A selection of the articles I wrote during my career as a journalist
This is just a small selection of the hundreds of articles and new stories I wrote during my career as a technology journalist. Almost all journalism is ephemeral — in tech perhaps more than anywhere — and these clipping provide an interesting historical perspective on computing in the period 1989-2014, and of some fascinating products that have long gone. As, alas, have many of the tech publications these articles appeared in.
I started working for MicroScope, a controlled circulation newspaper sent to members of the computer resale trade, in February 1989. I started as a Sub-Editor, quickly became Production Editor and then, in 1990, moved fully into editorial as Deputy Features Editor. A year later I was Features Editor. I left in 1994. My most lasting legacy: a photo library database application written in HyperCard, that was still in used well into the first decade of the 21st Century.
Here are some of the samples I have retained:
I joined The Mac in 1994, just as its second issue went to press. I was launch Editor Andy Robson’s Deputy. After my time on MicroScope, a title aimed at the computer reseller trade, I was keen to move to a consumer publication, sold by newsagents and bought by folks who had chosen to do so, not simply received a free copy in the post. I wrote the magazine’s news section, along with reviews and features.
Little known fact: the UK version of MacUser was the first magazine of that title. The US version followed its publisher licensing the name from Felix Dennis’ Dennis Publishing. Other than the name, there was no connection between the two publications (unlike MacWorld, whose UK edition was a version of the US one, with some extra, locally sourced content included). I worked on MacUser as a freelance in the late 1990s after The Mac, Dennis’ consumer-oriented Macintosh title closed down. I contributed these articles and many others, and regularly worked on the news desk.
Personal Computer World, launched in 1978, was the first magazine to focus solely on the microcomputer and individual users. It was also one of the first of major computing titles to fold in the 2000s, killed as readers flocked to the Internet and sites like The Register for their news. PCW founder Angelo Zglorec sold the title to Felix Dennis’ Bunch Books in 1980, but was later acquired by VNU. The sale to the Dutch giant allowed Felix expand Bunch, which focused on media tie-ins, into Dennis Publishing — a step up assisted in no small part by the launch and subsequent licensing of MacUser. Alas I only wrote for PCW a couple of times, as a freelance.
Founded in the mid-1990s by Mike Magee and John Lettice as an occasional email newsletter, The Register became a full, daily web publication in 1998 when Drew Cullen came on board as co-editor and Linus Birtles brought much-needed finance. I did a freelance stint in July that year, and joined full-time in September as employee number two. Number one had quit in June, before my arrival, because he felt unable to deal with the drinking culture — he was reformed erstwhile heavy boozer, I was later told. I acquired the grandiose title of Managing Editor, which I revealed to anyone who asked was because I managed the unruly editors. An exaggeration of course, but there was some mischievous indiscipline in the early days now we were working for our own company rather than someone else’s. At least that’s how it felt to me.
The dotcom crash of the early 2000s, almost did for us, but The Register survived by paring down and becoming the disciplined operation it should have been. I was let go in December 2001 — the management axed all the staff whose beats were not being funded by ongoing advertising commitments — but returned early in 2003. I called it a day in 2014.
There are too many stories to include here: visit The Register to find them all.
When I was laid off by The Register in December 2001. The customary strategy to adopt in such circumstances was to go freelance, so in January 2002 I did. I was freelancing when I joined The Register. This time, however, I could leverage the title’s notoriety, which I did over a period of six months to get some work ‘on the nationals’. This came to an end halfway through the year when I accepted a job as a copywriter. The same reduction in spending on technology advertising that had hit The Register was affecting all technology outlets. The Guardian’s IT coverage was long established, and largely funded by recruitment ads. The Independent’s technology reporting had started as an attempt to tap into the same market, but, like that of The Times, had been turbo-boosted in the late 1990s by the dotcom boom. Indeed, The Times would soon knock its recently launched tech section on the head.
During the early 2000s, I was commissioned to write the following articles for The Guardian’s Online section, then published weekly on Thursdays.
The editor of The Independent’s IT pages, Charles Arthur, was the toughest commissioner I ever worked for. I always felt thoroughly grilled after each pitch — and rightly so, really. An Editor should make sure writer knows what they’re doing and what’s expected of them.
I was pleased to get a piece commissioned by The Times, but was unhappy with how the result was mangled in order to work in an unsuitable fashion angle.
A short-lived magazine published first by Penguin Books and, later, by Games Workshop. Warlock was created to support the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks published by Penguin’s kids’ imprint, Puffin. I sent an article in on spec, and got it published — my first piece of published, professional journalism. Yes, I got paid for it.