October 15, 2015
After 20 years, NewsWire recalls its first Fall
I was hunting for something new last week when I heard an old, familiar message. "I can't believe you guys are still in business," the 3000 systems manager said. We can't believe it either. But these 20 years have rolled along because of beliefs — ours, yours, and even HP's for a time.
The start of that time was 20 years ago today. Tomorrow we head into our 21st year, but in 1995 our Day One was the middle of October, the month that we printed on the cover of our first issue. This Fall will be the first one since the middle '90s with no printed 3000 NewsWire. We loved printing all of that paper, millions of pages of it. Ten years of it made this rich picture and story. But we said this spring we'd make a transformation to all-digital. We've kept our promise because sponsors have kept our little beacon lit. They've permitted us to continue to show the way forward, as well as look back to find lessons from our past.
Along the way we've found more than 150 companies who invested in our readers. This was always a very personal business; we operate out of a roomy ranch house in a Texas neighborhood. Although there's a very official database of every ad and sponsor payment during these two decades, this hand-written list of who joined us, along with their account number, tells the story of building a business of specialized news, instruction, and gossip. None of it would be possible without the sponsors' dollars: sometimes as advertising, sometimes as patronage. We sold subscriptions, but the sponsors kept us in business.
I'm grateful beyond words for the livelihood and career they've supported. I've even more grateful that my partner Abby Lentz, who started as publisher using her given first name Dottie, proposed this journey that enters its third decade tomorrow. There was a time when the HP 3000 changed its name to the e3000, and I wondered whether the change was like my partner's names. The old one was Dottie, the newer one was Abby. Her yoga name, she told me, and I liked the way she was looking to a new facet of her life. We're looking forward to what remains of lucky lives, teaching and writing, yoga and stories.
The 3000's creators were looking forward too, as we began the NewsWire's life. In fact, HP was a big reason that we're celebrating 20 years today.One of the milestones of the NewsWire's 1995 was an HP analyst-press conference on the California coast. At the Seascape Resort in Aptos, we were invited to attend management briefings right alongside bona fide publications like Fortune and Computerworld. The NewsWire was not much more than a concept and a business plan, in comparison. But Hewlett-Packard, starting with Michelle Pritchard in the 3000 group's Marcom department, believed we had a good idea.
Abby and I got access, and then in cocktail receptions, got approving nods from computer execs Wim Roelandts, Bernard Guidon, and Olivier Helleboid when we explained what we were doing. We came to Aptos to say what we were doing, not to ask if we should. If we hadn't gotten those nods, we might've gone back to the ranch house and thought hard about going forward. But we had belief, a faith that the HP of 1995 seemed to echo about the prospects for HP 3000 growth and maturation.
About a month later we showed up in Toronto for the Interex '95 conference with a slim, 4-page pilot issue. It had no sponsors or advertising, just belief that page layout, writing, and printing would confirm we were real. We drove about 500 copies of that four-pager from Texas to Canada in a minivan and hoped we'd return with promises. The same kind of promises and support we count upon today.
It's a little fuzzy, my memories of those promises, because Abby was the brave person who smiled and sold our belief to 3000 vendors. She arranged for lists of customers to be loaned to us, so we'd have an audience. We arrived with Adager's promise for back-page sponsorship, and left the conference with HP's order for inside-cover ads. In between, WRQ said they'd back us with a center-spread ad series. There were others from Day One -- this ad list of that October 20 years ago shows that most of them are still in business, some kind of MPE business, two decades later. Abby imagined their beliefs, before they made them real.
Becoming real is an adventure. I like to talk about it using the words from The Velveteen Rabbit, in part because that prose was a part of my wedding vows to the woman that I called Dottie 25 years ago.
Real isn't how you are made. Real is a thing that happens to you. Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don't mind being hurt. It doesn't happen all at once. You become. Once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. Once you are Real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.
That's lyrical, that belief in Real. The word "always" was part of our first website, too, which we launched before 1995 was over and called Always Online. We thought of always like the 3000s that were working at the time, and like the systems that are still working today. Like the system that's running in the IT shop at that manager's site where he said couldn't believe. Sometimes when people say "I can't believe," it's because they already do. They just want to remember why they believe.
You can read us today because of those sponsors. At first there were a few, while others waited to see how we'd do. Then they swelled up while Y2K took over our futures. We didn't see that big surf coming, just like most of us couldn't see that HP would lose its 3000 belief. That changed us all, but we've adapted and grown — older, of course, and somewhat wiser.
In the middle of these two decades we built this blog. Just like in the print issue's earliest days, there were key advertisers before we proved much except our proposal for digital. ScreenJet, Marxmeier, and Robelle just said they'd back our digital work, promises we earned from another summertime meeting of 3000 users, that one in the wake of the Interex '05 meltdown. Sometimes people just want to keep telling stories. That's what the 2011 Reunion made possible.
MB Foster was an early supporter of both print and blog, and today along with Stromasys, Pivital Solutions, and Applied Technologies, they keep the beacon lit. Across both print issues and blog we've enjoyed support from our Austin allies, The Support Group. Abby and I worked together to help them launch their company's newsletter in the year before the NewsWire printed those first four pages.
As I said to begin, we can't believe we're still in business this week, either. Abby likes to say that we didn't figure we'd do this beyond five years. I felt differently, but kept that unreasonable hope to myself, except when I wrote editorials and analysis and conjured stories from contributors. Seeing the glass half full got easier once the 3000 got better HP leadership. Everybody knows we love Harry Sterling for the GM stand he made during those Y2K years. Good times, as the new generation of Millennials likes to say.
Before this starts to sound too valedictory, or an exercise in bald sentiment and nostalgia, I'll wrap it up. This fall Abby and I celebrated 25 years of marriage, laughing and crying in a day of stories, wedding garb, champagne, and acres of cakes. Following through is something to believe in, especially when there is something fresh to remind you why you started. Fresh is still floating in this Fall's air. We're so grateful that you've made it possible for us to remain here, telling stories about where you go next.
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