August 29, 2008
Welcome to the final installment of New Zealand's most carelessly proof-read blog. Herein lie my top 10 PC World moments, to stay here a while and forever on Google cache.
1. ONE MILLION DOLLARS "Hello. My name is John McAfee, and I'm going to sue you for a million dollars!"
It's my first week at PC World Towers in Parnell, and the head of an antivirus company is barking down the phone from the US. It's early in the morning, and I'm the only PC Worlder in the office to take his call, and listen to the violent offence he's taken to a review in our previous issue.
I was unable to talk McAfee down from Planet Angry, but after slamming down the phone, he never contacted our office again.
I did learn one thing from the incident. "Its pronounced 'ma-CAF-ee', emphasis on the second syllable, rhymes with faff," I wisely correct people when discussing security software.
McAfee subsequently took his company public and exited after making big bucks.
According to Wikipedia, he now teaches yoga.
2. RAM RAIDS During my early days at PC World, myself and Bruce Buckman used to lay out and design the magazine on our Macs, on top of writing, reviewing and subbing (under editor Chris Barton; yes, we all ate gravel for breakfast). Thing was, you could never have enough memory for PageMaker, and less technical members of staff, loafing in the sales and admin departments, seemed to have more than they needed. You join the dots.
Of course, I've matured a lot since then.
3. MEETING THE SHAT It's one of the great regrets of my time at PC World, and my life in general, that a photo taken of me with William Shatner at an Intel IDF forum in San Jose never came out. This was before his ironic-mode comeback with Boston Legal. And although it was a morning book signing, he seemed to be several sheets to the wind, uncannily like Tim Allen's burnt-out Shatner-clone in the brilliant roman a clef Galaxy Quest.
After a brief speech and some Q&A, during which star-struck Intel and Dell developers actually asked him serious questions about future technology (sample reply: "Biotech? It's just like ... now ... DON'T EAT THE CORN!), the Shat started his "book signing". This consisted of him walking down the line of people hopefully holding up his latest master work, holding out his pen so he drew a continuous scribbly line across each cover as we went, wobbling but never stopping.
A PR materialised to say "Mr Shatner will not be signing at this time", and quickly started to lead him away by the elbow - at which point I grabbed him and he agreed to a photo, or at least came to a confused halt. I threw my disposable film camera to a passerby who snapped a pic of me grinning like an idiot and the Shat looking slightly panicked and sucking in his gut, but alas it never came out.
Of course, the Shat has matured a lot since then.
4. THE RELEASE OF DOS 5.0 Kids, ask your parents.
5. BROADBAND THAT WORKS Getting on Telecom's pre-release DSL trial in 1999. It was like driving a V8 down an empty highway. Of course, in time a half million others signed on without the infrastructure spend keeping up, and it soon became like being stuck in a Holden Astra during rush hour on Auckland's southern motorway. But for five minutes, it was the best feeling ever.
6. LOGGING ON TO COMPUSERVE Earlier in the decade, NZ PC World got its first internet account - a dial-up job, tied to a single, shared PC. The cost: $70 an hour.
Incidentally, Press F1 was already up and running, having pre-dated the internet in its 1000-member strong bulletin board incarnation (kids, ask your grandparents).
7. FIGHT THE FUTURE Upgrading my XT to a 286 for my first How To article (yes, it was that long ago). The debates of then and soon after - 4MB of RAM or 8MB? - constantly illustrate how much we underestimate the rate of change.
8. GETTING HITCHED When I mistyped the address of a mildly flirtatious email sent to our receptionist of the time, it landed in the inbox of another staff member who shared the same first name. One email led to another, and we now have two kids.
9. THE STAR TREK THEMED PC WORLD AWARDS. The annual PC World Awards evening often spun dangerously close to an out-of-control circus. But it was always a lot of fun, and the only time that everyone in the PC industry got together. More than three years after the final event, many industry veterans still have fond memories. The best - or worst - had to be the 1994 effort, MC'd by the late Peter Sinclair, that saw staff dressed as Star Trek characters, and the stage dressed as the deck of the Enterprise.
Pictured above (I was, um, probably off dancing or something) - Rear: Mark Evans (as little-known character "The Waiter"), Peter Kane, Bruce Buckman (quick-changed from Lieutenant Worf), Chris Barton (Captain Jean-Luc Picard, not Crusty the Clown), Rob Clarke (a slightly snug fitting Spock), Little Chooky. Front: Alan Bennett (father of Press F1), Mark Dalgarno, Sara Goessi.
Pictured left: Rob with PC Direct cofounders Maurice Bryham and Sharon Hunter. It seems hard to believe now, but during the 1990s local PC assemblers like PC Direct consistently held around 50% market share. This was before global economies of scale kicked in, with the rise of Dell, and HP, Digital and Compaq merging to become the HP of today. It's sure a lot cheaper to buy an international brand PC today, but life's a lot less interesting than when we had 20 or 30 brands to choose from.
10. SEEING THE WORLD: Getting shaken down for a bribe at Bangalore's airport; walking the Great Wall of China; being in London during the year 2000 and the optimism of the early Blair years; sitting on the deck of the Silicon Valley home of then Symantec CEO Gordon Eubanks, a former US Navy Admiral, as he swapped mysterious 'Nam-era espionage stories with ex CIA operative and Computerworld Hong Kong editor Don Tennant (now US Computerworld editor), as Eubanks' much younger wife screamed at him about the kids, and reps from a major US retailer cooled their heels in the living room, waiting for an audience (Symantec was wildly prosperous under Eubanks, incidentally, and his much more buttoned-down successor John Thompson); wading through shelves of pirate gear in Mong Kok; Japan; Mexico; Canada; New York, Seattle (I'll stop now).
There was nothing like the 1990s IT junket (and it is a hard habit to kick. After resolving to spend more time at home I'm shortly heading off to Shanghai; check out my progress on my new blog).
And that it from me.
Thanks for all your support during my time editing PC World (and iMag and >>FFWD, then lately back at PC World then as editorial director across our stable).
I'm leaving the building, but not IT writing. Catch my new KeallHauled blog here.