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Created page with "This is a transcript of an audio interview. This transcript may contain errors - if you're using this material for research, etc. please verify with the original recorded inte..."
This is a transcript of an audio interview. This transcript may contain errors - if you're using this material for research, etc. please verify with the original recorded interview.
Source: ANTIC: The Atari 8-Bit Podcast
Source URL: https://archive.org/details/Jim_Capparell_interview_founder_of_Antic_Magazine
Interviewer: Kevin Savetz
An interview with Jim Capparell (James Capparell) who was founder and publisher of Antic Magazine, a popular magazine for Atari 8-bit computers. The interview was conducted on August 13, 2013 via Skype. The interviewer is Kevin Savetz (http://savetz.com) This is the complete, unedited version of the interview. An edited version was used in episode 3 of "Antic -- the Atari 8 bit podcast" (http://www.AtariPodcast.com).
The full text of Antic magazine is available at http://www.atarimagazines.com. Full-page image scans of the magazine are available at http://archive.org/details/antic-magazine.
Topics of discussion: San Francisco, magazine publishing, Jack Tramiel, Pat McGovern of IDG, Antic Magazine, STart Magazine, Apple II Computing Magazine, Mac Home Journal Magazine, PC Home Journal Magazine, Autodesk, Cyber Studio, Louisiana Kitchen Culture Magazine, Atari Corporation, Warner Communications.
Jim Capparell: You're in Portland, huh?
Kevin: I'm in Portland. I love it here so much.
Jim: Is that right?
Jim: There's a good bookstore there. That much I know
Kevin: Yes there is. How do you like New Orleans?
Jim: New Orleans is OK. I really like the West Coast and was there an awful lot of time. This is a little different but it's an interesting town. It's what we are doing right now.
Kevin: Cool. Excellent. I have all sorts of questions for you.
Jim: Well, hopefully I can be of some help here.
Kevin: The first thing I want to make sure...
Jim: Been a long time since...and you broke up there.
Kevin: Sorry. It's been a long time and I realize not everything, might not have answers or remember, that's fine.
Jim: There was a time I was consumed. That's a lot of years ago. Lot of water under the bridge. But there was a time when I could bore you to tears with the magazine, with Atari, computers and all of that stuff.
But I guess age has a way of rounding those corners and edges and may be putting things in perspective, I don't know. Go ahead, do what you want to do here and I'll try to be as forthright as I can.
Kevin: Excellent. The first thing I want you to know before we do anything, is as I was doing some research for this, I was looking at the domain names that you own: Kitchenandculture.com and Digitalmania-online.com. They all expire in like a couple of days. You need to renew them.
Jim: It broke up on the last portion of that.
Kevin: All right. We can't have that. Your two domain names that I looked at all expire in a couple of days. You need to renew them.
Jim: Yeah. The Digitalmania I think, expires.
Kevin: And Kitchenandculture.
Jim: Kitchenandculture -- of course, that's my wife's business, so I'll be renewing that. Digitalmania I've owned for probably 10 years, now. Initially I was going to do some iPod stuff with that. In fact, I even did for a short period of time, an iPod magazine. It was the form factor of an iPod, actually. The same aspect ratio; but that was for a short time. Anyway, that's what that was for. I haven't touched that website in a long time. It just sort of sits there, and gets some AdSense revenue, and that's about it.
Kevin: It looked like it was maybe being ignored.
Jim: Oh, I don't think I've touched it for five years. It just makes a few bucks every month on the AdSense. I own iPhone Works and Using Time and some other things I've been playing around with; just dabbling.
Kevin: Yeah. Cool.
Jim: But Kitchenandculture.com is a real business. It's got a magazine behind it. That's my wife's magazine, and that comes out every other month. That ships nationwide actually, so that's what we're doing here.
Kevin: Excellent. It looked like it was maybe perhaps it could be one of many. I mean, one of the first. There's this Louisiana.kitchenandculture.
Jim: Good observation. Lousiana.kitchenandculture, The initial idea was we would Louisiana.kitchenandculture. We're here, and that's where Susan has a lot of her energy and enthusiasm. But then of course, you could do Southwest.kitchenandculture, California.kitchenandculture, North East...I had a whole list of them, actually. The notion was, a whole family of kitchen and culture websites, and that sort of sits there, waiting for me to do something. That would be sitting there a while, waiting for me.
Kevin: And a whole lot more.
Jim: That's why I rolled it out, with Drupal, it is Lousiana.kitchen, but Louisiana being the sub domain of Kitchen and Culture. So what I envisioned was a whole bunch of sub domains, and that's still possible.
Kevin: First of all, say your last name for me, so I can pronounce it correctly.
Jim: It is Capparell.
Kevin: Capparell. All right.
Jim: Grandpa's name was Capparelli actually.
Kevin: Where was he from?
Jim: I was raised in Rochester, New York, but my grandfather emigrated from Italy in the turn of the century in 1900s, 1910 or something from the town outside Naples. Anyway, I was raised in Upstate New York.
Kevin: How old are you?
Jim: I just had a birthday. I just turned 67.
Kevin: Happy birthday.
Jim: I guess I try to make it happy.
Kevin: Was "Antic" your first magazine?
Jim: Yeah. I got the idea...I don't know where I got the idea. I know where I got the idea. I was a professional programmer for a long time in Silicon Valley. The job I was working at the time, I was working at NASA Ames Research Center at the Moffet Field, Sunnyvale. I was a programmer for a small research group. We were researching motion sickness.
I was in Silicon Valley quite a while actually, all through the '70s, doing programming. The last job I had was at Moffet Field at NASA. We were using biofeedback to control motion sickness. Anyway, I started a computer cult called the Atari Bay Area Computer User Society, ABACUS for short, and started a newsletter. I think that's the magazine Antic sprang from the news land.
Kevin: I did not know that.
Jim: Yeah, it did from an ocean of magazines. I remember pacing the floor one Sunday making pancakes trying to think of a name for the new magazine, this idea I had. I was coming up with all these names. Of course, I was very familiar with Atari 800 internals, and Antic as you all know was the alphanumeric television interface controller chip. That was an acronym.
It was the chip that really allow the Atari to be such a powerful graphics box because, I'm sure you know, you could interrupt every scan line. That's what gave Atari its tremendous game-playing power along with the sprites and so on, but it was the Antic chip.
I got the name Antic, and literally, in a few minutes, we thought of this cockeyed kind of typeface. I was the model for the first cover. I've never done magazines before. It was just off and running.
Kevin: I guess my next question was going to be, and I think you started to answer it, did you set off as an Atari guy who thought you should start a magazine, or did you start off as "I'm going to start a business. It's going to be a magazine about Atari because that's what people want to read?"
Jim: It came really from my enthusiasm for the home computer business which happened, and I got pulled in the direction of Atari. The reason was, going back to my NASA story at Moffet Field and doing this biofeedback, I was the research programmer and a lot of data, and I contacted Apple, and I contacted Atari and asked them to give me an equipment.
