Hanging up my virtual pen

The first time I was paid for writing about the Mac was in 1985 when A+ magazine published a reader’s tip I submitted. It detailed how to use ResEdit to modify the Welcome to Macintosh message. For 300 words, I got paid $50. It was far from a momentous event. At the time, I didn’t expect it to lead anywhere. My day job was still as a professor of psychology. But, as it turned out, the reader’s tip was the spark that ignited a flame.

I had the good fortune to be around for the dawn of some of the most significant technological developments in human history: the arrival of personal computers, the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web, and the current dominance of social media and mobile devices. These and other technological advances continue to alter our world at an ever accelerating pace. One day Apple is on the verge of bankruptcy. The next day (or so it sometimes seems), it is the largest most profitable company on earth. Who’d have guessed?

At a personal level, these changes became the impetus for a new career direction — a career I did not foresee and would never have predicted. That initial reader’s submission led to me becoming a contributing editor for several Mac magazines, a book author (most notably of Sad Macs, Bombs & Other Disasters) and the creator/editor of one of the earliest Mac websites (MacFixIt). Again, who’d have guessed? Certainly not me.

The result has been three decades of doing things I thoroughly enjoyed and getting paid for doing them. Who could ask for more?

Which brings me to today. I’ve decided to call it quits and hang up my virtual pen. What I expect to be the last article I get paid to write was posted to Macworld last December.

To any of you who have followed my work, this should not be a surprise. In fact, some of you may feel this announcement is more than a bit anti-climactic. I’ve been flirting with retirement for the past two years, gradually diminishing my published output — even giving a “retirement” session at Macworld/iWorld last year. For the past year, the only paid writing I did was a small number of articles for Macworld. A few weeks ago, I “gave notice” and told the folks at Macworld that I was done. That made it official — and made it real to me in a way that it had not been before.

Why now? There’s no mystery. I’m old enough that it seems appropriate and financially well-off enough to manage it, so why not? While I could keep writing occasional articles for Macworld, it seemed better to make a clean break. Recent events helped move me in this direction.

In the past year, Macworld ended its print publication (as well as laying off almost its entire editorial staff, who just happened to be the people I had known and worked with for more than a decade). Around the same time, Macworld/iWorld announced its demise. Several notable Mac websites similarly came to an end in the last year or so, including TUAW and my own MacFixIt (which, subsequent to my leaving it, had been run by CNET).

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I began to feel that these were all signs of a “torch-passing” moment. There is a generation of tech writers (of which I am a member) whose careers date back to the 80’s. We still vividly recall “highlight reel” moments from prior decades — like Steve Jobs unveiling the original Mac or the Boston Macworld Expo keynote that kicked off Steve’s triumphant return to Apple. For much of a younger generation, these events are tantamount to ancient history.

For now, these two generations co-exist in many work environments. However, as is inevitable and appropriate, the balance is steadily shifting towards the younger generation. Over the next decade, I expect the older generation to exit the stage in increasing numbers. As one of the oldest members of that generation, I am merely at the leading edge of this trend — which makes now seem like a perfect time to leave. I expect there will be times when I miss being “part of the action.” But I leave without regrets.

I don’t intend to entirely disappear from the online world. I plan to write columns here at Slanted Viewpoint from time to time. And I may still do occasional podcasts at MacVoices. Of course, I will continue to post tweets. Beyond that, my life will be lived offline.

One last thing

Whatever success I have had, I could not have achieved it without help. Lots of help — from a great bunch of people. To all of those listed below (and to any I may have forgotten), I offer my heartfelt thanks…

Bob LeVitus. In addition to giving me my start as a freelance writer (when he was editor of MACazine), Bob was essential in getting me started as a book author and as a speaker at Macworld Expo.

Dan Frakes. A colleague of mine at MacUser and later Macworld, Dan was also my co-author for Mac OS X Help Line. For a while, he was even an editor at MacFixIt. He remains a good friend.

Chris Breen. Another friend and colleague from both MacUser and Macworld. Prior to his recent move to Apple, Chris, as an editor at Macworld, was the editor of my Bugs & Fixes column.

