Tech visionary Wayne Green: Still on a mission

Living proof that one person can kick-start an industry. Or two, or three ...

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And that's when you first got into publishing.

I said to Williams, "You've got to get a newsletter going on this and get more people involved," [but] he didn't have time for that.

So I started an amateur radio teletype newsletter. Within a couple of years I had 2,000 subscribers and a column in CQ Magazine, one of the three ham radio magazines at that time. [Then] for five years I was editor of CQ, and that was an adventure in itself. I got a free trip around the world, all expenses paid and visited 26 countries with a ham station on board the plane.

Then you launched 73, a competing magazine, which promoted emerging technologies as do-it-yourself projects, like your amateur radio repeater network and the advent of "cells."

A few ham clubs in the country were extending the range of their handy talkies and mobile units. A handy talkie is a little two-way radio that you can hold in your hand.

They were putting repeater stations on top of mountains and tall buildings to extend the range. The station's receiver was tuned to the frequency you were transmitting on, and it would rebroadcast on a different frequency, which you could pick up on your handy talkie. In that way, instead of talking for a mile or two, you could talk [to people] 200 miles away.

I put one up on the local mountain here in Peterborough and made it so that any amateur driving anywhere in New England could talk to any other one. I published hundreds of articles and developed the technology. The next thing I knew a group of hams out in Chicago put a transmitter on top of the Sears building and then put receivers around town to pick up the stations that were weak. And they called them "cells." Within three years, we had 8,000, and they were all over the world.

I wrote in my editorials and said, "Look, I'm able to ski the mountains of New Hampshire and Colorado with a little handy talkie in my pocket and make telephone calls anywhere in the world through the local ham repeater. Everyone is going to want to be able to do this."

Well, Art Housholder, who worked for Motorola, went to the top people, said, "Look at this," and showed them my editorial. And that's where we got cell phones. That's where it happened.

Do you use a cell phone?

No. They burn out brain cells.

But you could use one with a head set.

Yes.

You say yourself that the cell phone is a successor to ham radio. Why haven't you embraced the technology with the same enthusiasm that you held for ham?

With ham radio, the only thing I was interested in was what was next. When we started sending pictures with slow-scan television, I got into that. And when single sideband came along, I pioneered that. [With cellular radio] there was nothing to pioneer. That's old technology. I'm always working on next week instead of last week.

Which leads us to BYTE magazine, the first publication for microcomputers. How did you make the leap from ham radio to microcomputers?

In January 1975, [Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems], a little outfit in Albuquerque, put out a computer kit for hobbyists, and I had been publishing a bunch of computer articles about it in 73. I got one of the kits and I put it together and I said, "Wow, I see a future in this."

The only way to have a technology develop rapidly is to have a publication. So I tried to think up a short name. I liked 73 for ham radio, which means "best regards" [in ham radio speak] and I came up with BYTE.

So the MITS Altair 8800 was your first computer?

Yes, the Altair 8800. I built it. It included a box and all of the parts and some switches on the front panel. There was an outfit, Southwest Technical Products, down in San Antonio that was putting out a keyboard, so I got one of those, and I got it to work with the computer.

I took the first issue of BYTE to a friend of mine, Ed Juge, who had been an advertiser in 73with his Juge Electronics for hams, and I said, "This is going to be big." He eventually folded up Juge Electronics and went to work for Radio Shack [which developed the TRS-80 microcomputer].

You famously lost control of BYTE in the early years. What happened?

I had a problem with the IRS. I hadn't done anything wrong, but that didn't make any difference. I ended up having to pay a $20,000 fine.

I had gotten back together with my first wife (we had been separated for 10 years or so). She brought in a lawyer, and he said, "Look, you'd better put things in her name until this IRS thing is totally out of sight." So we put the magazine in her name.

After the fifth issue, she and a boyfriend of hers moved everything out one night. I went out to give a talk to a ham radio club and I came back and the office was empty and the back issues were gone. I went to a lawyer and he said, "You have a choice. It's going to take several years of legal work or you can start a new magazine." So I started Microcomputing.

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