Testing, Testing

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2009-11-11 Print this article Print


Testing, testing

In addition to hard news, PC Week during this time focused on "first looks" and treating reviews as news.

"We could get a product in on Wednesday, [review it] and have it on the front page on Monday," said Jim Louderback, who started his PC Week career as its labs director in 1991. "That was something we were the first to do."

The drive to treat reviews and testing as news resulted in a number of breaking stories, even before PC Week had a formal lab organization.

Perhaps the best-known was the famous 1994 flaw in the numerical processor in Intel's Pentium chip. Long-time technology analyst Peter Coffee, now director of platform research at Salesforce.com, said that the news came out as a result of a floating-point computational benchmark he had written to determine the severity of the flaw orignially discovered by Lynchburg College math professor Thomas Nicely. The severity of the Pentium flaw was a matter of dispute between Intel (claiming it wasn't a big deal) and IBM and others who said it was a problem. eWEEK, using Coffee's benchmark, was able to weigh in as an independent third party to resolve the conflict and uncover the truth.

The news, combined with similar findings from other researchers, got the industry's attention. "It hit the wires, and Intel offered new chips," said Coffee. "It really hit the mainstream."

Reviews became integral to the publication's ability to meet its readers' needs. And PC Week/eWEEK employed-and employs-some of the smartest analysts in the business. The Labs tested products that no one else could test, under real-world conditions and rigors. In addition to early tests of Web and Wi-Fi technology, as well as database server benchmarking that still turns heads, highlights include the Labs' OpenHack and Y2K testing.

As the industry changed, so, too, did PC Week-to the point that the publication's name no longer aligned with its content.

By the year 2000, the Web was not only the next big thing but the future of computing. To signal its coverage of all things related to enterprise IT, the decision was made to change PC Week's name to eWEEK. "No longer would we define ourselves as a journal on any one vendor's technology model," said Coffee.

Overseeing that change was Eric Lundquist, editor in chief of the publication at the time. Lundquist said that much of the success of PC Week and then eWEEK can be attributed to how the publication approached its mission-to provide unbiased, authoritative coverage of the technology that matters most to enterprise IT professionals.

"We really tried to be the voice of the community," said Lundquist, who noted that one of the reasons for PC Week's/eWEEK's huge impact was its devotion to journalism. "The news operation was a top-flight, take-no-prisoners, go-dig-out-the-information organization," he said. "They had to be accurate with two or three sources. We brought a journalist's expectations to the technology news operation."

But the publication's influence did not stop at the printed page.

Lundquist noted that PC Week/eWEEK was a leader in a series of innovations. Most notably, it was one of the first technology publications to boast an online presence in the form of a Website. Indeed, the publication identified early on the significance of the Web. "We had reviews and coverage of the emergence of the World Wide Web that were really ahead of the game," said Lundquist. "We expected the Labs to be the first and the best, and they took that to heart."

PC Week/eWEEK was also noted for its fictional gossip columnist, Spencer F. Katt, and his lavish trade show parties.

"The Spencer Katt parties were legendary," said David Berlind, who was a director of PC Week Labs and is now chief content officer and editor in chief for TechWeb.

Berlind said that he still likes to think about Bill Gates dancing the night away at the legendary parties. Lundquist remembered one specific Spencer party-at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas during Comdex. "We could stand a couple of levels up and look down and see Bill Gates dancing in one corner, Michael Dell in another, Ted Waitt in another. It really was the center of the technology universe."

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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