Think Retro debuts at Macworld

December 8th, 2014 11:58 AM
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Macworld has seen some hard times lately: on September 10, just a day after the Macworld staff labored to cover Apple's unveiling of the iWatch, most of its writers and editors were laid off and its print edition shuttered. Macworld was the last consumer magazine published by IDG, parent company of Computerworld, my own employer 2007–2013 and present publisher of my freelance pieces. Although I'd never written for Macworld nor knew its staff personally — Computerworld is an enterprise publication and doesn't mingle much with the consumer side of IDG — it still hit close to home to see Macworld mark its 30th anniversary in so punishing a manner.

For all that, though, there is still much good left at Macworld, including last month's debut of a new weekly column: "Think Retro", written by Christopher Phin, former editor at MacUser and MacFormat. Unlike the occasional feature or mainstream news story, "Think Retro" is a regular, ongoing "celebration of classic Apple hardware and software". While none of the four columns published to date are specifically about the Apple II, they does offer practical, relevant information to the modern retrocomputing enthusiast, such as how to use an ADB keyboard with a USB computer or how to open your old ClarisWorks files in Mac OS X.

Apple adjustable keyboard

The Griffin iMate is no RetroConnector, but chances are you have one of these.
Photo copyrighted by Macworld.

While I lament the magazine and website Macworld once was, I'm glad through columns such as "Think Retro" that the brand still offers value to Apple diehards, including us Apple II fans.

A matter of style at Computerworld

December 16th, 2013 12:36 PM
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Filed under Mainstream coverage, Musings;
2 comments.

The longest I've ever stayed at one job was six years at Computerworld, during which time I saw the publication's transition from a magazine with a Web site to a Web site with a magazine. Through it all, we had copyeditors to ensure the continued quality of all our content, checking articles for clarity and consistency issues that may've escaped the news editors who worked directly with reporters on assignments and story structure.

As with most publications, Computerworld maintained a style guide — a shared document that all copyeditors referenced to verify whether the magazine presented quotations are in the past tense or present, if it was "Web site" or "website", and other common questions. My own first need to consult this guide came in March 2008 when contributing to the anthology, "Tales from the crypt: Our first computers". I was unsure if I should write my model of Apple as IIGS, IIgs, or something else.

This is what the style guide had to say on the matter:

Computerworld style guide

Ancient microcomputers from Apple?!
Click to enlarge.

As Computerworld's resident Apple II fanboy expert, I long wondered if this style guide entry was not written with me in mind as a sort of gentle ribbing. Although most of my co-workers had been in the industry long enough to remember and appreciate the elegance of the Apple II — heck, one of my colleagues was none other than the former editor-in-chief of inCider/A+, Dan Muse — it is nonetheless difficult to explain why one would carry that torch into the 21st century. Easier to poke fun at it, right?

It was only when researching this blog post that I confirmed this particular entry in the style guide well predates my tenure at Computerworld. It figures that a publication that had been around since 1967 would've addressed this issue long before my arrival. I should've checked my ego at the door!

Computerworld was a great source for Apple II news during my time there, and they continue to entertain the topic with coverage such as video profiles of KansasFest 2013 attendees. Given this support, readers should be glad to know the Apple II has earned a place at Computerworld, both behind the scenes and on the front page.

(Screenshot used with permission.)

Meet the geeks at KansasFest

August 19th, 2013 1:18 PM
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From 2007 through 2012, I covered KansasFest for Computerworld, a magazine and website of which I was an editor. When I left that position in early 2013, I did so on good terms, leaving open the possibility of freelance work. I solicited suggestions from other Apple II users for how I might pitch coverage of this year's KansasFest in a way that Computerworld hadn't done before. Eric Shepherd proposed a series of attendee profiles, in the style of my previous coverage of BostonFIG. My editor loved the idea but asked that, instead of photos and writeups, I produce short video interviews.

I'd long wanted to shoot video at KansasFest, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. Andy Molloy helped me vet a list of attendees with unique, discrete roles who would exemplify the Apple II community. Throughout the week of KansasFest, I cornered a dozen people: programmers, historians, artists, gamers, and more.

Computerworld published eight of the videos in the slideshow, "Who goes to an Apple II convention in 2013?", which went live last Friday. This morning, KansasFest's official YouTube channel published an additional three. That makes eleven — the unpublished 12th video was one I shot of myself, as a proof of concept. No one needs to see that.

My thanks to all who contributed to this project! I hope the below videos serve as an example of the wonderful friends you can make at KansasFest. Click the thumbnails for an introduction!

Melissa Barron

The Artist

Steve Wozniak

The Founder

Randy Wigginton

The Speaker

Steve Weyhrich

The Historian

Carrington Vanston

The Podcaster

Michael Sternberg

The Gamer

Eric Shepherd

The Emulator

Kevin Savetz

The Rebel

Charles Mangin

The Inventor

Carl Knoblock

The Old-Timer

Ken Gagne

The Profiler

The Programmer

The Programmer

First reactions to Jobs movie trailer

June 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
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Filed under History, Mainstream coverage, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak;
2 comments.