I was not making a lot of dough on the research contract, and Atari gave me the equipment. A guy named Rosenthal, Peter Rosenthal at Atari who became a friend liked my story and said, "I'll give you the equipment." He did, and from there, I became an Atari guy.
This was in '82. For the four or five years prior to that, I probably collected every computer magazine around: "Byte," "Microcomputing," "Creative Computing." I had so many magazines that at one point the Chinese consulate got wind of it and bought them all from me in San Francisco. They had heard about my collection and I sold them all to the Chinese Consulate. I had six or seven years of computer magazines.
Kevin: Do you have a sense of why the Chinese Consulate wanted computer magazines?
Jim: Just being thorough. I had a good collection and remember, this was at the beginning of the home computer age. There was something that went on in those days called, "The west coast computer fair" which was a big deal, I mean it was really a big deal.
It was a lot of fun. I mean the energy in the place...it was held in San Francisco. I can't remember the name. Over there by City Hall. Hell, I can't think of the name of it. I want to say convention center, but it wasn't the...this was long before Bosconi by the way.
This was where they held the conventions. Still there, I'm sure and they still hold conventions but it's just a small place now, a small venue. What was I going to say about that? Just giving you the foundation, these things went on. The magazines were going out.
I was reading all these magazines. I was consumed by them. I got them all as soon as they came out. I wasn't the only one. I would buy them at the computer store. There were microcomputer stores in those days. We'd go in...it was an excuse to just go down and sort of drool over the equipment.
Jim: So I'd get all the magazines. Take them home, read them all. I think that's what got me interested in doing my own magazine as well. It was in my subconscious in a sense. I had read them all for four...six years. Then I got the equipment and I started playing around with it...so on and so forth.
Then I started one of the first Atari user groups in the Bay area, San Francisco. I was the first...I think I might have been the first Atari user group.
Kevin: Were you in charge of the newsletter and then that's what...
Jim: Yeah I did all of it. I just was consumed by it. I did all that stuff. I had the research grant at NASA so that was my full-time job and then I just messed around all the time with this stuff.
All kinds of things were going on. Equipment was coming out. It was all kinds of opportunities and I used to go to all these different groups. I was member of the fourth group. Don't even know that language, I'm sure.
Kevin: I've heard of it. I don't...
Jim: It's very interesting language. I remember...I don't know if you know who Scott Kim was. I remember going to meetings. Scott Kim is this interesting...you might check him out on Google. Those things with calligraphy. You could read the same word...
Kevin: Upside down.
Jim: ...in mirror...upside down, backwards. Pretty phenomenal. Go look him up. You'll like it. A lot of interesting guys were hanging...and girls hanging around. It was interesting. Interesting times.
Kevin: You quit your job at NASA once the magazine took off, or?
Jim: How'd that go? Yeah. Or no, actually before. Let's see, how did that work? I left and then started the magazine.
Jim: One thing...I can't remember the details exactly. I left and then started the magazine. Basically that was it.
Kevin: You decided...it was clear to you that it was going to be an Atari magazine as opposed to a comic or whatever because you were into the Atari machine?
Jim: Yeah, I really can't remember. It had to be that. That's what I knew. That's what I had. It was the only equipment I owned. I saw these other magazines. I think there was a Commodore magazine already.
Compute was a magazine that I used to get and it covered a couple of magazines...it covered a couple of computers. Atari being amongst them. Then I brought on Antic. Antic became probably the most successful of all the Atari magazines. I believe it was.
It had the biggest circulation and the widest distribution worldwide. We had subscribers all over the world. We were the first magazine to include a bound-in floppy disk. It was the first magazine to...actually a lot of people did program listings.
Jim: Type them in. I might have been the first to include a checksum with it. When you typed in the BASIC program we had a checksum program so you could tell if you'd made a mistake.
Jim: Yeah. That's what it was called, right?
Kevin: Yeah. It was called Typo. Then Typo II later.
Jim: Yeah, that's right. They were forgotten. We did that, then I did the CD bound-in. Not CD, it was a floppy.
Jim: We were the first magazine to do that actually.
Jim: It was on the newsstand that way and I think you could even subscribe to it that way.
Kevin: Was that difficult, jumping ahead a little bit, was that getting the disk in there was that difficult logistics wise dealing with the printer or the distributor?
Jim: You have to repeat that, I couldn't hear it.
Kevin: I said since you were the first...am I coming through better now?
Kevin: Since you were the first magazine to include a disk, was that difficult to deal with the printer or the distributor or whatever to make that happen?
Jim: Yeah it was. It was. The printer...it was difficult bindery problem. Distribution...yeah there were issues, but that was the nature of the business and we solved them all. We had to deal with the printer. There was a slow down in bindery.
Jim: It was cost issue as well as a failure rate. It was all that. They had to be worked out.
Jim: We solved it.
Kevin: Did you base Antic on any particular magazine that you looked at and said, "OK this is the thing I most want to be like" or did you just head off in your own direction?
Jim: I can't answer that. I don't recall. I read them all. I have to say, I think I had a pretty good editorial feel while never being a writer myself.
Jim: Although I could write, it never gave me much satisfaction to do it. I was more interested in the creative, that is the start up process and the idea formation in getting my ideas promoted through you as a writer or other people and kind of engaging with people that way.
That was fun. That's what I enjoy. I enjoyed that give and take in creating a product rather than doing the detailed work. Writing didn't satisfy me very much. I never took much gratification in that. But the product itself I did.
To answer your question, I don't recall it being modeled after anything other than, you know, I had six years of stuff in my head and I certainly had favorite issues of different magazines.
I just think I had a good editorial sense. I was a product of my time so basically I could probably speak for a lot of people, and did, actually.
Kevin: In volume four, number one, you alluded to the fact that you did the early issues on your kitchen table.
Jim: Yeah, we did.
Kevin: At what point did you switch to a real office or something?
Jim: Where we launch it was...I had an apartment at the corner of 18th and Missouri Street, San Francisco in Potrero Hill. Literally, we worked out of there. I introduced the first issue of the magazine at the West Coast Computer Fair, and I schlep them all over there thinking I was going to get rid all of them. Of course, I didn't.
I had printed, I think, 12,000 and had 10,000 left. By the time that was done, I went, "Jesus, now what?" I went to the library and got all the yellow pages. This is before Internet. And I started calling computer stores nationwide and selling my magazine to them. That's how unloaded 10,000 magazines.
Of course at the time, people were receptive. They just needed to know all about it. I picked up the phone, and I would start early in the morning, start calling the east coast. If I started calling at six, it was nine on the east coast. I get a lot of calls, so a guy became my distribution manager. He worked for me for a number of years. Les Torak was his name. He started doing the shipping.
