I have been in the home computer business for just getting on for 30 years and have seen the amazing transformations that even now continue to happen. Of course the change is driven by people (and the technology that some of them create) so I though I would write an article about one of the most pivotal people in British home computing. So readers who are newer to the industry can get some perspective.
In 1977/8 I was running a computerised book keeping company in Liverpool and I was reading the computer press. Computing and Computer Weekly. In these I read about the exciting new home computers that were being developed in America. And most of these articles were being written by Guy Kewney (and he was also writing for New Scientist). And it was his writing that inspired me to open a computer store. In July 1978 in Liverpool, it was called Microdigital.
There were two things that made Guy very special. The first was that he knew all the senior people in the industry personally and spoke to them regularly. Steve Jobs, Clive Sinclair, Bill Gates, Alan Sugar, he even invited little me to his home where I met his family. This meant not only that he got the story from the horses mouth but also that he could discuss important issues with the people right at the top. As a result his knowledge and understanding of the industry was unparalleled.
The second was his sheer intellectual horsepower. His brain was always working things out in a very incisive way that gave his reporting a disarming depth and breadth. Just reading his articles takes your mind on a journey of adventure and discovery as he reasons with the facts to come to conclusions that would elude most others.
So it was little surprise that as the home computer industry in the UK started to take off he became it’s most powerful and important journalist and advocate. When Personal Computer World started in 1978 he was there, driving and moulding the budding industry with his intellect and knowledge. Guy is certainly responsible for a huge amount of the initial enthusiasm for home computing in the UK. He founded and edited Microscope (which I had done the business plan for) and PC Dealer, then he presented the TV Database programme for 4 years.
All this time he used his huge power and influence for the good. He championed the Nascom homebuild computerin 1977 which resulted in it being a success well beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. He went on to put his muscle behind the creations of Clive Sinclair starting with the MK14 and continuing to the massively successful Spectrum. A huge amount of the early success and acceptance of home computing in this era was because of Guy.
The Sinclair Spectrum went on to become the basis of the British game industry. It is why Britain was, for decades, the number three developer of video games in the world. And it is why so many development teams throughout the world have Brits in them. Guy Kewney’s inspiration and influence lives on in the worldwide gaming industry we see today.
And he is still at it, writing about technology for The Register, where his daughter Lucy Sherriff is on the staff. His website Newswireless is a fascinating place to visit. He still sometimes reports for the BBC, has written for most of the serious newspapers in Britain, is a sought after post dinner speaker and writes columns for Personal Computer World, IT Week and eweek.com. His influence is still massive but now no longer bears directly on video gaming. A pity because we could do with the power, influence and inspiration of his writing.