiser.
Tim had the last laugh, of course; he became enormously successful in his own right. During his travels around Iceland for his brilliant first book, Frost On My Moustache - which is dedicated to the Deputy Editor and Deputy Features Editor - he sent his old bosses a postcard, picturing the blood-soaked aftermath of a polar bear attack.
It read: "Wish you were here."
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - PART SIX by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - PART FIVE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - PART FOUR by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - PART THREE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - Part Two by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - Part One by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: 16-BIT - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: 16-BIT - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ARCADES - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ARCADES - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: SEGA MASTER SYSTEM - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: SEGA MASTER SYSTEM - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART TWO by Mr Biffo