Two years behind the masthead. (Reminiscence - software, stores and magazines) David Lubar.
Running into your ex-boss can be difficult. Especially if your ex-boss is David Ahl and you're trying to run into him at a computer show. He was always there, but hard to find--a rumor at Applefest, a shadow at CES. We finally met up at the West Coast Computer Faire. After chatting a bit and exchanging cat pictures, he mentioned that Creative was on the verge of a tenth anniversary. The occasion would be marked with a special issue including articles by those who had written for Creative in the past. As usual, the boss put no restrictions on contents.
This lack of restrictions can make life tough. If the boss had said "How about a short piece on the philosophical implications of the IBM keyboard," or "Could you write one of those useless little machine language programs for us," I would have had no problem. But I was on my own and wanted to do something worthy of the occasion. Everything I considered seemed either too shallow or too specialized. What follows is a compromise; a mosaic of scenes, impressions, anecdotes, and memories. To give some order to it, and to blatantly capitalize on the current popularity of books of lists, records, and trivia, I welcome you to the Creative Computing Awards, Records, Lists, and Other Stuff. Worst Advice Given to an Associate Editor Attending His First Computer Show
The hotel is just a short walk from the train station. You won't need a taxi. Article that by Itself Justifies the Existence of the Magazine
"Tero's Apple" was a father's story of how he modified a computer for his handicapped son. It inspired the first Computers and the Handicapped issue. Three Games that Kept Us from Getting Any Work Done in Editorial.
* Castle Wolfenstein. (Andy made general. The rest of us kept blowing up chests full of grenades.)
* TI 99/4 Soccer. (Had this game not existed, the magazine could easily have been published weekly.)
* David's Midnight Magic. (Sub award to Peter Fee for best body english displayed during play of a computer game. It's all in the wrists.) Most Controversial Article
"Don't Write that Program" by Steve Kimmel. This essay on the pointless side of using a computer for small tasks was met with a large, mixed response and inspired an article called (surprise, surprise) "Write that Program." Steve has a knack for controversy. Best Caption for a Letter in Input/Output
Following an article on stock market predictions, a writer informed us that there was also a large school of people called "chartists," who used other methods for stock analysis. The letter was captioned "Pardon Me Boys, is that the Chart that Knew the Future?" Best Christmas Gift from a Publisher
One year we each got to take home one of the toys that had been reviewed for the December issue. (Note that the next year we got a chance to purchase leftover cheese from a press party at a discount rate, so things have a way of balancing out). The Best Issues Ever
First honors have to go to the mammoth April Fools issue of 1980. It is a classic and timeless parody. For creative layout, honors go to the October 1980 Smalltalk issue. Most Memorable Person
Ted Nelson. With all the current publicity about software windows, it is only fair to mention that Ted has been preaching this concept for years. He also invented the concept of word processing, though no one thought it was feasible at the time. Always on the fringe of the field, Ted seems to get there before the rest of us. And every time we reach him, he moves on. Little Known Facts about the Magazine
Each month's Apple Cart is the previous month's Outpost: Atari with the word ANTIC changed to "lookup table."
David Ahl disappeared three years ago, leaving in his place a PDP-11 programmed to handle all the publishing tasks. Aside from occasional post cards from Bora Bora, he hasn't been heard from since.
Betsy Staples has been moonlighting for years as an essayist, writing under the name of Fran Leibowitz and sending her profits to a special fund for removing all punk rockers from Britain.
Once a year, an ad is run with the encrypted message "The walrus is Paul." The first reader to spot and decode the message wins a free Wind-jammer cruise to Montana.
All programs over five pages long are actually the same, except for the title and remarks. So far, no one has noticed.
I discovered early on that the easiest way to do a review was to write it first, then look for a piece of software that fit the description. If anyone has a game in which the player throws boomerangs at attacking teddy bears, there's a dandy write-up for it in the files.
Those missing lines in program listings are intentional. This is done as both a puzzle and an educational service. Predictions for the Future
Ken Uston will publish his strategy for beating VisiCalc and be banned from accounting offices on the West Coast.
In honor of the new decade, Peter Fee will write his second article.
Steve Kimmel's article "Don't Buy that Computer" will pass unnoticed.
Wayne Green will lead a commando raid, attempting to take over Hanover Avenue. However, the initial coverage will leave him gasping for breath, and his horde of followers will be easily distracted by the hardware manuals scattered in their path.