Chuck Joiner. As the person behind MacNotables and MacVoices, Chuck was my conduit into the world of podcasting. Thanks to Chuck, I was able to have all the fun of podcasting without having to do any of the work.

Dave Rogelberg. While at Addison-Wesley, Dave was the incredibly patient editor of my first edition of Sad Macs. He also generously provided advice that helped further my book authoring career.

Cliff Colby. Cliff was the project editor of the books I wrote for Peachpit Press. His friendship and encouragement were a big part of what made it such a delight to work for Peachpit.

Ric Ford, Eric Belsley, Kurt Christensen and Stan Flack. When I first started MacFixIt, these four ran competing websites (MacInTouch, The Macintosh Resource Page, VersionTracker and MacCentral, respectively). Yet each one went far out of their way to provide the help I needed to get MacFixIt up and running.

Robert DeLaurentis, Ilene Hoffman and Shawn Platkus. When the work at MacFixIt became more than one person could handle, these three joined the site and became essential in preventing me from collapsing under the load.

Ralph Risch. When I was looking to sell MacFixIt, Ralph, as CEO of TechTracker, made me an “offer I couldn’t refuse.” I’m glad he did.

Jason Snell. As the editor of Macworld, Jason consistently made it easy for me to work there.

Scholle McFarland. As a copy editor at Macworld, Scholle never failed to improve whatever I submitted.

Dave Hamilton, Bryan Chaffin, Jeff Gamet and John Martellero. For several years, I did a column for The Mac Observer called User Friendly View. It was my first gig writing op-ed columns — which I had long wanted to do.  As a bonus, I got to work with these great guys every day.

Tonya Engst and Adam Engst. As the publishers of the Take Control book series, Tonya and Adam gave me the opportunity to write one of the first books about the iPhone.

Paul Kent and Kathy Moran. During my almost two decades as a speaker at Macworld Expo, Paul and Kathy were the hard-working duo most responsible for making it such a fantastic experience.

Jonathan Cerf and George Sullivan. Back in the early 1980’s, I worked with Jonathan and George on a journal about the game of Othello. They helped me hone the skills I would later use when writing about Macs.

And many many more, including…

John Anderson, Marjorie Baer, Neil Bauman, Jeff Baudin, Gordon Bell, Jennifer Bell, P.A.M Borys, John Braun, Gleb Budman, Jim Bruce, Serenity Caldwell, Jeff Carlson, John Chaffee, Adam Christianson, John Christopher, Raines Cohen, Robert Coffman, Peter Cohen, Marty Cortinas, Colin Crawford, Matt Deatherage, Albert Dion, Charles Downs, Glenn Fleishman, Lex Friedman, Lynda Gousha, Anne Griffin, Rob Griffiths, Jon Gotow, Andy Ihnatko, Russ Ito, Susan Janus, Shawn King, Rocky LaRochelle, Chuck LaTournas, Robert Leeds, Dan Littman, Jean MacDonald, Carol McClendon, Kirk McElhearn, Philip Michaels, Dan Miller, Dan Moren, David Morgenstern, Rik Myslewski, Tom Negrino, Gary-Paul Prince, Naomi Pearce, Nancy Peterson, Elissa Rabellino, Schoun Regan, Nadyne Richmond, John Rizzo, Lorene Romero, Michael Rose, Nancy Ruenzel, Ian Schray, Jon Seff, Sal Soghoian, Dori Smith, David Sparks, David Stillman, Derrick Story, Duane Straub, Dave Taylor, Neil Ticktin, Ladd Van Tol, John Welch, Ben Wilson, Dan Wood and Jon Zilber.

Of course, a special thanks to my wife Naomi. None of this would have been possible without her support.

Finally, thanks to Apple and all the people who have worked there. Without them, I would have had nothing to write about. As a related postscript, I was recently contacted by Apple about a potential job. Bad timing…given that I was on the verge of retirement. But I was none-the-less flattered, surprised, intrigued and very much tempted. As you might imagine, much internal conflict ensued. In the end, I remained on my retirement path.

