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TidBITS Celebrates 20 Years of Internet Publication

This is it - TidBITS has turned 20 years old! In what is a bit of happy coincidence, the email issue containing this article is #1,024. That's right, we've officially published 2^10 issues of TidBITS, or, roughly speaking, 1 kiloTidBITS. Geeky, eh?

To share our excitement, we considered giving away a staff-signed Twentieth Anniversary Mac, but they turn out both to be difficult to find and, given that they're powered by a PowerPC 603e, not particularly useful.

Besides, in honor of this anniversary and in recognition of how the world has changed, we're changing our Web logo's subtitle from "Mac news for the rest of us" to "Apple news for the rest of us." So instead of giving away a relatively useless old Mac, we're going to give one lucky TidBITS reader $200 toward an engraved iPhone or iPod touch, or an iTunes Gift Card. (The choice of prize is up to the winner, since many of you probably already have an iPhone or iPod touch, and we'll have to figure out the logistics with the winner, since they'll vary by country.) Enter at this tweaked DealBITS page before 26 April 2010. I hope our server holds up! (If you have a problem, just come back later.)

In thinking about how best to commemorate this milestone, I first considered those talking points we pull out when speaking with those who aren't familiar with TidBITS - our 20 unbroken years of Internet publication and our 1992 creation of the first Internet advertising program.

While I'm proud of those accomplishments, they aren't my favorite aspects of TidBITS. When I trained for and raced 26.2 miles in the New York City Marathon in November 2008, that required setting a goal and working hard to accomplish it. Publishing TidBITS for 20 consecutive years has never been a goal, it's simply become a way of life.

And while I'd like some credit for starting Internet advertising (using an understated NPR/PBS sponsorship model), I'm uncomfortable with many of the ways Internet advertising has evolved, what with pop-up ads, interstitials, and disgustingly illustrated ads from modern-day snake-oil salespeople. On the upside, maybe I can take an infinitesimal bit of credit for Google, which would never have become what it is today without Internet advertising.

No, the aspects of publishing TidBITS that get me out of bed every morning are quite different. For one, I love being able to write, edit, and publish articles that both explain complex topics and actually make a difference in the lives of our readers. There's no better feeling than reading an email message or article comment telling you how an article saved hours of troubleshooting, brought some device back to life, or helped eliminate time-wasting tedium.

I'm proud of the elegant technologies that we've designed and implemented: the TidBITS Publishing System, the TidBITS Commenting System, the TidBITS News iPhone app, the custom ExpressionEngine back-end for the Take Control site, our still-in-beta account management system, and more. These systems make life easier for us and improve TidBITS and Take Control for you, and while we lack the budget to develop everything we want as quickly as we want, I think we do extremely well, and it's amazingly fun to work on these projects.

More generally, it's wonderful to work with the other members of the TidBITS staff. They're top-notch, so much so that they're also in great demand by other publishers. And yet, Tonya and I must have done something right, since these talented writers and technologists have stuck with us for years, some of them from nearly the beginning. You can read more about how each of them got started with TidBITS in "TidBITS Staffers Recall How They Got Their Starts" (19 April 2010). I've also hugely enjoyed working with the volunteers who have generously translated TidBITS into various languages, expanding the reach of TidBITS and teaching me about the difficulties of translating English idioms.

But the most compelling part of my daily swim in the sea of TidBITS email, article comments, tweets, chats, and phone calls is the ineffable excitement of sharing discoveries, thoughts, opinions, jokes, tips, and advice with friends, colleagues, and TidBITS readers. Through TidBITS I've met some of the nicest, smartest, funniest, most interesting people I know. I've managed to convince a few of them to work with us on TidBITS and Take Control, and I've watched with enthusiasm as many others have gone on to do great things in the technology world. And rather than tell you more about them here, I want to introduce you to a number of them in "Twenty Years of Memories from Friends of TidBITS" (19 April 2010). It's a hefty article, with each sharing thoughts and memories about TidBITS in his or her own words. Set aside some time when you want to think back over the last 20 years, and I think you'll find it a tremendously enjoyable read.