Ted Nelson will invent something only three years ahead of its time instead of the usual 10 or 20. It will probably be something of an organic nature. Best Freelancer
Glenn Hart. Glenn has a knack for making sense out of complicated topics. Besides that he's a great guy and used to be a professional musician. Best Father Figure a Magazine Ever Had
Ron Antonaccio, who oversees shipping, won all our hearts by providing lunch at a reasonable price, as well as munchies and breakfast treats. Besides, his wife makes the best baked beams in the world, and Ron is always willing to take on extra tasks like running the Super Bowl pool. Worst Piece of Equipment
The word processor in editorial while I was there was a hand-wired Altair with other vintage attachments such as a Solid State Music video board and an ASR-33 Teletype running at a staggering speed of 15 characters per second. The system still works, though no one knows why. Three Non-Computer Games that Caused Much Wasted Time in Editorial
* Nerf basketball. Andy has the height advantage, but a body tackle usually equalized things.
* Darts. When the gang got tired of the game, the board could also be used as a polling device. This was done by placing a person's picture there, waiting 24 hours, then counting the holes.
* Names. This is played by writing the alphabet on a piece of paper. You then choose a random sentence. Write one letter of the sentence next to each letter of the alphabet. Players have five minutes to find famous people whose initials match each letter pair. If the boss comes in, pretend you're compiling a list of future contributing editors. For complete rules, and a list of upcoming tournaments, contact Peter Fee. Nice Guy Award for a Journalist Not Associated with the Magazine
Steve Levy, a writer for Rolling Stone, started doing a few articles about the computer world several years ago. He just finished a book on hackers and is one of the few people around who has managed to cover the scene from the outside (though he moves more to the inside every day) without sensationalizing things or hyping what he sees. A Serious Prediction
With processor speeds increasing and memory getting cheaper, the fine art of good programming will vanish. Elegant code will become a rare item practiced by a few diehards. Since there will be no external evidence of this, no one will notice. The Lemon Law
A positive review will evoke little response from readers. A negative review will be met with scads of angry letters from people insisting they got their money's worth. Untrue Rumors and Other Lies
We never played Frisbee with the ZX-80. True, we did use it as a doorstop on occasion, but never as a flying toy.
Editorial loves getting phone calls, the more the better.
There are not ten thousand copies of Space Invader tapes for the Exidy Sorcerer in the warehouse. Five thousand is a more realistic guess. A Fun Joke to Play at a Computer Show
In the old days, booths at computer shows were staffed by hackers, hobbyists, and entrepreneurs. Recently, as more and more companies are acquired by large corporations, the booths have been taken over by people in suits (perhaps from corporate sales forces, perhaps from Mars. Who knows). Anyhow, the next time you're at a computer show, go up to one of these booths and ask something ridiculous such as, "Say, which back issue had that article on turning your Selectric into a modem?" or "Are your program listings more easily converted to Algol or ASCII?" It's great fun and will keep them busy for hours. Eight Good Reasons to Own a Computer
1. It makes balancing your checkbook easy since there is nothing left to balance.
2. It is a great toy.
3. You can use it to make a billion dollars at home in your spare time. Or go bankrupt.
4. It is a really neat toy.
5. It is a tax write-off.
6. If you hate your neighbors, you can use your computer to destroy their TV reception. This works even if you like your neighbors.
7. Everyone else has one.
8. It is a fantastic toy. An Introduction to Programmer Language
The following translations are presented as a public service for the spouses, siblings, and parents of programmers. When a programmer is searching for that last bug and says, "I'll be done in five minutes," he means, "See you sometime next week."
"It's a really useful peripheral and it only costs $800 means "It's a neat toy."
"I can write a short program to handle your records," translates into "See you in a month." It's Not All Glamour
No job is perfect. Following are a few incidents into which reality intruded.
One of my first assignments was covering a videodisc conference in Arlington. From there, I had to go to a computer show in Philadelphia. The Arlington part was fine, but I reached Philadephia, tired and ready to sack out, just in time to find my hotel room was being used for the Creative Computing press party.
My second day on the job, I got to search through ten bags of garbage for some missing manuscripts. It later turned out the manuscripts weren't missing, but I can recommend such an exercise for anyone who needs a humbling and rather messy experience.
In the early days, before we moved to larger headquarters, the magazine was run from a small duplex. My office was a stairwell. I would have killed for a spot in the hallway or kitchen, but fate was not that kind. On the Other Hand
There were also a lot of fantastic moments. Here are a few that stand out in my mind.
I got to tour the New York Institute of Technology and see some of the most advanced computer graphics in the world.
The job brought me in contact with some of the most creative, and nicest, people in the field, including Mark Pelczarski, Bob Bishop, Doug Carlston, and others too numerous to mention.
I got to play scads of computer games and pretend it was work. And a Final Moment of Mush
I really do value the time I spent working for Creative Computing. It was a great experience and a chance to get to know some fine people. A lot of innovation went on there, and a lot more will come. Dave and Betsy always gave writers free rein to write whatever they wanted. This is a rare thing in the publishing world and an attitude that has helped keep the magazine on the leading edge. We've all gained a lot from this. Congratulations on the first decade, and thanks for letting me share in the madness.
Named Works: Creative Computing (Periodical) - History