Update: May 19: I made a few additions and corrections to the “thank you” list.

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27 Responses to Hanging up my virtual pen

  1. Paul Robinson says:

    Great reflections and good wishes for a healthy, active, fun retirement.

    I, too, received some modest amount ($30, I believe) for a computer tip I sent into a magazine years ago. (Published the occasional review, too.) And, from time to time, gave workshops and even occasionally thought how cool it would be to follow the type of path you described. I ended up as a professor. Still wish that I had taken that other road! (Reminders of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.”)

    Reading over the names of people you thanked brought back gobs of memories… clearly I’m of your generation as I recognized most of them!

    Still, I hope you’ll reconsider and take a stint at Apple for a while. If only to gain insight into its latest culture and incarnation!

    Best wishes!

  2. Ted says:

    To all of you who sent me tweets in response to this article, and to everyone who has read my stuff and sent me comments over the years, thank you. It’s been a big part of what made doing all this so special.

  3. Arne Kuilman says:

    Hi Ted, you don’t know me, but I remember everything you summed up from my past as the first Apple news website in the Netherlands. I also remember macfixit.com being a go-to place to fix the many issues I had from system 7.0 going to Mac OS X. Keep enjoying everything you do!

  4. Abbi Vakil says:

    Your post brought up some wonderful memories of Apple events & personalities through the years. MacFixIt was an invaluable resource for many in the Apple Service business. I remember a conversation we had in the 90s about buying it. Would have been cool to see you at Apple- a fitting postscript to a career of helping people in the Apple community :-) Thank you for all that you have done & best wishes for the future!

  5. I thoroughly understand your decision to “retire”. There is a time for everything and to miss “that” one is a real tragedy. I do hope you continue the “Viewpoint” and your enjoyable Twitter posts. I like where your mind is most of the time. Thanks – Jerry H

  6. Frank Dixon says:

    Sad Macs, Bombs & Other Disasters and MacFixIt were both a great help back in my early Mac using days. They also bring back memories of why I don’t miss OS 9 (or 8 or 7).

    All the best in your well-deserved retirement, Ted! And thanks for all you’ve contributed to the Mac community over the years.

  7. You’ve been an inspiration and source of Mac and iOS info for decades. Since the 80s, I’ve followed your writing in books, MacFixIt, Macworld, and your thoughtful comments on MacVoices. It was a pleasure to attend your farewell talk at Macworld/iWorld last year. I’m about your age and retired but I still write occasionally for a couple of online sites.
    Your work is much appreciated and I wish you all the best in the years to come.

  8. Steve Sande says:

    Congratulations, Ted! I’ve always enjoyed your writing, and I can see myself following you into retirement in a few years. You’ve truly been one of the good guys in the business for a long time, and I will personally miss your perspective on all things Apple.

  9. Ted.
    I’m going to miss you old friend. You have always been an inspiration to me as a writer, and you were an awesome colleague at The Mac Observer. All the best!

  10. Snaggy says:

    Thanks Ted, for all your great work! MacFixit was my home page for years, back when home pages were still cool and so was the 8600 I was running. :-) Enjoy offline life, I’m jealous!

  11. Nick Lauer says:

    Ted, beautifully written as always. Heartfelt as always. We talked about this the last time we were together which was too long ago. Wishing you all the best and hope you and Naomi will come out here soon. Or maybe we have to finally get there for the Canned Film Festival!


  12. Andrea says:

    Ted, I was lucky enough to get your autograph at that last Macworld Expo and your retirement “workshop”. I’ve always enjoyed reading you and your extremely intelligent “voice” will be missed in the Mac community. For some reason I just don’t enjoy podcasts so I won’t be hearing you there, but, please, keep on tweeting! @astandy

  13. Stephen C Holtzman says:


    All I can say is thank you, you were and will always be my Guru, the person who made me where I am today because of your Mac teachings. I have followed you from the beginning. All I can do is wish you all the very best on your next adventure and thank you for what you have given to me over all the years.

