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Thinking about Tom Negrino

The saddest part of having published TidBITS for almost 27 years now is watching people in our peer group ebb away. It’s depressing enough when the reason is professional, as when Macworld laid off many of its staffers after shuttering the print edition (see “Macworld Lays Off Staffers, Closes Print Edition,” 10 September 2014). But even more gut wrenching is when someone in our extended circle dies.

In the case of veteran Mac writer Tom Negrino, that hasn’t happened yet, although it will in the very near future. Tom was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2010, and despite surgery, the cancer reappeared in 2014, having metastasized all over his body. A few years ago, Tom and his wife Dori Smith told us and other colleagues about it, and the inevitable outcome, and Tom went public with the news on his blog last May. His health has continued to decline since, to the point where he’s now sleeping about 20 hours per day, and he plans to take advantage of California’s physician-assisted dying law, the End of Life Option Act. Ray Holley of the Healdsburg Tribune has written a good story about Tom and Dori and how they’ve dealt with the situation.

In 1996, Tom wrote me an email message about my article “But You Didn’t Mention…” (23 September 1996) and I published his response in “And You Still Forgot…” (14 October 1996). It’s possible that we had been introduced at Macworld Expo before then, but that was my first email from him, and after that, we often met up with him and Dori at industry events. The best of those was the Mac Mania Geek Cruise in 2002, on which we were both speakers. Since we live 2400 miles away from them, we last saw Tom and Dori in March 2014 at the Ink-Stained Wretches dinner that we organized for fellow writers at Macworld/iWorld during the last few
years of that show — Tom particularly enjoyed those informal gatherings.

Although Tom never wrote any articles for TidBITS, he and I once collaborated on a sidebar for an article about email clients I was writing for Macworld. Tom was an unabashed fan of Microsoft Entourage, whereas I was devoted to Eudora. So at the urging of our editor, Scholle McFarland, we wrote the E-Mail Grudge Match: Entourage Versus Eudora. I later took advantage of one of my digs against Entourage — that Microsoft didn’t provide a manual — to lure Tom into writing “Take Control of What’s New in Entourage 2004” for our fledgling Take Control series. That was in a career of writing about
Apple and the Mac that spanned some 30 years, during which Tom wrote innumerable articles and some 50 books.

I’m impressed with Tom’s fortitude in sticking with his convictions and choosing to end his life with dignity, on his own terms. And Dori’s staunch support through what has been an agonizing few years is truly splendid.

Tom, those of us who know you will miss your humor, skill, professionalism, and courage. And to echo our mutual friend and colleague, Jason Snell and the sentiments of Andy Ihnatko, the world will be an appreciably worse place without you in it.

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