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4/7/2012
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BYTE Interviews Jerry Pournelle

Jerry Pournelle--iconic BYTE columnist, science-fiction writer, and all-around polymath--talks with us about writing and computers. In our four-part podcast he holds forth on the role of science fiction in predicting future technology, writing bestsellers in the Internet age, and a whole lot more.

Science fiction author and BYTE veteran Jerry Pournelle has written about technology, both present and future, since the 1970s. He was a top writer for BYTE for many years, known especially for his "Computing at Chaos Manor" column. His classic sci-fi books have found new life on the Internet.

I interviewed Jerry at the Boskone 49 science fiction convention in Boston. From that interview comes the four-part series of podcasts we present here. The BYTE icon and polymath holds forth on a wide range of topics, from the role of computers in science fiction, to the origins of the PC revolution in ballistic missile development, to tips for successful authoring in the age of e-readers.

As for me, I came to BYTE relatively late (at least compared to, say, a friend who was cubicle-neighbor to Carl Helmers, who founded BYTE). I had the fun and good fortune to write two of BYTE's first articles about the Internet, back in the early nineties. Those articles led to my becoming editor of Internet World magazine. From 1998 to 2001, I was editor of BYTE.com for United Business Media (UBM), where Jerry Pournelle was lead columnist. I quickly discovered that "keeping Jerry happy" was the unwritten fifth bullet point in my job description.

I've also known Jerry through the science fiction side of things--seeing him at several SF conventions, helping bring him and fellow science fiction writers Larry Niven and Greg Bear to speak at Comdex in 2001.

So when BYTE editorial director Larry Seltzer asked me to interview Jerry for the new BYTE, I asked Jerry if we could meet at the the Boskone 49 science fiction convention, where I was scheduled to be on several panels and Jerry would be the NESFA (New England Science Fiction Association) Press Guest.

We were able to schedule the interview as a convention event. Unfortunately, a few days before the interview, Jerry came down with a cold and was forced to cancel his trip. Fortunately, the Boskone tech experts were able to set up a Skype session, so we could still do the interview, projecting an image of Jerry in his office for the audience.

It was so last minute we weren't able to arrange to get a Skype capture of the session. However, I had brought along a pocket digital voice recorder. I pointed it at the speaker, and BYTE's techies did some post editing and cleanup. We've divided the interview into four separate podcasts, each accompanied by a transcript of the audio:

   Podcast Part 1: Pournelle On Computers and Science FictionPodcast Part 2: Pournelle On ARPAnet, Totalitarianism, And Productivity   
   Podcast Part 3: Pournelle On EbooksPodcast Part 4: Pournelle On Using Multimedia To Sell Books   

Finally, here's a short Jerry Pournelle bio, and a partial bibliography.

Enjoy.

Daniel P. Dern is an independent technology and business writer. He can be reached via email at dern@pair.com; his website, www.dern.com; or his technology blog, TryingTechnology.com.

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