aNewDomain — Jerry Pournelle was a friend and I already miss him. I last saw him just a few weeks ago at his house over dinner. I was always amazed at how vibrant he remained after brain cancer then stroke. After his brain cancer, I would call him every so often to see how he sounded, something he appreciated. I’d report that he sounded like himself, which was distinctive, and that was what he wanted to hear. I was surprised and saddened that he’d just passed.
I knew Jerry for well over 30 years. If there was one person that got me to move from Infoworld to PC Magazine it was Jerry.
Jerry was a subtle but effective gossip and found out about a plot to remove my column from Infoworld and replace it by a business column written by Andy Grove. I took the hint and quit. That was in 1986.
We were competitors as computer columnists and when we caught each other at an event we’d try to out-do each other in covering it. Generally speaking, though, Jerry loved to write a type of column he used to call Field and Stream – a guy going fishing, as he put it.
This was his long lasting Chaos Manor column he wrote for Byte which was pretty much a play by play of Jerry puttering with different gear and discussing the problems he encountered. The was a long form column that did resemble fishing stories in Field and Stream. It was probably 15,000 words a pop.
He’d get 2,000 words out of a phone call to tech support. And it was very entertaining and informative.
The two of us did an online debate column about 20 years ago called something like Dystopia which we kept promising each other we’d do commercially and never did.
I travelled with Jerry on a couple of long trips one to Brazil and the other to Finland and got to know him pretty well especially because we were roommates in Brazil kind of left to fend for ourselves in Sao Paulo.
There we were invited to check out an event purported to be the biggest computer show in the world. It wasn’t. The two of us were chosen to pick the best products of the show. It was probably then that I realized that the two of us had pretty much the same sense and taste when it came to technology.
It was very difficult to gin up some point of argument for the Dystopia column.
Jerry would love to regale people with his stories about Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, David Gerrold and others. I always found such stories fascinating and considered him to be the elder statesman as a fiction writer and technology pundit.
I know the family, especially Jerry’s wife Roberta, will be besides themselves over this loss. Jerry seemed like an iron man with at least a decade left in him. He will be missed by all who knew him.