What’s the most-loved computer magazine of all time? There’s really only one contender: BYTE, which was founded in 1975 and ceased print publication a dozen years ago. If you worked in computer magazines, as I did, you got used to old-timers comparing your publication unfavorably to BYTE. (And actually, come to think of it, BYTE aficonados also liked to compare the current BYTE unfavorably to BYTE as it was in its golden age–which lasted roughly from its inception until the magazine stopped running a cover painting by Robert Tinney on every issue circa 1987. It remained a very solid publication until the end, though.)
BYTE was one of the first major computer magazines (it was preceded by the similarly influential Creative Computing); it was the first massively successful one; it spawned BIX, an online service which I still miss. Most important, it was just plain good–well-written, well-edited, and as sophisticated and technical as the people who read it. (I learned a lot from Phil Lemmons, a BYTE editor who later became my boss at PC World.) Its review of the original Mac is a nice example of what made BYTE, well, BYTE.
It died shortly after tech publisher CMP acquired it and the rest of McGraw-Hill’s tech division in 1998. Given the resonance of the BYTE name, shutting it down seemed like an odd, ill-advised move at the time, even though the magazine, once morbidly obese with advertising, was no longer a cash cow. CMP did keep the Web site alive for years, in increasingly unambitious form, but even that bit the dust a few years ago.
But now United Business Media–the current owner of what was once CMP–is brining BYTE back. BYTE.com is relaunching in the second quarter of next year, and my friend Gina Smith will be the editor.