Goodbye Wayne Green, and thanks for the memories

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Before there was a PC revolution, before the days of PC Magazine and MacWorld, before COMDEX, there was Wayne Green.

In 1983 it was Wayne's world, and I just worked in it. Fresh out of college, I landed my first job working for 80 Micro, a home computer hobbyist magazine for Radio Shack TRS-80 enthusiasts that Green published out of his home in Peterborough, NH. That was in the early days of what would become the personal computer revolution, when PCs were the domain of hobbyists willing to type in program listings in order to load and run application programs.

Business was booming.

Wayne Green Inc. was a crazy place, filled with eccentricity, high energy, and youthful ambition -- and it was a great way to launch a high-tech journalism career. I made an annual salary of $12,000.

Green was a constant presence, mostly because we were working in his home. The editors of a half-dozen platform-specific high-tech magazines worked in his rambling New England farmhouse and in an adjacent historical inn he had bought next door. Our desks were jammed into the rooms at various angles. The attached barn was filled with home made cubicles covered in yellow shag carpet, each finished off with mirror tiles.

The entire staff of his magazine for users of the Radio Shack Color Computer, Hot CoCo (yes he named it that) fit into his library. Along the walls of books hung pictures of Green with his many friends and acquaintances. One photo showed him shaking hands with King Hussein of Jordan, an amateur radio buff who struck up a friendship with Green after reading 73, a magazine for ham radio enthusiasts that was Green's first publication.

We held our editorial meetings in Green's kitchen, knowing full well that he might walk in at any time in his bathrobe, stroll across the room to the refrigerator, push a glass into the water dispenser, and walk out again with an orange juice on the rocks.

Upstairs in his office sat an elliptical contraption that he would strap into and rotate until he was upside down. It was, he said, a good way to come up with new ideas.

And he had no shortage of them. He founded and then lost BYTE Magazine to his ex-wife, who went on to sell it to McGraw-Hill. He met Steve Jobs and Bill Gates when they were just kids starting out. He founded Pico, a publication for users of an emerging class of portable computers back when "portable" and "luggable" were still synonyms (Remember the Compaq Portable?). And he launched CD Review just as the era of digital music and CD-ROM discs began to take hold.

Green was as famous for his opinons and conspiracy theories as for his market prescience. His over-the-top editorials were legendary, and constantly got 80 Micro into trouble with the management at Radio Shack. From one month to the next we never knew if The Shack was advertising or boycotting the magazine. But with 80 Micro turning out 500 page issues it didn't matter: We had plenty of advertisers.

In 2008, 25 years after taking my first job at 80 Micro, I made a pilgrimmage to Wayne Green's farmhouse in rural Hancock, NH, where we sat down to reflect on a lifetime of accomplishments. We talked in his kitchen, which was fitting I thought, and toured a barn piled high with many decades of publishing artifacts. He talked of his book, The Secret Guide to Health, and his belief that a diet of uncooked food can prevent disease.

Then we went out for Chinese.

Wayne Green passed away on Friday, September 13th. He was 91.

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Wayne Green, July 22, 2008

My greatest ambition: To change the world on health and oil and education.

Greatest regret: Trusting people. Like the loss of BYTE [Magazine]. I got it going and it did well for quite a while. I think I could have done better with it.

Favorite Website: DrMercola.com. I haven’t found him off base yet.

Role model: I’ve gone through life never envying anyone. I have no role model. I’m out there, ahead.

Favorite books: Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard and The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird.

Best movie ever? Blazing Saddles. I love that fake town that they built, and of course the scene by the fire.

-- Previously unpublished comments from the 2008 Computerworld interview Tech visionary Wayne Green: Still on a mission. For more on Wayne Green, click through to the full interview below.

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