I remember we just schlep all these magazine boxes, wrapped them up, and take them over to UPS which wasn't too far from my Missouri Street address. I was there probably on a fourth a day with 20 boxes, and the guy said, "You're going to be doing this a lot?" I said, "Everyday." He said, "You know UPS can come by and pick it up." I said, "They will."
That shows you the level of my sophistication. I didn't know that. I said, "Good. How do I do that?" He said, "Here's the number. Call them and arrange." So I got a UPS account, and that was that.
We worked out of that apartment. Then I got an apartment at Third. I was at 18th in Missouri. I got an office above a bar restaurant at Third in Missouri. I think that was it, Third Missouri. Third Street runs all along the bay. So above the bar. Then I got a local phone connection between the two offices. Then I hired more people, and that's where we stay for quite some time.
From there, I moved to Second Street, 524 Second Street when we were the only people there. In fact, it was right by a place called South Park. That's where you want to live now or you want your offices. In fact, across the street is where Macworld ended up moving in. They have this huge building. I remembered, they jackhammered it for a year. I had to listen to it.
But we were like the first company that moved down there. It was Needle Park. South Park was Needle Park basically. Now you couldn't afford to live there. We were there, and we're there for a number of years.
Then I moved to 544, right next door. I had a three-story building. We grew and added other magazines. I think, at one time, we had 65 people working there. I had mail order business. I had a couple of other magazines. So it grew pretty nicely over those few years from '82 to '90.
Kevin: I notice that for the first 13 issues you were listed as both editor and publisher which I guess just speaks to the relatively small size of the magazine. I think it's kind of unusual for a person to do both.
Jim: I think that was just a...Was DeWitt listed there? DeWitt [indecipherable 0:22:16] . He must have been.
Kevin: I don't remember. I'm not sure.
Jim: Well, DeWitt was the editor.
Kevin: I think he started showing up around issue 14 or so.
Jim: Is that right?
Jim: Because I remember him earlier. But DeWitt was the editor. It might have been just ego on my part. I really don't recall. I don't recall. When DeWitt took over, I listed him. He was the true editor. He was the writer, editor. He and I collaborated along with other people on the content, the covers, all that stuff.
Kevin: Who is the audience initially, and did it change over time?
Jim: Not that I recall changing. You were the audience.
Kevin: I was the audience.
Jim: And people like you and people my age. At the time when I launch the magazine, I was 35. So from your age to my age, we were all consumed by the same thing. I had professional programming experience, but that aside, what consumed those of us involved in the home computer phenomenon was some underlying feeling that compelled us to pursue this thing.
It was fascinating. It was interesting. It was empowering. There was, I think, a sense that this was the beginning of something. We just couldn't get enough of it. Whatever your age, it was this notion, this feeling that ran through all of us I think.
Kevin: I agree.
Jim: You can speak about it yourself. I mean you were there. How old were you then when you were getting an "Antic"?
Jim: That's about right. Now, there were a lot of 12-year-olds that weren't as interested in computers as you. I'm sure you knew many of them, or you didn't know them, but they were out there. You hang out with guys that were interested in it. Your dad, as I recall reading in your book, got you interested or certainly supported your interest.
Kevin: Absolutely. Yeah.
Jim: That's a nice thing. Other kids your age weren't. But people like you got the magazine. I used to get letters all the time from all age groups from all over the country, all over the world.
Kevin: Is there any particular letter or subscriber that sticks in your mind as something interesting?
Jim: No. There was a time when I would have been able to answer that but not anymore.
Kevin: That's fine. How did you get your first advertisers?
Jim: I sold them. I call them. Remember, I had the other magazines. Of course, as a magazine publisher, one of the things you do is you source advertisers from the magazines that you compete with or that are peripheral to your market space. You source the names and phone numbers and so on. That way you get started at that. As you pursue it, you grow the list.
I remember talking to those guys. I've never done any of this. I never produce the magazine. I didn't know anything about it. I tell you one thing though: I remember being a kid, being fascinated by magazines. I always love magazines. I always love bookstores. As a family, we always went to the library. So we were, as a family, very word oriented.
I remember always looking at mastheads. I used to tell people this story. I still look at mastheads. I don't know why. I used to look at them and go, "I wonder what that job means. What does that title?" It just used to intrigue me because it was a masthead in a big magazine. There's just a million people listed, and I used to wonder what the hell they do. What does that title mean?
That's just on the side. But I never did any of these. So I sold all the ads, and the way is that I got in the phone again early in the morning. If I wasn't selling to somebody convincing them to carry my magazine, I was talking to somebody about advertising in the magazine.
I remember talking to a guy. I told him about what I was doing. He said, "Well, that's pretty interesting." He said, "Have you ever done a magazine before?" I said, "No." He said, "Have you ever sell or advertise?" I said, "No." He said, "Do you have any distribution?" I said, "I'm working at it." He said, "Give me a full page."
I answered no just about to any important question he asked, but I'll tell you something that I use to say to everyone. My uncle who is an attorney, a successful one at Silicon Valley. I went to him because he said, "Hey, if you ever think about doing a business, come see me."
I put the touch on him. He didn't come up with any money, but I talked to him at some length about it. He said, "Listen, I don't much understand what you're up to." He said, "If it were a couple of other businesses, I might be more interested. I'm sorry. I can't really help you out financially, but I'll tell you this one thing." He said, "You're enthusiastic." He said, "My experience is that in business enthusiasm can make up for almost everything."
I never forgot that, and he was absolutely right. It's called many things now. I'm sure you're on the Internet as much as I am with all the new stuff going on and all these apps and new websites. A lot of it is derivative stuff in my opinion, but people are quite successful.
To me, to read their analysis of their business and their tips from the great entrepreneurs of the day. The great entrepreneurs of course are those who have made a billion dollars. That's what great is. Basically, I never see this written, but it underlies a lot of what it said anecdotally as well as the tablets from the mountaintops.
This is what so and so said. Well, I tell you what I say: Enthusiasm makes up for everything. If you don't have it, you won't succeed. If you don't have the passion, the compelling drive, you'll have a very difficult time. I used to see it a lot. I used to see the other side of that a lot.
For a long time, a lot of years, people wanted to hear how to do their own business. I would indulge people quite a bit because I was always enthusiastic about it. I would sit down with people, and almost invariably, I'd walk [indecipherable 0:29:10] . The reason I would say this, not always but almost always, is they would always have too many objections: "Well yeah, but what happens about this."
If you have too many objections, you better just go get a job with somebody else. Because if you become your own worst enemy, how the hell could you succeed. There are enough obstacles that family and friends will place in front of you, and enough doubts sowed by those around you who mean well that will cost you some agita, some serious pain: "Jesus, I don't know what he meant, but maybe he's right."
If you allow yourself, if you indulge yourself in that direction, you're going to fail. You won't be able to succeed. It's like wearing cement shoes. I used to see that quite frequently. You can't be that way. You just can't and start a business and run the business successfully.
