Publisher of longtime Apple II magazine passes away

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two Nibble magazine covers
Two Nibble covers, including the first edition, left.
Photo: Brian Wiser

Mike Harvey, well known to the Apple II community as the founder and publisher of Nibble magazine, passed away recently at his North Carolina home. He was 84.

His death was announced this morning by the Apple Puget Sound Program Library Exchange, an Apple user group that started in 1978.

From his living room outside of Boston, Harvey began Nibble, a programming publication for enthusiasts of the Apple II, the legendary computer that sparked the rise of Apple. Nibble or Nyble is the term for half a byte.

The year was 1979 and his plan was to 1,000 subscribers within six months or fold. By then he had 6,000 and after the first year of publishing, he had 19,000 paying readers.

Mike Harvey and Nibble added sparks to personal computing revolution

The Apple II’s open architecture allowed users to write their own programs and many of the articles in Nibble provided source codes for games, programs and various utilities. Harvey published the magazine eight times a year but shifted to monthly editions in 1984 as its readership grew.

Mike Harvey at KansasFest
Mike Harvey delivering the keynote address at the 2016 KansasFest.
Screenshot: KansasFest/YouTube

Harvey would rise at 3 a.m. each day to work on an edition for three or four hours before having to go to his day job as president of a voice recognition company. He left the job to work on Nibble full-time but continued the 3 a.m. start time throughout its 12 1/2 year run.

In 1985, he turned down offers to sell the magazine. In an interview for the A.P.P.LE. website, Harvey recalled making the decision not to sell while sitting under a tree in his backyard.

“I remembered that I started Nibble to be independent and not have to be accountable to corporate bureaucracies,” he told A.P.P.L.E.’s Brian Wiser and Bill Martens. “I realized that if I sold, I’d want to start over again doing what I was doing. I was having too much fun to go back to the corporate life.”

Nibble made computers ‘approachable’

The note of disdain for “corporate bureaucracies” may have originated from his years at Xerox, where he worked in sales and program management during the 1960s and early 70s. After seeing mouse-based graphics in 1972 at Xerox, he began writing a series of white papers trying to convince Xerox that the future was in software, not hardware.

Nibble had more than 100,000 subscribers and Harvey’s publishing company produced a pair of spinoff magazines, Nibble Mac and PC Hands On. He also repurposed material from his magazines to produce a number of books.

“He was a kind and brilliant man who made a major impact on personal computing through Nibble and other publications.,” Wiser told Cult of Mac. “Not only did he empower his readers by making computers more approachable, but he enabled them to harness the power of computers through programs and programming tutorials. In every sense of the word, Mike cared about people and making a difference in their lives.”

During the late 1980s, Harvey saw the rise of larger publishers dominating the magazine space and felt he could not compete. He began selling off magazine assets to other publishers and when he published the last issue of Nibble in July 1992, he said it felt “like the death of a family member.”

Harvey returned to the corporate world as a consultant and later president of a company that went on to acquire the software division of Texas Instruments, one of several company acquisitions he oversaw before retiring in the early 2000s.

In 2016, a collection of his viewpoint columns from Nibble was turned into a book by Wiser and Martens. Harvey’s column was one of the magazine’s most popular features.