The Democratization of Tech


I first started writing tech articles and reviews for the now-defunct Computer Gaming World back in the mid-1990s. Actually, that’s not quite true, as I wrote for some user group magazines before CGW. But Computer Gaming World was my first regular paying writing work.

Back then, there were lots of technology publications – actual magazines you could hold in your hand. PC Magazine, PC World, PC Computing, PC Week… do you sense a pattern? Oh, and there was Computer Shopper. Back then, in the US, Computer Shopper was this massive tome as long and wide as a tabloid newspaper and as thick as a telephone book from a large city. It was a kind of welfare program for tech writers. Computer Shopper were always so desperate for content, that they’d pay good writers 2 dollars a word (that’s 2 US dollars. Per. Word.)

However, no one really wrote about technology as it applied to PC games. PC games were quite distinct from console games in that era. In the mid-90s, the IBM compatible PC became the dominant platform for PC games, eclipsing Atari, Commodore and Apple for good.

So I started writing articles about tech for gamers. It began with the then-technical editor for CGW, Mike Weksler. Eventually, Dave Salvator took the reins, but I stayed on as a contributing editor and writer. It was a grand time. Computer Gaming World was mostly US focused, but the magazine had licensees in the United Kingdom and other countries. My articles and columns would occasionally get translated into the local language. Every now and then, I’d get email – or even paper mail – in some language I didn’t understand, so would have to seek out a translator.

That was the heyday of print technology writing. Some holiday issues of CGW exceeded 500 pages. But the web was starting to make itself known. A teenager named Anand Shimpi, a German dentist named Tom Pabst and a couple (Joan Wood and Alex Ross) had started web sites that would forever change the landscape of technology writing. Other folks jumped into the fray.

Now, of course, the kind of writing I did back over a decade ago is all over the web. Pabst, Wood and Ross sold their sites, which you can still find publishing original content. Anand Shimpi, of course, is still at it with Anandtech.

But there now exist hundreds, maybe thousands of sites, dedicated to every possible niche in technology, some obscure, some popular. This has made life a little harder for the old school of tech writer, few of whom can command the $1 to $2 per word rates that existed back then. In reality, though, there’s been a tremendous democratization of technology writing. And that’s a good thing.

What’s great is that the priesthood has been shattered. I say that as someone who was, at least peripherally, part of that priesthood. Knowledge knows no favorites, and the kid in his bedroom, digging into custom BIOSes for his video card can sometimes know more in a practical way than any of the individual engineers in the team who designed and built that card.

The other aspect of the web has been the increasing internationalization of technology. Sites in Russia, China and other countries often publish more timely and in-depth articles than many US sites. I often learn more from Xbit Labs than from many of the highly trafficked sites in the US, for example.

What’s going to be interesting is to see how the emerging social media technologies are going to have an impact. Each day, some new tech tidbit comes across on Twitter, and I learn a little more, in small chunks and fragments. These, in turn, push me to dig a little deeper and find out more about a topic I may have had little interest in previously. But how it will all turn out in the long run, no one really knows.

So my message is simple: dig into the technology. Learn it. And tell us all how it works. Because what you know may save someone’s PC from frying, make someone’s gaming experience better or help out a user who needs to keep an aging PC alive so they can keep working.

This article was very graciously penned by Loyd Case for Wccftech.