You have to be driven and not let any of that get in your way. Now, that's a double-edged sword there. I failed numerous times with that same philosophy. There's times when you do have to say, "Enough is enough. This isn't going to work. It's a bad idea or the market's not right or I'm just not the right person for it."
Kevin: So passion isn't everything, but it's 80 percent, right?
Jim: Yeah. It's not a sufficient condition, but it's a necessary condition. I think that's the best way to look at it.
Kevin: As I was reading through the issues, just going through editorial after editorial and letters from people, just trying to find trends. What I expected in my mind was letters about whether piracy was good or bad. It seems like you guys didn't get so much into that. What I did see was campaigns to write to publishers. Over course of years, "Antic" seemed like it was driving these campaigns to tell software publishers to support Atari.
Jim: I don't remember that.
Kevin: Oh. I was going to ask if that was an agenda on your...
Jim: I'm sure it was. Remember, we were passionate Atari people, and Atari was getting the short end of the stick. When I first started, it was owned by Time Warner. A guy named Ross, that was his name, was the CEO before Jack Tramiel bought it.
Kevin: I don't know his name.
Jim: Ross, what the hell's his first name? Can't remember. Anyway, they sold it. It was typical corporate America in that they didn't know what they had their hands on. They just didn't know. They thought it was a failing business.
Atari owned the game market. Then they did the computers, and they didn't do so well there. Apple II owned that market. Commodore was the second place product after Apple II, in that it was cheaper and it gained the traction. Atari had a huge following and it did quite well, but they owned the game market.
How is it that Nintendo came in and ended up owning the game market? It was just typical American corporate crap. They gave it up. They didn't have what it took to win that business. They owned it, and they gave it up. They sold it to Jack, and that was the end of it. Anyway.
Kevin: Jumping ahead in my questions here, I'd like to...I'm sorry, go ahead.
Jim: I was just saying, in watching what transpired, Nintendo is a perfect example. How is it that Nintendo ended up owning the game market, for that period of time that they did? Atari owned it. They failed. That's a typical example of American corporate culture not able to succeed. They were their own worst enemies, basically. Anyway.
Kevin: Can you talk about your relationship with Atari before and after the Tramiels took over? Was there editorial pressure? Did they ignore you? Did they help you?
Jim: They didn't give a shit. Well, I shouldn't say they didn't. Jack was a street-fighting guy. I don't know if you know anything about Jack Tramiel, interesting guy. One of my Board of Advisors, Don Richard, was his right hand guy. I speak to Don still. Don was on my Board of Advisors. He worked for Jack off and on for quite some time, ended up interim president of Commodore for a while. He loved Jack.
Jack was a Jew, a survivor of Auschwitz. He was a consummate survivor, and he took this when he emigrated. I think this informed the rest of his life. He was a street-fighting guy, and with good smarts and good instincts, some luck. Everyone needs a little luck, and a hell of a guy.
He understood the ecosystem at the magazine, but he wasn't about to give me any undue credit. He wasn't about to, but I remember having parties and inviting him, his family, his sons. I knew all the sons. I knew Sig pretty well, and they would attend our parties.
They weren't arrogant. Well, they were arrogant. Not with me, they understood the ecosystem. To answer your question, I received no pressure to say good or bad or indifferent things. They simply were about what they were about. I think they felt, and probably rightfully, that they had their fate in their own hands.
I could help a little or hurt a little, but nothing that was significant. They'd rather be helped, but you know. I worked with them. We had a decent relationship, as I recall. I could get meetings when I needed them. I got information when I needed it, and so forth.
He passed on, Jack did, last year I think it was. His breed is gone. The people I read about now on the Internet, the businesses they're forming, they're a feat by comparison. This guy was the real deal. He was an interesting guy.
Now, perhaps in this day and age he would not be able to succeed. That's a double-edged sword. I look at what's going on now and I say what I say, but perhaps he would not succeed in this current environment. He probably wouldn't. It's a different world, different day.
Kevin: The last issue of "Antic" was June 1990, volume nine, number two. It seems to me as a reader that the end came as a surprise. You were still requesting programs in the last issue, and then all of a sudden it folded into "STart." Then the end of "STart" came less than a year later, and that seemed like a surprise, too.
Jim: Yeah, I don't remember.
Jim: Those were some painful years, actually. The end of this was a difficult time for me. It kind of came undone. Once again, going back to what I said a few minutes ago, when driven by passion and commitment and belief, it's hard to witness the crumbling of this thing that you've helped create and that you've hung the meaning of your life on, so to speak.
It was some difficult times, emotionally, as well as real. In the real business world, financially and so on. I suffered in a lot of different ways, so I really don't recall. I didn't know that that was the last issue, but it was the end of those times. Amiga and Atari were all failing. It was over. I really wasn't smart enough. I didn't migrate. I didn't care, didn't get on with it. Probably my failing, actually.
Kevin: You were one of the relatively few computer magazines to not sell out to a bigger publisher.
Jim: I was offered.
Kevin: Were you? Tell me about it.
Jim: Yeah. Early on, the first year I had "Antic," Pat McGovern showed up in my apartment and offered to buy "Antic."
Kevin: Can you say that again? You glitched out.
Jim: True story.
Kevin: I didn't hear any of it, say it again?
Jim: I said in the first year or the second year that "Antic" was in business, Pat McGovern, the owner of IDG, called me, asked for an appointment, came over to my apartment, stepped over all the boxes and shit. There he was in his very expensive suit. Nice guy, by the way. Smart guy, nice guy.
Came in, didn't give a shit about any of that. It didn't bother him at all. He had started that way himself, and offered to buy it. Me, I wasn't having any of it. I just turned him down.
Kevin: Because it was still your passion?
Jim: Yeah. It was, I think, the second year. I don't know. I don't know what I was thinking. I don't think I was thinking too straight, probably. Had I done that, things would have been different, but not necessarily better I suppose.
Kevin: Were there other offers that came later?
Jim: On "Antic"? No. By then, after that offer, things were sorting themselves out. The PC was really the consummate product. Not Apple II, it was the PC. IBM announced PCjr, then "PC World" came out, and "PC Magazine."
There was a big split there. Dave Bunnell was with his buddy, what the fuck was his name, that started "PC Magazine." One of the partners screwed the other, so Dave Bunnell went off and started "PC World" with Pat McGovern's money. Then "Mac World" came out, and so forth.
No, I didn't get any other offers on that product. Didn't try, I was just consumed by it. I was just busy doing my thing. Frankly, had I been smarter, I probably would have made money I suppose.
Kevin: Can you talk a little bit about the spinning off of the ST stuff into "STart"?
Jim: Well, we had to address it. The 16 bit chips were coming online, and the Mac. Atari had to address it, and the Amiga. Commodore had to address it, and we had to in the magazine. We still saw ourselves as an Atari magazine. We had to do that, so we came up with "STart." That's how that came to be. It was just a necessity.
