Practicing What We Preached
By the end of 1984, the PC WEEK features department had access to the first 3Com LAN installed outside the lab for daily business purposes. We were able to send e-mail and story files to each other. We burned a lot of time sending humorous e-mails to each other. In those days, that was the closest thing we had to blogs. And wonder of wonders, we eventually got access to a networked dot-matrix printer. But the most exciting thing about working at PC WEEK was the way we were embraced by our audience, the people who were building, buying and using the PC hardware. We told readers about the latest PC hardware and software. And they couldn't wait to tell us about their experiences, good and bad, as they worked with the products.Then the cocktail hour gave way to Thursday-night deadline beer and pizza bashes as the writers and copy desk worked to get PC WEEK safely into the printer's hands. But later this was modified to just Thursday-night pizza when we realized that the beer was getting in the way of putting the book to bed on time. By the fall of 1984 it was clear that we were a hit. Advertising sales had gone through the roof and our page counts kept expanding. More advertising meant more editorial, and we had to add more writers, editors, reviewers and freelancers to keep up with the growth. Anybody who had anything to do with buying PC products in a corporate environment wanted one of those free PC WEEK subscriptions. But you couldn't buy PC WEEK on newsstands. You had to "qualify" for a free subscription. In the 1980s there was always a long waiting list for subscribers. By early 1985 we were a publishing phenomenon. Hardware manufacturers, software developers and the producers of all manner of PC peripherals and add-on devices vied for our attention. Because in those days a few column inches of editorial in PC WEEK could lend the momentum a product needed to become a hit in the business market. By 1985 it was clear we weren't just covering technology or even an industry. We were covering a social phenomenon. The most sought-after status symbol on Wall Street in 1985 was not a new BMW. It was the key to unlock the power switch on an IBM PC AT with its second-generation Intel 80286 processor and maximum memory of a whopping 16MB. That key was one of the best marketing gimmicks IBM ever came up with. It suggested the owner was a number-cruncher par excellence and on the fast track up the corporate ladder. It was clear that the PC was not a fad that would quickly fade from the news. PCs were tools that would allow people to forever find new ways to do business faster and more efficiently. Wave after successive wave of new technologies kept the PC revolution going through the 1980s to the 1990s and the early days of the World Wide Web. The concept of personal computing continues to the present day with the idea that the Internet is our worldwide oyster and any conceivable information or service is just a mouse click away as long as we have a desktop, laptop, netbook or smartphone at our fingertips.
The early days at PC WEEK were laid-back. In the spring of 1984 there was time for staff Frisbee competitions in the office parking lot in Needham Heights, Mass. There was also time for frequent late-afternoon beer calls. But as the publication started to take off, the Frisbee games ended and pressing deadlines meant the writers had to forget the cocktail hour to get their copy in on time.