David Bunnell, the founder of Macworld and all round good guy, died Tuesday night at age 69 at his home in Berkeley, Calif.
Bunnell was a pioneer in the computing publishing industry. Fast Company‘s Harry McCracken has a nice obituary. McCracken describes how he got his start:
In 1977, Bunnell devised the idea for Personal Computing magazine and convinced Benwill, a Boston-based publisher, to fund it. Less geeky than Byte, the biggest computer monthly of the time, it was a template for many mass-audience tech magazines that Bunnell and others would found in the years to come. He even got his former MITS colleagues Bill Gates and Paul Allen to write a software column for it.
The magazine was an instant success, and David went on to found several other computing magazines, including PC Magazine and PC World, “the Coke and Pepsi of PC publications,” writes McCracken.
In 1984, Bunnell launched Macworld, another magazine devoted to a single computing platform. Working with Steve Jobs, the magazine debuted on January 24, 1984, the same day as the Mac itself. Bunnell wrote a great series of posts for us about the magazine’s founding and launch, and working with Steve Jobs. Links to all the posts can be found below.
In 1985, Bunnell followed up with the launch of Macworld Expo, perhaps the only successful tech conference aimed at consumers. Within a couple of years, Macworld Expo was held twice a year on both coasts, filling up giant conference halls in San Francisco and Boston (and later New York). It spawned international sister conferences in Paris and Tokyo.But Bunnell wasn’t all business. He had grown up in the tumultuous 60s, and the era’s social and political mores stuck with him.
The thing that made Bunnell intriguing rather than merely successful was that he never stopped thinking like a 1960s social activist, even after he became a tie-wearing publishing magnate. In 1986, for instance, he published a blistering editorial in PC World and Macworld decrying Georgia’s sodomy law as being a violation of the spirit of the PC revolution—a bold decision given that the state was, at the time, home to numerous major companies in the industry, some of whom yanked their advertising. The move led the Fund for Human Dignity, an LGBT rights organization, to honor him with its Howard J. Brown Award.
Bunnell went on to found Computers and You, a computer-literacy center in San Francisco’s poor and run-down Tenderloin neighborhood. He also founded and funded the Andrew Fluegelman Foundation, a charity named after his friend, the late founding editor of PC World and Macworld, which gives computers to underprivileged students headed to college.
In a post on Medium, Bunnell described it as “the single most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
In 2012 I started giving away laptops computers to poor, mostly inner city, high school students who in spite daunting odds had excelled in their studies, participated in meaningful community organizations, and been accepted to a 4-year university or college. Most of them had scholarships or financial aid and more importantly the willpower or audacity to succeed no matter what, and all of them it turned out were the first in their families to ever go to college. The one thing none of them had was a computer — and having your own computer is a vital necessity for college students who otherwise have to borrow a friend’s laptop or use one of the computers in the library on the other side of campus.
Here is the series of posts David wrote about founding Macworld.
Part 1: Meeting Steve
Part 2: Seeing the Macintosh for the Very First Time
Part 3: We Met the REAL Steve Jobs
Part 4: Steve Jobs Tells Us to “Belly Up to the Bar”
Part 5: Steve Comes Up with a Really Weird Ad
Part 6: Steve Poses for the First Cover of Macworld
Part 7: Andrew Fluegelman Urges Apple to Delay the Introduction
Part 8: Pat McGovern Meets with Steve, the Deal is Done.
Part 9: Steve is F*cking Great!
Part 10: Steve Thumbs his Nose at the Apple II
Part 11: The Macintosh Speaks For Itself (Literally)…
Part 12: The Fat Mac Saves the Day
Part 13: Steve Brings Tina to the Macworld Dinner Party
Part 14: Ella Fitzgerald Sings Happy Birthday to Steve
Part 15: Steve’s NeXT Big Thing