A sort of homecoming

Dvorak, Gruber, Siracusa: all Johns, all the time.

If you flip to the back page of the August issue of Macworld magazine, you’ll see my not-quite-smiling face accompanying a few hundred words about Steve Jobs. Presumably, the article will eventually be published on Macworld’s web site as well, as past articles have been.

Macworld has dedicated its back page “Spotlight” column to a rotating crop of freelance writers, so I can’t promise when or if you’ll see me do another one. I can tell you that I found the experience of writing for print quite alien, with its long lead time, unforgiving editorial process, and the barbaric inability to obsessively edit the text in the ten minutes following its publication.

And yes, I also felt constrained by the word count (shocking, I know). I did end up submitting under the limit, but then I was edited down further. It was a legitimate effort—my introduction went on way too long, as usual—but I’m not thrilled with the end result. Maybe it’s just because I know which words were changed, and where all the missing sentences should be. And yes, it pained me to have to omit so many of the ideas from my outline, but I did most of that cutting myself before submission. Anyway, obviously my work habits have been shaped by the web. If I get another shot at it, I’ll try to do better.

Logistics aside, writing for the back page of Macworld was quite a trip for me. I grew up reading the big three Mac publications—MacUser, Macworld, and MacWeek—during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Those were some good years for the Mac, all things considered, and the magazines were thick and healthy.

The back page of each was passed around a lot over the years, but it was always a lot of fun. Yes, even in the Dvorak years. Dare I say it, especially in the Dvorak years. (Hey, I was young and times were different. You whippersnappers will just have to trust me on that one.)

Before the web, MacUser, Macworld, and MacWeek were the entire Mac universe to me. I’m not sure Mac fans born in the Internet age can ever understand what that was really like, so thoroughly has the vast and varied Mac web supplanted (and in many ways, surpassed) those print publications. But there was something magical about that time, before Windows 95, before the dark times…before the Empire. By writing for Macworld, the last of the big three still in print, I feel like I’ve completed some kind of cosmic circle. I’m thankful for the opportunity, and I hope to do it again.

This article originally appeared at Ars Technica. It is reproduced here with permission.