Kevin: We're getting to your later magazines in a minute, but it seems like you tried some other magazines back in the time. You tried an "Amiga" magazine for a few issues.
Jim: "Amiga Plus." That was out for more than a few issues, actually.
Kevin: Was it?
Jim: Well, maybe a year. I don't know. It was out for a little bit.
Kevin: Volume two, number five. Maybe 16 issues?
Jim: Yeah, I suppose.
Kevin: There was "II Computing" I think you did, for...
Jim: Yeah, "Apple II Computing," and then I think we ended up calling it "II Computing." I think we couldn't use the name "Apple." I've forgotten how that worked. That was around for a while. That was our desire to expand a bit. That didn't work.
I tried a bunch of different things, trying to expand the business, basically. What I didn't do was hire professional publishers besides myself to make that happen. I didn't invest in the business, other than my own ideas.
Kevin: Other projects in the "Antic" world. There was the "One Book," volume one. There was never a volume two.
Jim: Yeah, right.
Kevin: There were the software sales, the Antic software, and then you guys were on Play-Doh and CompuServe.
Jim: Yeah, dabbling there.
Kevin: Dabbling in other projects?
Jim: One of the successful pieces of software ended up migrating to Autodesk, Cyber Studio. I don't want to really get into the details. There were some mistakes made. I didn't have the contracts that I thought I had for the PC version of these things that we developed, and so off it went with the internal guy and the external guy, and they made a lot of money with Autodesk.
Cyber Paint and Cyber Studio were two very successful, very sophisticated graphics programs on the Atari SD, more so than almost any other machine. They got migrated to PC and became stalwarts of Autodesk, those programs.
Kevin: I did not know that. Of your stuff at "Antic," what are you most proud of?
Jim: Oh, I think a couple things. I think the doing of it, the accomplishments over that period of time. I believe in the hiring people, too. I have to tell you, I gave a lot of people a starting business.
I was always a maverick when it came to the principles of business, and hiring and firing and so on. I probably wasn't the best boss all the time, but I gave a lot of people an opportunity. The reason was I didn't really care what you had done. I didn't care what your degree was in. I cared about you. What could you deliver?
Going back to what I said earlier about passion, you're lucky when you get people that work for you that have that. You can't buy it, and you can't earn it, and you can't teach it. It just comes with the person that walks in the door, to one degree or another.
I hired a lot of people looking for that just based on instinct, and was very happy to have a number of people working around me that were...I always look for people better than me, which was probably easy to find actually, in a lot of ways.
I was never frightened by smart, successful people. To me, that's what I wanted. I wanted people like that. Who the hell wants morons around? I wanted people that could do more than I could do, not less, and was very fortunate to have a number of them.
Had I been a better boss, we would have had a better business. Had I been probably...Well, it would have been better. There were opportunities there that I let get through my fingers, I think. Both with people, and the business opportunity itself, that I just didn't grasp. I didn't know how to develop them, or allow them to develop, so yeah. I'm most proud, I think, of that. That I hired a few hundred people, hundreds over those years, and gave people their start from '82 to 2001.
Kevin: Let's talk about what you're proud of. What was, for you, most frustrating or anger-making?
Jim: I think, retrospectively, my failings. I used to run around every now and then and think of Marlon Brando's speech in "On the Waterfront." "I could have been somebody, Charlie. You don't understand. I could have been somebody." Something along those lines.
Kevin: In other ways, it was a huge success. You created an incredible community, and you brought people together.
Jim: Yeah, but you've got to understand. I was a driven guy, and the success, for me...I could have been somebody. You know? That aside, even if you drop it and just set that aside, I'm probably most sensitive to the failings that I created. I failed any number of ways. It's always been hard for me.
I've let it go. It's been a lot of years, but that was, I think, the serious thing that wore me down, is my own failings. When in fact, had I done this or that a little differently, things would have turned out different, but you're right. It was a big community, and the magazines were well-received and so on. There is that, and I had a lot of nice people working, and gave a lot of people their start.
Kevin: "STart" shuts down and it's done. What happened? What'd you do next?
Jim: I started "PC Home Journal," the PC home market. You might think that's a little late, but this was '91 or '92, right in there somewhere. Now, by then I was down to like two dimes to rub together. I didn't have many resources, very little staff, just a few people left. We were just scrabbling, just hard scrabble. It was just fighting for our lives.
We were at 544 2nd Street, a three story building. I subleased the lower space. Randy Stickrod took part of it. Louis Rossetto and Jane, the founders of "Wired," took part of it. "Wired" was founded in my building. The guys who started "Boing Boing," you know "Boing Boing"?
Jim: Mark Frauenfelder and his wife, they started in my building. You know who David Edgars is?
Kevin: Yeah, sure.
Jim: You broke up.
Kevin: Yeah, Dave Edgars?
Jim: Yeah. He started in my building. I subleased to all those guys. It's interesting, they were all there at the same time. Interesting group, a few years younger than I, 15 years probably, but interesting guys.
Now, the Internet was just beginning to be heard from, so I started "PC Home Journal." It was modestly successful. CMP, a big publishing company on the east coast, decided they were going to buy us. Basically what they did was come and interviewed me, and stole all my...I foolishly gave them all the information, and they never came back. They launched a magazine called "Home PC."
That was disappointing, because they basically played me as near as I could tell. They said, "We're interested in buying you, but we'd like to..." They flew people out. I flew back there, they interviewed. I told them everything I could tell them, and then never heard from them again. That's the way I remember it. That's the way it happened.
They launched "Mac Home Journal", I shut it down "PC Home Journal" and launched "Mac Home Journal" when Apple was moving very strongly they launched the Performa line, that was for the home, very actively directed at home markets and so I thought the magazine might go along, and it did pretty well for years.
Kevin: That's where we first intersected, I think.
Jim: Yeah, I was going to ask you I don't remember how.
Kevin: Yeah, I was a freelance writer, writing for "Mac Home Journal."
Jim: Oh you were? Who hired you?
Kevin: I don't remember now.
Jim: Wasn't Ed Prasek, was it?
Kevin: Name doesn't ring a bell, no.
Kevin: Maybe Sandra. Yeah.
Jim: Sandra was our first editor, and she was interesting.
Kevin: I was writing for it, and reading it for probably months before...reading the masthead. I was like, "That name, Jim, that sounds really familiar." Then I remembered you from "Antic."
Kevin: I know you've done other magazines since then. Let's see, at one point...I have an email from you. You're talking about "STart," the "Baby Boomer Magazine," and then you were talking about "LowCarb Living." And now you're doing the "Louisiana..."
Jim: We looked at the baby boom magazine and didn't do it. We ended up doing "LowCarb Living" for a couple years. Basically, that did extremely well and then collapsed in weeks, kind of took me with it. Then we did an iPod magazine that was short, live, and it was called...the hell was it called? Do you remember what it was called?
