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Last updated: Sunday, January 6, 2008
A long, long time ago, when the Web was new, I moved from a frigid Missoula, Montana to balmy San Jose, Calif. to go to work for the San Jose Mercury News' storied web site, one of the first newspapers to go online. My job was to write something, an online column maybe, about technology from the capital of Silicon Valley.
To get breaking news out before noon Eastern time, I had to "publish" by 8:30 a.m. Pacific time. That meant starting work at 5:30 a.m., cruising the newswires, checking the papers, skimming the web sites around the world and picking out the most important and interesting tech news of the day, link to those stories and connect it all together. And I should write "with attitude."
By July 1996, when we launched a beta version of this column, with a working title "Good Morning Silicon Valley," we had no real idea what to expect. Before long, we had an audience, and they wanted GMSV sent to them by e-mail. We quickly had 50,000 subscribers and more advertisers than we could accommodate.
We had some mistakes -- I wrote the column in HTML code without spellcheckers or an editor. The technology sometimes failed and our e-mail arrived hours late for a few unhappy weeks. There was a short, ill-fated experiment with using "frames" to put other people's websites within a frame of our own -- the readers stopped that one cold, too.
But the readers were almost always fantastic. They commented, they corrected, they collaborated and I quoted their e-mails ... one overenthusiastic fellow who liked my jokes even proposed marriage. It was one of the most fun jobs I've had in journalism.
Dave Winer, who developed Scripting News and RSS feeds, pitched us some new software that he called a webblog. The backend technologists at the Merc didn't want me to use it, so Dan Gillmor, who worked at the Merc as a business columnist, tried it out to much success.
Mercury Center spun off a web site called SiliconValley.com and I ended up as its editor. We expanded the GMSV franchise to include a 1 a.m. column from our late-night guy, John Murrell, who had been writing his own short column that he suggests has a reasonable claim to be the first blog. We also had a tech stock report at the close of the stock market and an early overnight report we called "Tech Ticker."
I wrote GMSV from July 1996 until November 1999, when I moved to San Francisco to work on a hot new technology startup (which later went bankrupt, of course). John Paczkowski took up the GMSV reins for several years, and now John Murrell handles the job; both are great colleagues, each with his own distinctive style.
My biggest regret from those years was that we didn't save the content in any organized way. Forgotten backups, software and hardware changes and the inability of librarians and programmers to understand why we'd want to save a column of links meant that we lost a lot of work from those days. But apparently, nine months into GMSV, I started saving the columns on floppies, shoved them into a box and forgot about them. A few years ago, I tried to see if the early years of GSMV could be found anywhere on the web. The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine coughed up a few copies, but nothing much.
Last weekend, more than 10 years later, I found that box of discs in my home office, and was able to recover many of these "lost" files. I still don't have the first nine months but I do have the press release announcement and text copies of e-mails from readers from those first days. (If anyone has any copies of the first months worth of columns, please e-mail me.)
Anyway, here they are. The links to the columns start in March 1997 and there are some missing days or weeks. Most of the links on the pages no longer work and the work product is technically owned by the Mercury News -- I sought permission to post this on my personal web site but there's been no response. The newspaper has been sold and sold again in the years since I left. So these posts are simply to show my work, much as newspaper reporters clip their bylined stories out of the newsprint product. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.