    Bainsville, Ontario
    Previously Montreal Quebec

  14. mike salesin says:

    as a personal friend from the days you were in michigan and as a friend who has a chance to have dinner with you in the bay area, i am sad to hear you are “retiring.” i wish you well for the future and hope that you will continue the slanted viewpoint column. i always envied your “day job” as it seemed to be so much fun. Actually thought that was your retirement life. what are you going to do now, or as my other retired friends say, “i started the day with nothing to do and only finished half of it before bedtime!”
    enjoy, my dear friend.

  15. Lee Buckley says:


    We’ve never met directly…but you’ve influenced my development and web presence as a moderator on the FineTunedMac website. I never met Irene directly, but I was one of the early members of the MacFixit Forums who was nominated from the user-base to become a Moderator there and we used to correspond regularly. When the CNET takeover transpired, and the virtual community that resided within the MacFixit Forums was broken, we (all the former MFIF Mods / Admins / back-end techs) formed the FineTunedMac site to try to continue that same level of “community” that had developed at the MacFixit Forums. Many of the original regular posters at MFIF remain active at the site that you inspired us to start. Thank you for your many contributions.

  16. Oliver Oike says:

    Thank you for all of your hard work and important contributions to the Mac community. I *lived* on Macfixit in my early Mac days, and have always followed your work. Enjoy your offline retirement! You’ll be missed.

  17. Pingback: Michael Tsai - Blog - Thanks, Ted Landau

  18. Chucky says:

    Thanks for all the fish, Ted.

  19. Bob LeVitus says:

    Thanks, Ted. You were one of the first guys I worked with at MACazine and one of the best. Thanks for the shout out and good luck with your retirement. Look me up if you’re ever in Austin!

  20. Terry Maraccini says:

    Sad Macs, Bombs & Other Disasters was on my bookshelf through much of my time as an Apple specialist in the days before all the Unix fun.

    Good luck in retirement. I don’t want to catch you “mall walking” for exercise.

  21. Though I never met you nor corresponded with you, MacFixIt was an indispensable and daily read for me for many, many years, so I wanted to take just a moment to thank you for all of your hard work that made the site the go-to place for Mac troubleshooting. Congratulations on your retirement, and best wishes for the next chapter in your life! :-)

  22. Michael. says:

    Ted — Thank you, for all your writings throughout the decades, and for your many appearances on MacVoices and MacNotables in particular. I will sorely miss your voice there, but I take comfort that, since I am so addicted to Chuck Joiner’s podcasts, I have almost a year’s backlog to work through. So I shall continue to enjoy your musings there for at least some time to come. Here’s hoping you will continue these conversations well into retirement.

  23. BigBob says:

    Thanks for all your writing over the years!! Back in the day the three site’s I checked daily were macfixit, macintouch and maccentral.

    Enjoy your retirement!!

  24. Joe Outlaw says:

    Ted, words cannot express how much I admire, value, cherish, and respect your many years of creativity, education, support, documentation, factual content, and general blessedness to the Apple community.

    I am so proud to have an autographed copy of Sad Macs and other Bombs that I still carry with me.

    You rank up there with all the elite in the Apple community and in the larger tech community. You literally are a hero and an icon.

    I hope this doesn’t make you feel old. Just immenselfy appreciated. Lord knows I appreciate you.

    Thank you Ted. May you have continued joy and fullfillment in all you do. Pat yourself on the back. Kick back and relax. Have fun. You deserve every moment of itQ

    Be well, do good,

    Joe Outlaw
    President & Janitor
    Outlaw Productions

  25. Ted says:

    Wow. Thanks again for all the incredible well wishes and reminiscences you all posted here. It means a lot.

  26. Debbie says:

    Even though I am not from the tech world , I have admired you and all of your accomplishments from a distance.
    You make me so proud everyday just by being you….the best brother anyone could ask for!
    I am so proud of you and wish you many,many years of happy retirement!
    You deserve it

  27. Moeskido says:

    Thank you for decades of helping me seem smarter on my various jobs than I actually was. Your work is much appreciated.

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