There was an occasion last year where I wrote a blog post for Apple II Bits but, prior to clicking "publish", realized the subject had a broader appeal. The same thing happened today when I started writing about the new trailer for the Steve Jobs film. Previously we saw only a clip of the movie, resulting in mixed receptions. Now that a two-minute trailer garnered two million views over the weekend, has public reception to the movie changed?

Find out by reading my Computerworld blog — but you can watch the trailer here, or see the film in theaters on August 16.

The Apple II leaves Computerworld

January 7th, 2013 4:01 PM
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Filed under Musings;
5 comments.

My New Year's resolution?

New Year's Resolution 2013

Done.

After six years as an editor at Computerworld magazine, I've given my notice. It's time to try something new.

Although I'm looking forward to new opportunities, I'm also reflective of all I've accomplished here since my first day on February 5, 2007. I was not hired as a features writer yet nonetheless managed to produce more than three dozen stories. Many of my articles were influenced by my experiences in the Apple II community, such as "CompuServe, Prodigy et al.: What Web 2.0 can learn from Online 1.0" (I was the APPUSER Forum's Member of the Month [MOTM] — October 1992, I think) and "Ben Heckendorn takes a mad-scientist approach to game console design" (which also became Juiced.GS's December 2008 cover story). Even more articles were directly about the Apple II itself, including "Sold on eBay: New-in-box Apple II, never opened" (Juiced.GS's March 2008's cover story), interviews with Apple II users who are experts in their field, and coverage of KansasFest every year from 2007 through 2012.

Computerworld also put me in touch with several folks who became KansasFest keynote speakers: when I liveblogged from KansasFest 2007, Lane Roathe left a comment to the effect of, "That event is still going on??" Using my administrative rights, I pulled the contact info from his comment and got in touch. A year later, he was our keynote speaker — an attendance he repeated in 2012, putting him back in touch with his id Software co-founder, John Romero.

The effect of these connections is long-lasting, and for as long as Computerworld maintains a persistent online archive, those stories will remain — and possibly grow, as the invitation to freelance has been extended. So though I'm not concerned about the state of this body of work, I am nonetheless saddened as I clean out my cubicle to realize the Apple II's presence is not long for this office.

My cubicle has sported an Apple IIGS since December 2008, when I came into the office over Christmas break to set it up for the first time in 11 years. Seven months later, Computerworld moved to a new office building, and the IIGS came with me. It then started making annual appearances in various media. It first showed up in this 2010 photo gallery:

It then served as a backdrop to this YouTube video commemorating Steve Jobs:

Finally, it showed up on the summer 2012 cover of Juiced.GS:

My Apple II hasn't seen a ton of use in its days at Computerworld, but the tasks it performed were essential. With ADTPro, it saved my brother's college papers, my friend's childhood memories, and the source code of PublishIt! It was the occasional lunchtime diversion as I would boot up Lode Runner, Oregon Trail, or Microzine. And it was a talking point for any new employee, whose eyes would widen slightly at the sight of such an ancient computer — yet not as ancient still as its host, with Computerworld having been founded in 1967.

Given my employer's history, it's no surprise that I'm not the only Apple II alumnus in the building: Computerworld all-star reporter Gregg Keizer is formerly of Softdisk, and CIO.com executive editor Dan Muse was editor-in-chief of inCider/A+, which employed many folk who are still with IDG, Computerworld's publisher. But I've not seen any of these esteemed colleagues, all authorities in modern enterprise IT, cling to their old tech and bridge it into their modern careers. After my Apple II, the next oldest computer I've seen here is a 2006-era Mac mini.

So my departure from Computerworld invokes not only the usual regret when bidding adieu to such wonderful co-workers, many of whom have become friends for life. It also means the end of the Apple II's official relationship with a storied institution. I've been invited to freelance for this and other IDG publications, but though some of my Apple II stories were occasionally the top-read stories in their months of publication, in general, I doubt the free pitches of computer nostalgia that the editors were happy to entertain from a passionate in-house writer will warrant tapping their limited freelance budget.

So yeah: I'm wistful. Nostalgic. Melancholy. The Apple II will come with me to my new workplace. But that will be a smaller team, in a less social environment, with stricter network regulations and fewer media opportunities. It won't be the same. Nothing ever is. But it's time to move on.

I've been cleaning out my cubicle for the past week. I thought it would be an appropriate bookend to this blog post to share a photo of my cubicle, sans Apple II. But that's not how I want to remember this small space that, for a few years, was a corporate gateway to the retrocomputing community.

The Apple II will be the last thing I pack up. That's when the heart has gone out from the building.

The Apple II is a part of me. When it goes, I go.

Reactions to Steve Jobs

October 6th, 2011 4:13 PM
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I update this blog every Thursday. There's no rule against me updating it more than once.

Steve Jobs has passed away. My co-workers and I got together this morning to reflect on what this means for us and our world.

Great work by Keith Shaw in producing and editing this video. I know of at least one more video and one podcast that will feature Apple II users. I'll post them here on Monday.