What's that? That's right, it was called "Pod Mania." I wrote Steve Jobs, asked him for permission to use "iPod Buyers Guide," and he wouldn't let me use it. Actually, I just should have done it anyway.
He couldn't stop me, but I did that, and then I felt obligated at that point then to find another name. So I called it "Pod Mania." Then we moved east for a variety of family reasons and helped my parents and so on. Then Susan, my wife, took a job down here in New Orleans on another magazine, a food magazine. They were in trouble and that's what she and I did, was publishing. She turned them around, actually tripled the size of their business in four and a half years.
Then she went off and started her own called the "Louisiana Kitchen Culture." The other magazine was recipes and "Louisiana Kitchen Culture" basically celebrates Louisiana's heritage, culture and cuisine . It really is, not only recipes, but people and places that contribute to what I think make Louisiana so unique.
That's the difference of "Louisiana Kitchen Culture" and anything else you might see out there. So that's what brings us here. A couple other magazines that I've done that you don't know about. I did a RC model magazine, a model shopper for a short period of time. It was modeled after computer shopper, it was a big thick magazine. Remember them?
Kevin: Yeah, I wrote for them too. It's not a big thick magazine anymore.
Jim: Yeah, nothing is. But it was back in the day it was probably 300 pages, you know large format and so on. So I was in the RC and had been off and on my whole life, airplanes and so on. I thought I would mimic it and I did it for a while and it was never successful so I folded it. That was in the late '80s. I liked starting things, it was a lot of fun.
Now we are here in Louisiana and I'm helping Susan with "Louisiana Kitchen and Culture." I do the website, newsletter and the technology end of it. The file maker database for all of the subscribers all of the stuff that I know how to do.
I have some ideas about businesses but I haven't really been able to get strongly motivated. I use Drupal, its a content management system, a very sophisticated one, a troublesome on in many ways but very powerful. I have been able to mimic any number of ideas, using it to model them.
I'm sitting on a couple of things. Every now and then I mess around. Views In Time was one of them actually. I get excited about it, develop it, and look at it, and then go out to hell with it. I'll go on to something else that it sits there.
Kevin: Do you read computer magazines today?
Kevin: Not interested or?
Jim: Probably not interested. That consumed me for years, but do you read them?
Kevin: No, they're not interesting anymore.
Jim: Yeah. I think that's it. I'm on the Internet 24 hours a day. I wake up at five. I'm typically up at five and do a little meditating and yoga stuff and get on the computer. I'm often on it throughout the day, throughout the entire day. Until I go to bed, I'm in front of the thing. I sit here with my Mac Pro and monitor over here. That's what I do.
Those days are gone. What would you read now? I still get interested every now and then, and program. I though myself how to program the iPhone. It's very difficult by the way. For me anyway, it was because I'm not an object-oriented programmer. I was a procedural programmer.
Object-oriented seem to me as some strange artifice that people made up, some design model that they stacked on top of a programmer. It was like, "Why the hell they bother with all that?" That's how unsophisticated I am about it. I couldn't tell you why they did it.
Anyway, I struggled with the stuff. Stanford has a good online program. I came up with iPhoneworxx. I thought about doing something with that that's why I own that URL. I learn enough to write a Sibelco program. That was my thing. Then I kind of lost interest. I'm pretty impressed with Apple's technology though, I have to tell. It's very sophisticated set of tools.
The objective-C goes all the way back to NeXT which Steve Jobs owned in the late '80s. Objective-C is a very robust language. I think Java came out of objective-C in some ways. There were objective-C programmers that develop Java.
Anyway, so I did this. I still sort of dabble here and there, but I tend lose interest. I tend not to be as passionate over the long run that it takes to actually launch something. I lose interest, or what happens is that little voice that happens to all of us: That won't work. You know that feeling? That will never work.
You can't have that if you're actually going to do something. If you allow that voice to take over, you will not launch a business. I guarantee you. There's no way. It just won't happen because if you've been listening to that voice, that's not going to get good. You then stop doing it, and three months later, you see the same idea with some guy who raise five million dollars behind it.
Kevin: Do you own an Atari computer anymore?
Jim: No, I don't. I don't know what happen to any of it. You got me hooked up with Marty. Do you know what I'm talking about at The Atari Museum? The writer. His last name escapes me. He contacted me. Are you on that Facebook page, The Atari Museum?
Jim: I've seen pictures of all these old STs and Atari 800s and 400s. It's interesting to me because I haven't looked at it in 15 years. It's that long.
It's interesting to me to see all that since I was consumed by that stuff for a long time. They're very familiar to me. I had all of those floppy disks and the cartridge memory and the Atari 800 and monitors and all of that stuff, 48K memory was a big deal.
Kevin: Yeah. You're never going to use that much memory.
Kevin: Going back to Antic, something I want to jump back to, I just want to fish for stories of interesting people you've met, interesting things you've did, maybe you went to a World of Atari Conference or something.
Jim: Well, I did a lot of that stuff. I wish I could remember. I mean there was a time I would have been able to answer that particular question, I mean I went to so many trade shows around the world, actually. I was in Germany for an Atari event, the CES's, which I always used to like because Atari was a big deal, we always had booze there. Combex was a big deal, I mean those are big shows.
In terms of people, I wish I could think but nothing comes to mind. But there were. I met a number of people, and we Mac Fleetwood on STart. We had a bunch of people on. What's that? Oh, we had John Madden. He was on the Macomb Journal cover. We had a lot of people on covers that we contacted. I'm trying to think who else. We had some musicians, Mac Fleetwood I mentioned, but some others as well. I just can't think of them right now. So there were people like that, but just nothing comes to mind.
Kevin: That's fine, that's hard I understand, just pulling it up. When I was working on my book, I worked on it for a year, I'd be writing.
Jim: Shit, the way you made it sound was you wrote it in about three weeks. I was following you on Facebook.
Kevin: Yeah, that's not how it worked.
Kevin: I'd write and write and there was like, OK that's it, that's everything. Then, like I'd wake up in the morning and just a whole new thing would come to me that I completely forgotten about. You know the more you use it, it just comes back.
Kevin: So, it's kind of unfair for me to just go, tell me something, tell me an interesting story, Jim.
Jim: Oh, OK. I've been waiting to tell somebody this for twenty years. There was a time I could have actually had something interesting to respond with, but not anymore.
Kevin: So, if you could send a message to today's Atari hobbyists, and you can, right now, what would you tell them?
Jim: I would say, hang on to the equipment and your magazines. Hang on to the iconic stuff. The pictures I've seen on the Facebook page that is representative of a time, that's only yesterday, long gone, never be repeated. It's over.
