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TidBITS Marks Its 30th Anniversary in a Time of Pandemic

One of the most insightful comments I’ve seen about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic points out that we’re in a state of narrative collapse. Our societal stories, the tales we tell ourselves to make sense of the world and even how to navigate it, have failed us. We’re all reaching out to family and friends like never before to learn how they’re holding up, how they’ve chosen or been forced to deal, if they’re going to be OK. Events are changing too fast for anyone to gain a firm footing, and while the uncertainty horizon is slowly increasing, we can still really only forecast that next week will probably be like this week. Next month—who knows?

But there is one thing I can predict with near certainty, which is that we’ll publish an issue of TidBITS for you today. We’ll do it again next Monday, and the Monday after that, and every Monday for the foreseeable future. That’s what we’ve done for 30 years now, as of this Thursday, 16 April 2020.

It’s a record that is nearly unparalleled on the Internet. When we published the first issue of TidBITS on 16 April 1990, we weren’t the first Internet publication, and we’re centuries away from being the oldest publication now on the Internet (internationally, that honor goes to the Post- och Inrikes Tidningar in Sweden, founded in 1645, and in the US, to the Hartford Courant, founded in 1764). But for eAIR, an academic journal published on the Internet since 1987, TidBITS would be the oldest Internet-only publication. As it is, we have to settle for second place or add a qualifier, like “oldest technology publication.” To quote a famous Cornellian of yesteryear, Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.

But no. Applying Vonnegut’s fatalist statement to our runner-up status trivializes his words. “So it goes” might be better used as a stoic block with which to start rebuilding our shared narrative. Vonnegut reportedly deflected questions about whether Dresden should have been bombed in World War II. Instead, he said, it had been bombed, and the question was how one should behave after that. COVID-19 has happened—is happening—and all we can do is accept that fact and choose how we behave in response.

We’re choosing to stay the course. To keep publishing TidBITS and to keep it as some small semblance of normality in a world where we talk seriously of “narrative collapse” and “uncertainty horizons.” And I don’t mean as part of some “new normal” that shifts in the winds of the news cycle, but as something with 30 years of history behind it, week in and week out. 

I won’t pretend that we don’t face challenges as well. We’ve already seen TidBITS members canceling their subscriptions to reduce expenses in the face of job losses. I don’t blame them one bit—paying bills is more important—but at a time when TidBITS membership revenues were already down 8% from last year, all I can say is that we too would appreciate your help at this time. We have a variety of membership benefits for those who join the TidBITS membership program.

For those of you who are already members, thank you! We’ve often gotten questions about how to make additional, out-of-cycle donations, and to answer that request, we’ve added a Boost TidBITS button to the bottom of the membership levels page that accepts donations via our PayPal account.

I have no doubt that the world will emerge from this crisis, and we hope you’ll ride it out with us.

TidBITS folded from a book
A present that our friend Lauri Reinhardt made for us last year

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Comments About TidBITS Marks Its 30th Anniversary in a Time of Pandemic

Notable Replies

  1. Congratulations, Adam, and to the rest of the TidBITS crew, on thirty years of excellent, informative journalism. I’ve been a devoted reader since your Internet Starter Kit was first published, and my husband and I both agree that without that easy to understand and clearly presented book, it probably would have taken us years to get hooked up to the Internet. I have been a devoted reader since then, and TidBITS has kept me informed with just about everything I need to know about Apple hardware, software and services.

    Cent Anni,TidBITS!

  2. Cheers Adam and Tonya as well as Josh and all the writers. It’s been a good ride with you along this crazy journey.

    Jumped up a tier instead of cancelling. Hope others help where they can.

  3. Mazal tov on 30 Years!!! I think I’ve been reading you for most of those years. I don’t know what I would have done without you. Keep up the awesome work!
    :+1: :birthday: :heart: :heart:

  4. Congrats to Adam, Tonya, and all others at TidBITS, remembering 30 years of great reporting and service !! - Please keep up the good work.

    –Phil V.

  5. Grats!

    Even though I’m busier than ever, I find I’m participating a lot more in TidBITS Talk recently. Social interaction!

    I also developed carpal tunnel syndrome last year (too much bike riding) and tapped into some truly ancient TidBITS wisdom and started wearing Handeze gloves, which have helped tremendously. TidBITS: useful then, fresh and relevant now.

  6. Congrats on the milestone! I actually think I still have my Internet Starter Kit =:0


  7. Thank you for being an important part of my life for at least 29+ years—I think I started reading post-HyperCard stack!

  8. Adam and all

    Congratulations from Switzerland.

    Not “so it goes”, but “go on please”.

    — nef

  9. True, Adam, it seems odd to celebrate in the middle of the virus crisis. Yet it is utterly important to mark the moment. We have to allow the normal into our lives as much as possible.
    Greetings from Ireland where we have been cocooned since St Patrick’s Day and will remain so until at least 5th May.