If you'd like to extend that walk down memory lane, check out our "TidBITS History" series, in which we've covered all the bases - looking backward, forward, and inward, and sharing experiences, lessons learned, and much more. In re-reading these articles, I was struck by how relevant some of them, like "Lessons from Ten Years of TidBITS" (17 April 2000), remain years later.

I won't pretend that another 20 years and 1,024 issues of TidBITS is a goal, because it's not. TidBITS is what we do, and we'll keep going as long as events conspire to allow us to continue.

Thanks to one and all for enabling us to come this far!


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Comments about TidBITS Celebrates 20 Years of Internet Publication
(Comments are closed.)

Michael  2010-04-19 18:44
I would have loved a TAM as the winner's prize!!

TidBITS Forever! (Apologies to Apple //)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-04-19 19:10
Honestly, if I could have picked one up on eBay for a few hundred bucks, I would have done, just because it was so right.
I just saw a TAM in a computer store in Fort Collins Co a couple of weeks ago. Place called the Mac Shack, I think. No idea if it worked, but it had the sub-woofer with it.
Bill Womack  2010-04-20 11:22
Congratulations on vigintennial or vicennial anniversary and all that. Guess you'll be getting a lot of China from fans. Anyway, thanks for churning out really USEFUL and HELPFUL Apple stuff all those years. I love that you all TALK NORMAL about tech and get the ethics and humor as well. Bra-VO, mes amis.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-04-20 11:22
Hey, I never knew that vigintennial and vicennial were the words used to describe a 20th anniversary. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary and for the kind words!
John Miller  2010-04-20 13:47

>I love being able to write, edit, and publish articles that both explain complex topics and actually make a difference in the lives of our readers.<

That statement may be the key to making your input so readable. You use the language so well--the prose sometimes seems intrinsically poetic. Even if your topics weren't something dear to my heart, it might be tempting to read your articles for their sheer pleasure to the mind.

And Tonya is no slouch as a writer, either!

It sometimes seems too few Americans today use English with the clarity and respect it deserves.


Tonya wrote the first non-technical computer book I ever bought (The Word Book).

I'm not sure I can defines non-technical computer book exactly, but I know one when I see one.

There was something very readable about TWB so I'd look something up and end up reading a couple of chapters and usually learning a couple new tricks I'd add to my repertoire, back when it looked like Word Processing would be relevant forever.
Jim DeWitt  2010-04-20 15:06
Thanks, Adam, to both you and your staff. Thanks for two decades of top-notch work. Consistently first rate!
We genuinely genuflect toward the TidBITS mecca of publishing for its down-to-earth staff, good hearts and valuable, helpful writing all these years for the Apple and generally tech faithful ... and all this accomplished without a bailout from the federal government!

Like your favorite sports team, it's comforting and exponentially more enjoyable to root for someone (or company/staff) when it is proven time and again that the faces behind the work are good people. Amen, and blessings and congratulations to all of you on 20 years -- how fast was that?!
Ken Carolus  2010-04-21 09:12
Happy Birthday TidBITS!!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for 20 great years of helping me use my Mac and other Apple devices!
Yet another event in the angry slew of making Lewis feel like an Old Man(TM).

I remember reading TidBITS in HyperCard and in setext and I am even mentioned under a nom de guerre in a 1990 article. So, I guess that puts my right there at the beginning of it all when Lotus and Novell merged, 20 years ago this week.

Egads. Who would have thunk.
I bought your book, whose name escapes me but it was something like the Internet Starter Book for Macintosh, in 1995 when I decided I wanted to find out about this Internet thing. From that I signed up to the Tidbits newsletter and I've been reading it in one form or another ever since. In those days it came in pieces - why I don't recall - and I used some other software to put them together and change the formatting. My memory is so bad so hopefully you know what I'm talking about.

Congratulations on 20 years - that's a real achievement. I can't believe it's 15 years since I started on the Internet and reading Tidbits. How things have changed!