There was a short period of time where it sort of came on the world so fast, and all of the sudden it consumed everybody. Not everyone, but you and I know who we're talking about. Everyone that we were friends with was consumed by the same thing. Everyone else is wondering what the hell is going on. They're going, yeah, what is this with computers? What is it with you guys? What are you doing? Well, I don't know, but that's what we're interested in and it just is all consuming.
So there is something to it, and if you lived it, you want to hang on to some of that. Not morbidly, but I don't have any of it. I got rid of it, in some ways, purposely, I just got rid of all that stuff. I don't have anything to remind me of my successes of failures. Probably failures more than anything. I've often thought about doing...in fact my Views In Time website that I started was going to be, and still could be because I work on it every now and then, a virtual reunion website.
Part of it that came from this notion of, I wonder what has happened to all the people from 1982 on, that I hired. Hundreds. Many have gone on, I see their names pop up, very successful careers. So, I thought it might be interesting to do a class reunion. So that's where the Views in Time idea came. I mean, it sprang from that idea and then I enlarged it to be a whole lot of other things and then of course never did anything with it.
To answer your question, I don't know if I have a good answer, its if it's important to you, keep it on your desk, or bundle it up and store it for your kids. It will be a collector's item. If it's not already. There was a time and place for it, and it was very exciting but its gone now, its over.
Kevin: That's true.
Jim: What intrigues me is you contacted me, then Marty did, and then the websites were shut...you know, I gave you permission to do the website, right?
Jim: I've never been to it. You know that? I've never been to your website. I mean that's how I feel about it. It's in the past for me and it's not always pleasant memories. I have a lot of good memories, but towards the end, you got to remember, this whole thing collapsed around...I mean, it just...so, I have avoided any contact with it. To this day, I haven't gone to your website which, what do you have on it? Do you have the magazines on it?
Kevin: My website has the full text of the magazines.
Jim: All of it?
Kevin: All of it. The Antic and the STart.
Kevin: Yeah, full text and we did most of it before PDF was really viable. People didn't have the bandwidth, and it just...so, we OCR'ed everything, converted it all to text and then to HTML, so we have the full searchable text of everything, and every program, all downloadable to your emulator or whatever.
Jim: No kidding.
Kevin: Over at Archive.org, my friend Jason is a computer archivist and he has the full page scans of all the Antic and the STart, and also Creative Computing and just any other magazine.
Jim: Nice! You have my library, he would have had magazines all the way back to '78 I think. He would have had magazines '77, or '78 Creative Computing, he would have had Microcomputing, there was a bunch of them.
Kevin: Well maybe we can get it back from the Chinese.
Jim: The Chinese, yeah.
Kevin: Basically, today if someone wants access to any Atari magazine or book ever published, pretty much you can get it online. It's a massive library.
Jim: It's interesting to me. Maybe someday I'll go visit it. Now, I'm a friend of the Facebook site, so that stuff trickles in over the [indecipherable 1:09:38] . I posted in response to a couple of postings. I've added my two cents for a couple of things for clarification but nothing more than that.
I scanned your book. I haven't read it yet. Just looking at the stuff, you get the sense and how it flows. That brought back a lot of stuff just looking at the book you sent me. Thank you for that by the way.
Kevin: You're welcome.
Jim: That was interesting for me. That kind of dip my toe in it so to speak because you have to remember I was consumed by this. That's all I did. I get up in the morning early, and I go to bed late. That's all I did for years. So to see it again is kind of interesting to me a little bit.
Kevin: First of all, I think my interview is, I have one more thing to talk about, but I think the interview portion is done. I thank you very much.
Jim: What are you going to with this by the way?
Kevin: I'm going to do two things with it. An edited version of this, we will edit it down to 15-20 minutes, the good parts.
Jim: You mean it's not all of it?
Kevin: The best parts are going to go into my podcast. Me and a couple of guys have a Atari podcast. It is called Antic because you picked the best name for an Atari thing ever.
Jim: People know it was named after the chip, most people.
Kevin: Everyone knows that. All of us Atari geeks know that. That will be going into this month's podcast. Then the whole enchilada will go up on archive.org, just every word of it along with probably a transcript.
If someone really wants to hear every word you have to say, it will be there. They'll keep everything there forever. So in a hundred years, if someone wants to know about the history of publishing Antic, it'll be there.
Jim: I'm not sure that's the history. It was interesting times and so many different things happened. I didn't know what I didn't know. Once again, lots of people came to me asking, "How do I start my own business? You did it. Can you help me out?" I said, "Sure." Somebody said, "Weren't you afraid?" I said, "Afraid of what? I had 800 bucks. What the hell was I going to lose?"
When someone asked me that, I knew they weren't going to succeed in anything. Being afraid never occurred to me. If it does, if that's all that's on your mind, you're going to have a difficult time ahead of you. I was fortunate that I didn't know what I didn't know. Believe me it was a ton.
I didn't know anything about publishing. Nothing. The woman I lived with at the time, Marni Tapscott was her name, she was working as a typesetter. That's how we got the first issue by typesetting. She did it off-hours. Then she and I pasted it up. I didn't know anything about paste-up, but I learn pretty quickly. I don't know if you know anything about paste-up.
Kevin: [indecipherable 1:13:03] with the waxer and put the...
Jim: The waxer, yeah. You cut the type, and then you lay it up, I mean, in paragraphs. There were just so many things and a lot of people. Some are gone now already.
Kevin: When I'm done with this and we get the podcast done and uploaded, the other thing I emailed you about months ago, and you didn't hear it, so I'm going to ask again. What I would really like to do is do a book or a kindle or something of best of Antic, best of Antic volume two.
It would be the historical perspective of what's interesting to readers now, and just take some of the most interesting articles and republish them in book format, or what has remained interesting. We'd probably have people vote on them or something, and I just want to run that by you.
Jim: I don't think I have a problem with that.
Jim: How would you present this? How would you sell it? Would it be in paper?
Kevin: Most likely. It would definitely kindle because that's the easiest.
Jim: You broke.
Kevin: Can you hear me now?
Kevin: Definitely on kindle because that's the easiest and cheapest way to go.
Jim: Have you played with Apple's book authoring program? The one I'm talking about.
Kevin: Yeah. iBook publisher.
Jim: Yeah, that's it.
Kevin: We can do it on Apple. What I mean is definitely e-books.
Jim: I'd like my name on it.
Jim: All right. Send me the request, and I'll give you permission.
Kevin: I don't want to say for sure...
Jim: I don't know if a permission is required, but send it anyway.
Kevin: Yeah, that's just safer. I don't want to guarantee it, but I would be inclined to do a paper version because I like paper versions.
Jim: So do I.
Kevin: We'll just use a print-on-demand. That's easy to do.
Jim: Is that what you did with your first book, print-on-demand? How does that work?
Kevin: Great. I used Amazon's CreateSpace. They did a beautiful job. I think the book looks great. It's exactly what I had in mind.
Jim: Did you sell any of them?
