They say that technology is the prime mover of history. If so, then InfoWorld's home in greater Silicon Valley has been a ringside seat on a continuous 30-year eruption of history, from the first PCs to the latest smartphones. Proximity helps InfoWorld get the story first, but more importantly, it immerses us in a dynamic culture that melds high-minded vision with practical technology experience.
In the loft-style startups of San Francisco and the bland office parks of Cupertino, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Santa Clara, passion for money and for technology live side by side, attracting a crazy mix of opportunists, geniuses, analysts, big thinkers, and pretenders. Here, ordinary citizens are early adopters. The provincial obsession with technology has helped InfoWorld spot trends and set benchmarks for three decades, from early predictions of the Internet's importance to a Test Center that evaluates enterprise products few dare to tackle.
[ Take a tour of the latest product reviews and check out the Test Center's picks and pans. ]
At the beginning, the formula was simple: Set up a news operation where it was all happening, apply standard journalistic practice, and throw in a large helping of advocacy for technology buyers.
The early days saw some twists and turns in direction, but as Maggie Canon -- the first editor of InfoWorld after it changed its name from Intelligent Machines Journal -- says simply, "We covered the revolution." On her watch a source that she still refuses to name slipped InfoWorld the schematics for the first IBM PC, enabling InfoWorld to scoop IBM's unveiling in August 1981, to the company's utter consternation.
InfoWorld as we know it today emerged in the mid-1980s, when publisher Jonathan Sacks firmly established it as the leading industry trade publication and launched the InfoWorld Test Center. As then Editor in Chief Michael Miller recalls it, the Test Center was initially a way of "formalizing" the methodology for product reviews InfoWorld had been doing for years. As it turned out, even as InfoWorld relentlessly pursued breaking news, the publication would be best known for the controversies and expertise arising from the Test Center.
The Test Center has never been shy about slamming products that deserved it. When 1-2-3 for Windows arrived late and lackluster, for example, InfoWorld gave it both barrels. The Test Center also uncovered the Pentium processor's floating-point flaw, an Intel low point surpassed only by the Itanium debacle years later. And the Test Center whacked Windows 95 for its many shortcomings, noting that OS/2 was more stable. According to Stewart Alsop, who was editor in chief during those particular episodes, InfoWorld was the West Coast "maverick," willing to call a spade a spade regardless of consequences.
Sandy Reed, Alsop's successor, courted her own share of controversy when she nullified the results of the 1997 Readers Choice poll and accused OS/2 "zealots" of ballot stuffing. But mostly, Reed -- whose term began and ended with the Internet boom -- remembers the excitement of witnessing the second wave of explosive industry growth as she watched Netscape, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, and the rest spring out of nowhere. "If you could pick a time to be editor in chief of InfoWorld, that was it," says Reed.