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RIP, Jerry Pournelle, a pioneer of tech journalism for the non-geeky

In 1980, anyone who used a PC was, by definition, something of a nerd. But Byte, the leading computer magazine of the time, saw a need for a column that emphasized the benefits of the machines rather than their innards. It found its author in celebrated science-fiction author Jerry Pournelle, whose Byte writings–best known by … Continue reading “RIP, Jerry Pournelle, a pioneer of tech journalism for the non-geeky”

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[Photo: Flickr user Null0]
In 1980, anyone who used a PC was, by definition, something of a nerd. But Byte, the leading computer magazine of the time, saw a need for a column that emphasized the benefits of the machines rather than their innards. It found its author in celebrated science-fiction author Jerry Pournelle, whose Byte writings–best known by the name “Chaos Manor”–were not very technical; profoundly first person-y and opinionated; focused what you could do with a PC; and prone to going off on extended tangents that were as defining an aspect of the columns as the parts that more obviously belonged in a publication called Byte.

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Pournelle continued the column until Byte’s dead-tree demise in 1998 and later on the Byte.com website and elsewhere; blog-like from the start—long before blogs existed—it eventually became a blog. He posted on Thursday, noting that he didn’t feel well. And yesterday he died, at the age of 84. His early 1980s columns were some of the most addictive reading about personal technology ever, and I hope I’m not the only one who will mark his passing by revisiting some of his work in the Byte issues at the Internet Archive.

About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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