  10. Congratulations, Adam and Tonya, for this anniverary and for having your hands on the pulse of everything Mac and IT. I feel very thankful for all the help I received via your articles and the “Take Control…” series of eBooks.

    I wish you all the best for getting through these trying times and may you thrive ever after!

    greetings from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany


  11. Happy anniversary. Stay safe and keep doing what you do.

  12. Congrats on 30 years of TidBITS! :slight_smile: (BTW, that strapline at the top of the website is going to need updating now, it’s still saying 29 years.) Yes, these are strange times we’re in, but the need for technology insight remains, as does the support of fellow Mac and iDevice users here in the forums. :slight_smile:

  13. Woo! I still have several pair in the closet, and although I haven’t had to wear them in many, many years, Tristan used them a bit a few years back when he was having some discomfort from typing with bad ergonomics (ie, being a teenager).

    Indeed! It has been great to make so many good friends across the course of our career, and I’m so happy that you’re still in close orbit. Many other good friends have been spun out by entropy over the years, which is always sad.

    I was wondering if anyone was going to notice that. :-) I was planning on changing it on Thursday for the actual day, but clearly it should be done now.

  14. A kudos to you and Tonya, Adam, on this milestone. (As a Classics major, you probably know that kudos is singular.) I remember reading the early TidBITS and wondering if you and Tonya were an item or just two college students both interested in Macintosh computers.

    I’m looking at a pair right now. Last winter, I wondered if the company was still in business, but since I had no current need, my wondering did not spark any investigation.

  15. I first started reading TidBITS 30 years ago when I was on CompuServe out here in my very rural area. Life happened and TidBITS took a back seat for many years. I was thrilled to re-discover TidBITS a number of years ago and am so very grateful you are still providing amazing, relevant content. My sincere thanks to you and yours Adam, as well as all the contributors that make this a welcome place and and bottomless well of knowledge I can draw on.

  16. Congratulations to Adam, Tonya, and all of you who make TidBITS happen. I’ve been enjoying TidBITS for almost as long as I can remember. Probably still have some of the first ASCII emails I got stashed away on one of my older Macs (probably my trusty old SE/30, or perhaps the LC 475?). And after all this time, TidBITS is still a great source of information and these forums is where I love to come with my questions or to have interesting discussions with people from all over the globe.

    I can’t say anything else and I definitely can’t say it any better than what the many posters above have already said. You guys have done a tremendous job. I truly appreciate what you do for us, and I can only hope you keep it up for as long as any of us are around to enjoy. Big round of applause to you! :slight_smile:

  17. I had forgotten! But even the macOS dictionary will tell us that.

  18. I’ve been enjoying this adventure from the beginning. Here’s to 30 more years. :heart_eyes:

  19. Not sure when I started reading but it was before 1993, and I want to say 1991. Early enough that I downloaded the HyperCard back issues. (Amused to see HyperCard is in the iOS spelling dictionary, as is right and proper.)

    It’s a pleasure to be part of this community, and a second thank you to all contributors who make my work possible as well as Adam’s.

  20. Yes, been following TidBITS since 1991 – loved the choice of name, witty, being the (was it?) fifth disk in the System 7 installer set.

    At that time was responsible for the Macs in offices in three different cities in Japan – TidBITS saved me over & over.

    Adam, Tania & co. – don’t ever ever cease to publish. 2nd zine on the net? No! The first! CONGRATULATIONS ON 30 YEARS!! OMEDETO!!

  21. Congratulations and thank you for an extremely informative and welcomed site!

  22. Oh man, good memory! But TidBITS pre-dates System 7 its Tidbits disk by a good bit, since we covered its release in TidBITS #61. We always intended the name to be basically what the word means—initially we were planning on much shorter pieces. The unusual capitalization is a direct nod to NeXT, however.

    (From the Macintosh Garden)
  23. Adam, yes, the date made me think you’d anticipated Apple! TidBITS 1990, System 7 in '91.

    That’s why I was attempting to be ambiguous :slight_smile:

    Not the only time TidBITS has beaten Apple to the punch — but quite a significant one!


  24. Now if only Apple had capitalized the System 7 disk’s name properly. :slight_smile:

  25. Congratulations on thirty wonderful years, Adam and crew. I remember reading the HyperCard version and helping distribute the text version via LISTSERV in the early years. I was just looking for one of my copies of Internet Starter Kit to scan it and reminisce, but they seem to be in storage these days.

    –Mark W.

  26. Congratulations! Thanks to all TidBITS authors over the years. :slight_smile:

    My readership started with the Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh third edition. It came with two floppy disks if I remember correctly. Must have been 25 years ago. How time flies.

  27. They wouldn’t have known very much of you back then — probably afraid of a cease and desist :slight_smile:

    Adam, seriously, TidBITS’ longevity is a credit to all of you — I know you’re upstate, but you’re working from the center of this terrible thing at the moment — TidBITS as ever a beacon!

