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Cahners...and the symbol

Okay, last time, I talked about the Cahner’s Building, and how it was a symbol for why New England is no longer home for me. Now, I’m going to explain that. It will require a little history.

I got into publishing in the early 1980s. I had graduated from Umass-Amherst with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, which made me, as I said at the time, about as employable as your average wino. Maybe less.

Eventually...after quite a lot of effort...I got ye olde proverbial sh1t job demonstrating the Texas Instruments 99/4A home computer (remember that one?) at toy shops and big box stores.(1) That meant I ran around to local area retailers and showed staff and customers how to plug game cartridges into the system.

As I say, it was an awful job, but with the cunning and duplicity for which I am justly famed, I was able to use it to get a book contract with “Creative Computing Press.” That led to other stuff, and one day I found myself with a job at a “for real” publishing company, Cahners, specifically with Mini-Micro Systems.

About the photos: As usual, two today. First, as per norm, nothing to do with the story, but this is Martha while we had breakfast in a cool little cafe in Austin a few weeks ago.

Cahners was kind of a big name at the time (this was the early 1980s). It been had founded by Norman Lee Cahners (1914–1986), who was--in my humble opinion-- a publishing genius.(2) After serving in the Navy during World War II, he started a newsletter about materials-handing (*The Palletizer*) and from there found his way into “controlled-circulation, trade press publishing.”

What’s that? Well, take it in parts. “Controlled Circ” means that you don’t sell your publication. You give it away to people who fill out a form that shows they are seriously involved in buying certain products--say, industrial equipment, or computers. Then, you make your money selling advertising to companies who want to reach those particular kinds of people.

Okay, now, “trade press.” There have traditionally been two kinds of journalists in the world. First, there are mainstream journalists who write about *people.* They’re the ones who fill the pages of everything from the New York Times to your local hometown newspaper. Then, second, there are trade press journalists who write about *things* -- products, industries, real estate, factory equipment, buying and selling, and so on.

Second, me holding a copy of my first book in print. Originally, it was supposed to be about the TI99/4A, but then Texas Instruments withdrew the machine from the market (ouch). So we rewrote the book about the Commodore a month, under deadline (double ouch).

Anyway, here ’tis, and here’s a link to the C-64’s Wikipedia entry:

Well, that’s what Mr. Cahners got into, and he discovered he could make serious money doing it. Before all was done and said, he owned the largest trade press company in the country. It published everything from computer mags (like the one I worked for) to “Brick And Clay Record,” a magazine about, well, er, bricks and clay...that is, building materials.(3)

I met Mr. Cahners once or twice. He would appear, sometimes, in the elevator when I was on my way up to or down from work. He seemed a pleasant man, not at all overwhelmed by either his own accomplishments or the awful youth of his employees.

As I say, I was one of those awful employees, young or otherwise, as of 1984. I had come down from New Hampshire, where I’d been working for an odd little publication called Softside Magazine. (4) That magazine had folded, but I’d answered an ad in the Boston Globe, and to my astonishment, gotten a job at Mini-Micro, at that time one of the biggest names in computer trade press publishing.(5)

It was an incredibly exciting time to be in either publishing or computers...and to be in both at the same time, well, unbelievable. Everything was happening! Everyone was fascinating! New and interesting people were everywhere! IBM had just introduced the PC. Apple had introduced the Mac only short time before. It was like being at the dawn of the world.

And there I was, in the middle of it all, employed by Cahners, which was at its very peak.

Only...I should have known. I should have realized...

Dawns are glorious, but ephemeral. And peaks? Well, once you’ve reached them, the only way forward is down.

More to come.


1. The TI99/4A was a pre-PC “home computer.” It has its own Wikipedia page, here

2. For more on Mr. Cahners, see his Wikipedia entry here:

3. You can see at least some of Brick and Clay’s issues at the Internet Archive,

4. My adventures there were a story unto themselves. And I’ll tell them. Someday. A day I’m feeling strong. Again, Softside has a Wikipedia page, here:


Care to help out?

I provide these blog postings for free. That’s fine and I’m happy to do so. But, long ago and far away, I was told that if you give away your material, that means you don’t really think it has any value.

So, to get beyond that, I’ve decided to make it possible for you to leave me a “tip” for my posts.

If you like what I write or the videos I produce, and feel you could make a small contribution to support my efforts, please go here:

That will take you to a Gumroad page where you’ll have the option of leaving me a few pence by way of encouragement.

Again, I don’t mind if you don’t. I just want to provide you with the option so that I won’t feel quite so much like I’m just tossing my works into the wind.

Either way, thanks hugely for dropping by the blog :-)



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