It has been 20 years since I set out to start my own business, and this column is a combination of a look back and a way of saying thanks to all of you that are still reading my work.
I thought about this milestone when I had a chance to meet one of my readers this past month that I had never met, an IT manager with a large non-profit organization. He was excited to finally meet me. We reminisced about one of my reviews of a now-defunct product that he ended up purchasing and using for many years. That interaction brought home to me the kind of influence that I have had over time, and made me feel proud of the body of work that I have created. So for all of you that I have met, and those that I haven’t, I just wanted to say thanks for your attention all these years. My work product is a partnership among readers and vendors who keep innovation alive in the world of IT. It has been a terrific run.
In 1992, I was just coming off a very successful launch of Network Computing magazine for CMP (now United Business Media). I had hired the staff, worked with our designers, and built one of the first digital content management systems that ran on desktop Apple computers. In the first year of publication we had turned a profit. The publication still exists today and many of the folks that I had hired are still working journalists. Back then we had PCs that ran megahertz clock speeds with megabytes of RAM and disk storage: even our phones today have dual core processors and gigabytes now of stuff. Speaking of cell phones, they were anything but smart: the first Blackberry precursor was still on the drawing boards. Wifi hadn’t yet happened, let alone wired networking; the Internet was still the province of academics and the military; and IBM still thought its minicomputer line was part of the picture for most businesses. Microsoft Windows was at version 3.1, and just beginning to catch on. Computer CD drives were still new and were read-only.
Back in 1992, many of today’s tech influencers had yet to hit their marks. Sergey and Larry were still undergrads that hadn’t yet even met each other at Stanford, let alone come up with the idea of Google. Zuck was barely out of kindergarten. Steve was still fooling around with Next and Pixar and hadn’t yet come back to guide Apple. Chambers was still running Cisco’s sales and not yet the entire company, and Linus’ doctoral dissertation was known to just a few tech-heads.
They were certainly different times.
In the 20 years I have written thousands of magazine articles. I wrote my second book on computer networking which came out the week after 9/11, much to my disadvantage. I have had the opportunity and honor to work with some of the most exceptional people in our industry. I have enjoyed staying in touch with many IT managers as they have grown their careers and continue to correspond with many entrepreneurs as they have moved from one startup to another.
Yes, those publications at the dawn of the PC era are mere shadows of themselves today: PC Week (now eWeek), Infoworld (where I wrote a weekly column in the mid-1990s), Datamation, Computerworld, and even my baby Network Computing. Print has been replaced by the Web, and tech advertising has migrated elsewhere. The stack of paper on my desk on Monday afternoons is now replaced by the initials http.
Will I still be at my computer 20 years from now? I have no idea. But I hope you continue to read what I compose each week, and I am proud to have you as my loyal readers. Thanks for a great first 20 years together. And as Natalie Merchant has written,
You’ve been so kind and generous
I don’t know why you keep on giving
For your kindness I’m in debt to you
For your selflessness–my admiration
For everything you’ve done
You know I’m bound–I’m bound to thank you for it.