A Farewell Tour of Benj’s Best HTG Computer History Articles

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A Gallery of Benj Edwards Articles in Picture Frames on a Wooden Wall
Benj Edwards / How-To Geek

After 2.5 years and over 1,000 articles here, I’m leaving How-To Geek. It’s a bittersweet feeling, since I love this place, but new adventures are calling. Before I go, I thought it would be fun to round up my favorite and most popular features with behind-the-scenes tidbits. I think you might enjoy it, too.

My Five Favorite How-To Geek Articles

It’s no secret that in between how-to articles about the latest macOS, Windows, and iPhone tips, I like to write about tech history. It’s fun to educate and inform (and I’ve been doing it since 2005 for other sites). After writing 122 history features for How-To Geek, a handful have stood out as particularly memorable or interesting for me. I’ll give you a peek behind the scenes.

Id Software’s 30th Anniversary

A classic id Software logo on a blue background

In 2021, legendary game developer id Software turned 30. To celebrate, I contacted three out of four of the original id founders—John Carmack, John Romero, and Tom Hall—and asked them for key memories and their favorite moments at id. They replied with wonderful quotes, and it felt great to bring all three men together, so to speak, to celebrate their achievements in a positive way, since they had originally split up under less than ideal circumstances. With Romero’s help, I did try to contact Adrian Carmack too (the fourth founder), but he keeps a low profile these days and didn’t reply.

id Software stories did really well for us over the past few years, and Carmack and Romero also provided choice quotes for my pieces on NeXT, the VIC-20, the Apple II, and, of course, articles about Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, and Quake.

RELATED: From Keen to Doom: id Software’s Founders Talk 30 Years of Gaming History

The Mystery of QWERTY

The QWERTY Mystery

Out of personal curiosity, I set out to discover the origins of the standard QWERTY keyboard layout. I did deep research in several out-of-print history books, dusty scholarly articles from the typewriter era, and more. What I discovered is that no one alive knows exactly why the QWERTY keyboard layout is the way it is. It’s a genuine mystery that will likely remain unsolved forever unless some new, previously unknown documentary evidence comes to light in the future.

It’s absolutely fascinating to think of such a universal standard originating from a set of completely arbitrary (and seemingly random) decisions made 150 years ago. That’s quite a difference from our precision-engineering-driven world today.

RELATED: The QWERTY Keyboard Is Tech’s Biggest Unsolved Mystery

No Regrets About Gopher

The Gopher protocol (gopher://).

Back in mid-2020, I interviewed Mark P. McCahill, the co-creator of a web-like protocol popular on the early internet called Gopher. Given a few slight changes in history, Gopher could potentially be where the World Wide Web is now. When I asked McCahill if he had any regrets that Gopher didn’t win the information protocol war, he had a doozie of an answer: “Maybe that’s another reason I’m okay with the web beating out Gopher,” McCahill said. “I don’t have things like Facebook and its weaponized surveillance platform on my conscience directly.” That’s a quote I’ll remember for a long time.

RELATED: The Web Before the Web: A Look Back at Gopher

The Father of the Modem Screech

A screeching dial-up modem cartoon

One of my favorite types of articles is where I set out to write a simple explanation of something and end up discovering something entirely new, which has happened many times with my history pieces. Like the time I discovered that Caps Lock was likely added as a compatibility mode to make newer teletypes operate like older ones.

Another fun example is when I wrote about why dial-up modems make a screeching noise when they connect. I decided to ask the question “Why did they have speakers to begin with?” and found the answer with Dale Heatherington, who designed the first modem with an internal speaker in 1981. When I asked if we had Heatherington to thank for our 1990s noisy modem nostalgia, he replied, “Yep. Guilty as charged.”

RELATED: Why Did Dial-Up Modems Make So Much Noise?

How to Install Windows 3.1 on an iPad

Windows 3.1 Running on an iPad
Apple

When my long-time friend and collaborator Harry McCracken told me he knew how to install Windows 3.1 on an iPad, I thought it was too exciting to keep to myself. So I wrote about it for How-To Geek, hoping that the MS-DOS emulator app for the iPad was as Apple-approved as its author cautiously hoped it was.

Of course, the resulting media coverage brought it to Apple’s attention (with MacRumors, Daring Fireball, and 9to5Mac all chipping in), and the app got pulled from the store (so sadly, the instructions in that piece no longer work). I wrote a response piece about the freedom to learn from the past. So much power for historical learning is still locked away due to Apple’s closed iPhone/iPad platform.

RELATED: How to Install Windows 3.1 on an iPad

Runner-Up: My Windows History Pieces

Windows 2000 Hero

While those five stand out in my memory, there are stories behind other articles that are equally as fun, but I’d be writing for days. So I want to cheat by extending the list with a group of Windows history pieces that I really enjoyed writing. I covered the anniversaries of Windows 1.0, Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. I also wrote about the greatest and worst versions of Windows, the history of Windows icons, Windows logos, the Windows key, and more.

On many of those articles, I had the help of Microsoft veterans Steven Sinofsky and Brad Silverberg, who shared quotes and insider memories that helped a great deal. Before working for How-To Geek, I spent years writing about Apple and Mac history for Macworld, so it felt nice to balance that out a little with some Microsoft and Windows history. I’m completely platform-agnostic—I use Macs and Windows PCs equally.

My Ten Most Popular History Features

CP/M Operating System logo on a blue background
Visual

Since this is my last post on the site, I thought I’d also round up a list of my most popular How-To Geek articles as well. These are a mix, most-viewed, most popular on social media, and which articles received the most email feedback.

Curiously enough, by a 10-to-1 margin, I received the most email feedback after writing about CP/M, the obsolete operating system that inspired MS-DOS. The 1970s are still alive, my friends. (Note to the editor: The readership has pent-up demand for more CP/M content, Chris!)

The Benj Edwards History Collection

Atari 800 on a sunset background by Benj Edwards.
Benj Edwards

One last thing: My history works can get lost in the shuffle easily, so for historical reference, here’s a complete list of 122 How-To Geek history articles I’ve written. You’ll find them listed below in reverse chronological order (from newest to oldest). We originally published these pieces between February 25, 2020 and late August 2022.

2022

2021

2020

New tech history is being created every day, and future tech historians will definitely have their hands full untangling this complex and rapidly-changing era. I’ll miss my friends at How-To Geek, but they’ll still keep writing great stuff for you. So keep reading, and stay safe out there! Benj Edwards out.





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Suraj Sewatkar
Suraj Sewatkarhttp://sktodaysnews.com
Hi !!! This is Suraj Sewatkar, a blogger by hobby and HR by profession. I like to learn new things and go to new places. I am a website developer and have developed a number of websites and blogs on Blogger as well as WordPress as well with 3 years of experience in the HR field

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