    Thank you all so much!


  28. And for those who don’t know, Mark was a HUGE help back in the day (early 1990s?) with distributing TidBITS via the LISTSERV he ran at Rice University. It’s safe to say that we might not be here today without him.

  29. Back in the day the HyperCard stack was too much of a hassle for me… The Macs in the lab where I worked weren’t connected to the outside world yet, and we had only one computer that was connected to a mainframe and that one allowed us to get things off BITNET and ListServs. There I could read TidBITS in text, and it taught me a lot! So Happy Birthday and thanks very much!

  30. Congratulations on 30 years of keeping us updated on all things Apple. I started with a Mac in 1985 and have been reading Tidbits from the early days. Thanks for a wonderful run.

  31. And congratulations and a huge thank you from me too. My path has been the same as Frans - ISKM got me online in early 1995 and I’ve been benefiting from TidBITS and TidBITS Talk ever since. I mostly lurk rather than participate but greatly appreciate everything I learn.

    Peter T.

  32. We bought a Mac back in the 80’s as much for our teenage son as ourselves thinking it would lead to exciting things for all of us. Little did we anticipate that he (and Tonya) would start Tidbits and help others with computers for 30 years. I still enjoy Tidbits every week, even though most of it is beyond me and I have an IT guy in the family to solve all our difficult computer problems.

    Thanks son (and Tonya and writers)

    Chris Engst

  33. Belated best wishes to you and all of the TidBITS crew, my friend. I remember the HyperCard versions, and then there was an unusual semi-enhanced text format in there for a while, wasn’t there? I’m pretty sure I remember downloading them from CompuServe with that old CompuServe Navigator (pre-Netscape Navigator) You all have provided so much information, enlightenment, and entertainment over the years.

    As far as celebrating during the coronavirus crisis, these are the times in which we really need to celebrate and share the good things, and the funny things. In that vein, the other night I could not get my darn TV setup to open the Netflix app on the cable box (Comcast recently added that). Turns out I was saying “Netscape” instead of “Netflix”… sigh. Well, one of the good things about getting old is that you find so many “new” things around the house!

    Take care, Adam. Sincere congratulations.

  34. I’ve been riding along all these thirty years as well. Despite, indeed, Pandemic, I still feel young, and Tidbits has been a partner in my private “personal Administration work” for my 20 “linked-in anniversary” years. I remember meeting Adam at a Macworld in Boston, and being impressed then. I was at MIT implementing Laser Cartridge and Paper Recycling for my building among many diverse things as well- ( i also met Don from Small Dog too right afterward…) Thanks Engsts! for always being Ace! Continued success !

  35. Indeed! setext was in many ways a precursor to Markdown, and a properly formatted setext files is parseable by a Markdown parser.

    I’ve completely lost touch with Ian Feldman—haven’t heard from him in decades—but I still hear from Akif Eyler, who wrote the EasyView setext viewer, every now and then.

  36. Congratulations and thanks from the UK to Adam, Tonya and everyone who has made TidBITS such a fantastic resource over the years. I’m not sure how far back I go, but I guess it was System 7. I hope we’re not all growing old together…

  37. Thank you so much, Engsts, for 30 years of fabulous information sharing! I got my first Mac in 1985. I first read TidBits around 1993 when, as a librarian at UCLA, I was a Mac user in a sea of PCs. Needless to say, I had no organizational support, and had to learn DOS commands. A GUI had that beat all hollow! I’ve owned 3 or 4 Mac desktops over the years, and am on my 4th laptop. Also iPhone, iPod and iPad. Showing my age a little, ha ha! I just renewed my membership (remember how many years it was free? Astonishing, actually.). Thanks again! Louise Ratliff, Sylmar, CA

  38. I remember BITNET! At UCLA. I was told it was the “Because It’s Time” Network.

  39. Indeed! And time it was! Our lab rented an open phone line to a mainframe so that we could have our coveted BITNET address (with one e-mail account, shared by the whole lab…)

  40. Your situation so very closely paralleled mine! Much sympathy. I wasn’t at UCLA but a local government of 1200+ employees, all on PCs save for a half dozen Macs. First Mac was a Lisa. I once needed an upgrade (budgeted) but the IT folks refused to allow it until our department head went to bat for me. I remember getting a modem, Compuserve, Netscape and listservs. I had to maintain my Mac myself but never to the extent of having to learn DOS commands. At home, we bought in to the whole Apple eco system and I’ve had roughly the same number of desktops and laptops as you plus iPads, iPhones and iPods. Through it all, TidBits has been there as a great resource. Thanks, Adam, Tonya, et al.

  41. Glad you liked it! I had huge fun talking with Gruber. I did several other podcasts in connection with the anniversary, and there isn’t much overlap, so I’d encourage anyone looking for a little Mac nostalgia to give them a listen.

  42. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You have helped me immensely through so many years.

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