Biography

Here’s my story… at least part of it, anyway.

I first got involved with microcomputers in the 70’s. It was an exciting time, and I was one of the few true believers and evangelists of the original personal computer revolution. My dad was an IBM Fellow, so I literally grew up on computers. I can remember coloring and drawing on computer punch cards when I was a little kid. In 1966 I was fortunate to participate in the testing and development of the BASIC computer language when I was eleven using a time sharing hookup to the original BASIC system at Dartmouth.

In the late ’70s, I joined with some of the original personal computer pioneers as one of the early adopters and promoters of the Apple II. I was one of the first people to successfully connect microcomputers to mainframes, while I was conducting research on database publishing at Fred Davis Stanford, and I served as a computer consultant to large corporations and venture capitalists in the early days of the industry. In 1983, I was one of the founders of Ziff-Davis’s computer publishing division, and worked on the start-up of ZD’s first computer publication, A+ Magazine, which rapidly became the leading publication about Apple computers. Later, during my tenure as Editor in Chief, A+ won the Computer Press Association award for best computer magazine.

From A+, I moved to the position of Editor in Chief of MacUser magazine, where I founded MacUser Labs. I oversaw the development of the magazine during its period of most dramatic growth, bringing it up to parity with Mac World. Next, I joined PC Magazine, which at the time was the world’s leading computer publication. As editor and Director of PC Magazine Labs, I helped develop benchmarks and scripts for testing thousands of products under review. Later, I served as editor of PC Week, where I founded PC Week Labs and helped establish PC Week as the leading product information source for corporate computing. After leaving PC Week to return to California, I helped launch and served as a columnist for a number of Ziff-Davis publications including Windows Sources, Computer Life, Family PC, and the ZD Personal Computing newspaper supplement. During my 12-year tenure at Ziff-Davis, I worked closely with the company’s amazing founder Bill Ziff and other top management on strategy, product positioning, and new product development in areas including print, CD-ROM, trade shows, and online.

Next, I worked with Wired CEO Louis Rosetto on the launch of Wired magazine, and was part of the original “Wired Brain Trust.” After Wired, I worked with C|NET founder Halsey Minor & Shelby Bonnie as an original member of the C|NET start-up team where I helped develop both television and online strategies.

From 1996 to mid-1997 I served as Director of Strategic Development for CMP Media during the period leading up to their successful IPO in August 1997. While working for CMP Media’s CEO, Ken Cron, on long-term business strategies, I also wrote articles and columns in various CMP publications, including Windows Magazine, Home PC, and Computer Reseller News.

Other writing gigs include serving as a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News and as the U.S. columnist for EYE-COM, one of Japan’s leading computer magazines. I was a regular technology commentator for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and used to co-host the radio call-in show “On Computers” with my pals John Dvorak, Gina Smith, and Leo LaPorte. I also served as President of the Computer Institute a non-profit scientific and cultural foundation involved in education research, the study of human-computer ecology.

I have written over a dozen computer books, including The Complete IBM Personal Computer — the first hardware expansion guide to the IBM PC published in the early 1980’s. My 1985 book, Desktop Publishing, helped popularize the term and received an award from the Computer Press Association. The New York Times hailed my Windows 3.1 Bible as “the best” book on the topic. I also developed the Windows Bible CD-ROM, released in early 1994. The Windows 95 Bible was released in April of 1996, and my Windows 98 Bible (with co-author Kip Crosby) was published in April 1998. In a different area, I am working on a plant taxonomy book, A Dictionary of Plant Names, to be published by Stanford University Press.

In years past I was named one of the most influential people in the industry by several publications in both the U. S. and Japan. I have has been quoted in publications such as Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, and the Atlantic Monthly, and have appeared on many radio and television programs, including NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “CBS Evening News,” and “ABC News.”

From 1996-1997 I was part of the start-up team at Ask Jeeves, an innovative internet search company. From 1998-2001 I was CEO of Lumeria, a pioneering Internet security, privacy, and infomediary company. During 2005 I was the founding CEO of PrivateTel, a technology start-up focused on privacy solutions for telecommunications, now called Jaduka, where I created the idea of “click and connect” integrated web and phone services. I have also served on the Board of Directors of Linkify, the Computer Institute, and the Entrepreneurs’ Resource Network. Currently I’m the co-founder and CTO of Grabbit, a start-up focused on building a new platform for social media and social shopping, and Chief Innovation Officer at Forward Innovations, a company that helps start-ups start up.