Kevin: Enough. It was a project of passion, and my goal was to write the book.
Jim: That's what I was just talking about, right there.
Kevin: My goal was to write the book and not to sell any. But it is selling.
Jim: That's nice. Mazel tov. That's nice when you get what you didn't expect, but privately we're hoping for it.
Kevin: Right. If we do an Antic book, it's going to be the same thing. It's going to sell a hundred copies.
Jim: Yeah. But still, it might be nice.
Jim: The whole print-on-demand, the whole business has changed. Sounds like you got some people out there that are interested. Marty's going to write a volume two on his Atari corporation.
Kevin: Right. That's going to be a three volume set they say. The first one was...
Jim: I asked Dan on his behalf. I'm still waiting here for Dan Richards whether he wants to participate or not as an interviewee. I'm not sure he does, but I'm still waiting in here.
There are plenty of people to talk to on Atari after Jack bought it. I think Sig is still around. Jack's gone. The sons are still around. They were all involved. Lots of people. He could probably get enough interviews to make it interesting.
Kevin: The first book was only 800 pages so...
Jim: That's what he told me. In fact, he sent me the PDF. I think he gave the reviewers code of Amazon, so I got it, and I sent it to Dan. He wanted me to send it to Dan, so Dan could see what the hell he was doing. I was still in touch with one person from Antic old base.
Kevin: Who's that?
Jim: Steve Randall is his name. He's out in Michigan now. He sold ads for us. He's the first ad director of Antic. He's the only guy now that I think about it. He and I Skyped every now and then.
Then over the years there have been a few other people that work for me since then that I've been in touch with. But from the Antic original group, he was one of the original group, he's the only one. Les Torak has now died. DeWitt Robert, I don't know what happened to him. Who else was around? Jesus, I can't think.
Marni got married and lives on the east coast now. She was the original art director. I never heard from a lot of temps, friends, and so forth that helped me with individual projects as we needed them like distribution. I can tell you one story. I used to keep the subscription list on the Atari. I had a database. I used to use Synapse's database. Remember Synapse?
Jim: They were good friends of mine. Ihor Wolosenko and his partner whose name escapes me right now. I think he lives in Indonesia now for all I know. Jesus, I can think of his name.
Anyway, I remember one time printing out...We got the magazines in. Now we had to mail them. I'm printing out all of the labels on a Centronics dot matrix printer. So the labels, printing them out, and sticking them on the covers. Then in my apartment, sorting them by zip code: Where is Minnesota? It's over there. We throw it. We have stacks of magazines. Then we have to bundle them. Tie them and bundle them.
Then I have to schlep them down to the main post office. In those days, in San Francisco, it was on Mission Street, Mission and Second. It was on old building built by the worst project administration in The Depression, great old murals and so on. I had to take them there. I still remember doing that every issue. Remember, we did an issue a month.
Kevin: You started off every other month.
Jim: Yeah, we started off every other month.
Kevin: Then after the first year, you switched to every month.
Jim: That's right. I remember one time I had a little Subaru loaded in the back with sacks of magazines. I was taking them down to Mission Street and Second. This was around the holidays, so it was wintery. For San Francisco, that means rainy.
I was driving down south of the market. I can't remember the street. Anyway, the lights were out. All the lights. All the lights in that part of town were off: the street lights and so on. So everyone would stop. I stopped at an intersection. Someone drove into me. Drove, just drove their car into me at full speed. Drove into me. Crashed. Drove me right through the intersection across.
People came running out thinking somebody's got to be dead in this thing. There wasn't a scratch on the car. Not a scratch. Not a scratch, and nobody could believe it including me. There wasn't a scratch on the car. How could that happen?
It was impossible to this day. I know it was the holidays because I said, "Well, everyone that's your Christmas miracle." Because nobody could believe it. Everyone thought I was dead: "This guy is got to be dead. The guy just drove to him at full speed." There wasn't a scratch on the car. That's a true story. Where I was going was to deliver the magazines down to the main post office, which has since moved out to China Basin, but in those days it was still at 2nd and Mission where it had been for years. Now that area has changed a lot. Anyway, a lot of those little odds and ends.
Kevin: That's what I was looking for. That story. Stuff like that.
Jim: Yeah. Well, that happened and there were a lot of those. I wish I could remember them, but you know. Anything else I can help you with.
Kevin: I don't think so. Thank you so much.
Jim: Sure. Kind of interesting to talk about again.
Kevin: If you think of anything else, email me or we can Skype again or whatever.
Jim: I will. Sure. You got my contact information. You know, I couldn't figure out how...Your contact, I never did find it. I ended up just entering you and I don't know what the hell happened. Anyway, we're connected now it looks like.
Kevin: Skype is black magic. I don't know.
Jim: Yeah, it's one of those, like every other program. You know, it's always a pain in the neck. That's why people, "Why don't you get that program?"
I said, "No." You know why? Because it demands much more than you think. If you're going to use it, it demands your attention because it just never works the way you think it will, so I'm loathe to pick up something new unless I really need it, and then invest myself at the level that I'm going to use it at.
In other words, I'm not one of those guys, that like you see guys with cell phones or their smart phones. They know every little...I don't give a shit. I just use the things I use. Maybe I'm just getting old. I don't know. Actually, I've always been that way with programming. Even when I was at NASA as a programmer, most programmers I knew that were any good were lazy and it's what made us good.
You know, you just drove yourself to solve the problem in front of you and if another problem popped up that intrigued you, you saved it later because you were solving the problem in front of you.
Everything that you were doing, and some of the software I dealt with, real-time programming where very sophisticated interrupt systems and you know, things would blow up. It would take you weeks to find the problem because it was a stack overflow. There were all kinds of problems, so you just drove yourself.
You'd have volumes of manuals and so on. I know where to look in the manuals. I've never read the manuals. I know where to look in the manuals. That's what I know how to do. That's what I've learned how to do, is to find an answer to my problem in those manuals. I know how to access them and I'm familiar with...they're my friends now.
"Have you read them?"
"Only the paragraph I need."
You know? Who the hell reads all that stuff? That's the way I've always been. That's the way all the programmers that I knew, at least back in the day, we didn't read manuals. We read the pieces we needed to solve the problem at hand and if it took us down, you know, you follow the thread a little bit, only as far as you needed, to answer the problem that started you on your quest to begin with.
I've always been that way and that's the way I am with all the technology nowadays. There are people that know a lot more about all these things than I'll ever know and I don't care. I use them to my benefit now.
But if I was 13 years old this is what I'd be doing. I'd be hacking. Actually I'd be a hacker. That's fun. It's a challenge. I can understand why people do it actually. It's a really challenge and comradery. Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to talk.
Kevin: Thanks Jim.
Jim: Sure. We'll maybe talk again.
Kevin: Very good.
Kevin: Have a great afternoon.
Jim: Yeah, you too, bye.
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