nettime's_roving_reporter on Thu, 9 May 2019 16:10:38 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> okthxbye: Veteran vulture Andrew Orlowski is offski after 19 years at The Register

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Veteran vulture Andrew Orlowski is offski after 19 years at The Register

It's been fun

   By Andrew Orlowski 
   9 May 2019 at 09:16

   Bill Clinton was president of the United States when I first started at
   The Register, mobile phones (and anything else "mobile") were low-rez
   monochrome chunks of plastic, and politicians were slack-jawed children
   when it came to technology.

   Some things don't change, but today one thing does. After 19 years -
   the first seven in San Francisco and the rest in London - and over
   6,000 stories, I'm moving on. I'm very proud to have helped The
   Register survive and then flourish. It was a close-run thing after the
   dot-com bomb, when it was just four reporters, and the roof literally
   caved in on our palatial Mayfair premises above a kebab shop. When, for
   a while, the grandly named "San Francisco Bureau" (for which I was a
   very grandly titled "Chief") largely consisted of me and (now
   best-selling author) Ashlee Vance working on the sofa in a stripper's
   bar in the Tenderloin, trying to catch a Wi-Fi signal from Ashlee's
   flat over the road.

   I can't claim to be The Register's first employee - that honour goes to
   Tony Smith - but in early 1998 I was wondering if the fledgling El Reg
   might need some help. "We're a couple of anarchists who'll be bust in
   six weeks," I was told. "Accept that job offer from [a large publishing
   company]. But if we don't go bust and you're ever bored give us a

   I'm delighted to have had the chance to work with some of the best, and
   bring in new talent, too. Where others merely saw a [91]privileged,
   privately educated heroin addict losing billions of pounds of other
   people's money, I saw a star in the making. No one was more distressed
   than me to discover, then, some years later, that he was a foreign
   [92]agent of thinkfluence.

   I've given much thought over the years to how I'd "close out" (as John
   Peel used to say at midnight to his three remaining listeners). Perhaps
   by running through my best and worst predictions*. Perhaps, I mused,
   I'd close out by picking my [93]favourite interview*. Or [94]my
   favourite Reg headline. Or my [95]favourite feature . Or the thing I'm
   [96]most proud of having commissioned. Or maybe [97]The Moderatrix's
   best ever comeback line**. Yes, I thought, I could do that, then spend
   a happy day padding that out. But I won't.

  We love you guys (sometimes)

   The most unique thing about this unique publication is its community.
   It would come as a shock to IT journalists joining The Register that IT
   people actually read their work and more horrifying still, even had a
   knowledgeable opinion on it. A few years back, when I was a systems
   programmer in the early 1990s, the cellophane always stayed on the free
   weeklies - only to be ripped open for BOFH or Cringely. When I started
   here, I'd get 40 or 50 emails per story. One [98]in particular got over
   a thousand, almost all confessing shame and gratitude - and a decade on
   that piece still gets emails (it's a good example of a piece being sent
   back for a rewrite, the first attempt was rubbish). Emails were such a
   valuable source of enlightenment (and scoops), but they dried up too.
   Today it's the comments that really make The Register so different.

   While I won't be doing the daily news grind any more, there's one thing
   I can't give up. John F Kennedy once said that if he hadn't had sexual
   intercourse by midday, he'd get a splitting headache. Writing is like
   that for me a bit - I get itchy. And the thing is, there's still so
   much to write about***.

   Politicians haven't got much smarter over 19 years, although weirdly
   they talk about "technology" more than ever. They speculate about
   blockchain, the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", smart cities and smart
   hubs and smart driverless cars. Having lost the ability to talk to us,
   they just waffle on to each other about these fantasies in their own
   bubble. So there's that to address. Poor policy also risks throwing the
   baby out with the bathwater. And we do need democratically accountable
   governance now that technology giants are more powerful than nation

   That's what I'll be looking to do in the future. If you want to keep
   abreast, just get in touch by email (Andrew (at)
   or on [99]LinkedIn or [100]Twitter, soon to be open.

   So thanks, readers, for such fun, such wit, and the lasting
   friendships. We've grown old together and maybe a bit wiser - thanks to
   you, I know I am. Now, I have an urgent date with [101]some old black
   and white films on BBC 2. I'm off. ®


   * As far as I know, this is the only interview Britain's most brilliant
   hardware guy, Mark Gretton, has ever given.

   ** [102]This one isn't bad either.

   *** I'll put that on [103]the blog.


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