Tom Barbalet started developing released software with the Schmuck Quest series of games released on the Mac and PC from 1990 to 1993. In addition, he developed compilers, interpreters and antiviral software.
Studying at university in 1996, Barbalet realized that all his software needed a focus. Through a debate with a fellow student, he started the Nervana Project (known today as Noble Ape). The initial development drew a lot of international interest, including new media theorist, Douglas Rushkoff, and later Apple Computer founder, Steve Wozniak.
Douglas Rushkoff wrote an article on the graphics component of the Noble Ape development in 1999. Barbalet moved to the San Francisco Bay Area soon after the article was published. He stayed there until 2001, when he moved to the UK to recapture some of the initial development of Noble Ape. It was in Stockholm in mid-2001 that Barbalet decided to completely rework the Simulation and release it under an Open Source license.
Barbalet was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 in 2003. He also wrote an article for IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications on the graphics in the Noble Ape Simulation about a year later. Over this time, Apple Computer picked up the Simulation for their CHUD toolkit. Two Apple engineers demonstrated the optimized Simulation at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference 2003. Apple Computer distributes the Simulation with every new Mac they sell.
Barbalet moved back to the US and started as the editor of the popular artificial life site, Biota.org, in 2005. He began producing podcasts for both Biota.org and Noble Ape in order to put voices to the passion of artificial life development which had been captured only in text and software up until that time. In 2009, he was interviewed by Leo Laporte and Randal Schwartz for FLOSS Weekly.
Barbalet lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and works for Netflix.