Wayne Green, who founded or co-founded many early computer magazines including BYTE, 80 Micro, Kilobaud Microcomputing, Run, and InCider, passed away earlier this month at age 91. Wayne was a polarizing figure in the early days of the microcomputer; he had strong, often unpopular opinions and was not afraid to express them.
I saw this first hand when I started working for 80 Micro in early 1981. Being the new guy, I was given the “honor” of editing Wayne’s editorials. I worked on those first few editorials with a feeling of dread. How could I, the most junior editorial person, tell the owner of the company that our readers might find his writing offensive or, in the worst cases, libelous?
Once I gathered the courage to challenge him, Wayne proved to be quite reasonable. This was the first lesson I learned from Wayne: If you believe you’re right, don’t be afraid to speak up. It also provided my first insight into who Wayne really was. I believe Wayne knew some of the drafts he submitted were unpublishable. It was his way of testing us.
Another lesson I learned is that sometimes doing is better than thinking, even if in the end you fail. If Wayne thought a new magazine or business idea was worth trying, we launched it with little debate and no real research. Wayne failed more times than he succeeded, but I doubt he would have had all his successes if he hadn’t gone with his gut and taken a more conservative approach.
When I heard of Wayne’s death, I rummaged through my files to see what I had from my days at Wayne Green Inc. What I found was a thick folder of Wayne’s editorials, all original drafts with editing mark-ups. (In the early 80s, we still used typewriters and edited on paper. Our production staff would re-key articles into our typesetting system.)
What was most interesting about the drafts is the paper he used to type them on. Wayne was notoriously frugal, and nearly every sheet he used for his editorials was the backside of old letterhead, press releases, and promotional material. Together, they reveal some of the history of Wayne’s ventures.
For example, I had forgotten that Wayne produced a computer show, Computermania, which was held in Boston. This is ironic, since one of his editorials talks about how all computer shows are worthless. The scan below shows the list of exhibitors, including IBM, IMSAI, Wang, Northstar, and Ohio Scientific. I think this show took place in 1980.
At one time, Wayne was one of the largest sellers of microcomputer software. The page below shows just a few of the items sold through the Instant Software catalog.
He was also a major publisher of books for hams and computerists:
What this all shows is that Wayne provided many channels for early microcomputer pioneers to reach customers and establish themselves. Love him or hate him, Wayne was instrumental in building the commercial ecosystem that allowed the early microcomputer industry to grow into what it is today.