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Guy Kewney, pioneer, guru, friend - RIP
We'll all miss you
RIP When I first met Guy Kewney, who died early this morning after a long struggle with cancer, he was already firmly established as star columnist at Personal Computer World - then, and for years to come, the UK's flagship IT publication. Until he started working for The Register a couple of years back, that was one of the few occasions when we found ourselves working on the same team.
And even then, only sort of. We at PCW stablemate Personal Computer News regarded it as our mission to try to scoop the PCW aristocracy down the hall at every available opportunity, even to the extent of stealing their review kit from reception. It made for some interesting evenings down the pub after work, but Guy was perfectly civil about it, and always ready with helpful advice for the young upstarts.
Was it PCW's Elan Enterprise I swiped (finally, I admit it), or was it What Micro's? Whatever, publisher VNU finally woke up to the insanity of competing with itself and pink-slipped PCN. Other titles faded as the 80s home computing boom faded, but PCW and Guy sailed on, with Guy as the IT guru normal people had quite possibly heard of - and the one the vendors needed to talk to.
I remember an awe-struck staffer returning from a visit to Guy's terraced house in Hackney, babbling that he didn't have any carpets but that he did have his own PBX system, which in 1983 was non-trivial cabling to have running up and down your staircase. And not a lot of IT writers were chums with the late Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide, either. Or able to survive (absolutely unscathed) costing his publishers a large sum of money to pay for a new encryption system for Acorn, after he'd published a crack in his column.
Felix Dennis, who'd got his start on the ladder to vast wealth by selling PCW to VNU, had been brought in by the company as launch consultant for PCN, and around the same time had launched his own weekly, MicroScope, bringing in Guy as a star (naturally) writer. I worked there briefly after VNU had changed the locks on us, and Guy - in shorts, socks and sandals - would sit tapping away in a totally bizarre orthopaedic chair. He was endearingly eccentric in oh so many ways...
By the time I got back to MicroScope a couple of years later Guy was gone - pinched, along with a clutch of other key writers, by VNU for PC Dealer, which it launched against MicroScope. Guy remained a friend throughout, but he'd clearly become the man that any self-respecting tech publisher mounting a big push absolutely needed to have on board.
So when Ziff Davis invaded Europe and looted the UK IT press for staff, he naturally had to be the biggest of guns on PC Magazine UK. He was possibly even more the enemy in this period, but as always, in the nicest possible way.
Once the ZD onslaught had burnt out, Guy was back at PCW, with which he'd remained, and will remain, inextricably identified. The money was starting to leak out of paper publishing by then, but like the true pro he was he picked up other jobs, started his own site and blog, and started writing for The Reg, where he marked the closure of PCW just under a year ago.
Joe Fay and I were due to buy him the lunch we owed him a couple of weeks back, but that was the day he took a bad turn, so it looks like we'll just have to owe him. He posted brave updates on his condition, entirely without self-pity, until last week on Twitter and his blog. We're sorry you missed that couple of months of gentle recovery, Guy. And we really wish you could have made that lunch. We'll miss you. ®