8 Apr 2010
Guy Kewney was a legendary figure in the computing industry. He made sure of that when he was alive. And now, having lost a dignified yet spirited fight with cancer, he has slipped into eternal legend.
But the memories of Guy I will cherish won't be of his old-school, no-nonsense journalism (now rarely found in these PR-driven days), but of his strength and reliability as a friend.
I first met Guy when we worked together on the launch of a trade weekly, PC Dealer, back in 1986. I was freelancing on the paper as a sub-editor, but also got to write news stories and the occasional feature. The first feature, in fact, was for the launch issue. I had to get comments from six leading luminaries of the UK computing industry. One of them was Alan Sugar of Amstrad infamy. But his press office was giving me a hard time.
Guy wasn't having any of that. "Leave it to me," he said. He got on the phone - not to the press office but straight to Sugar. And he gave the Amstrad boss a roasting, followed by a brief interview. I had my copy.
I soon became familiar with Guy's style - a phone permanently attached to his ear, a keyboard on his lap. He'd type constantly during the conversation. If he was talking to someone in the business, he'd be taking notes. If he was chatting with a friend, such as Douglas Adams, he'd be writing his copy (usually for a different publication than the one in whose offices he was sitting). Guy could multitask long before anyone else had heard of the word.
I went back to PC Dealer in 1990, as features editor. I do faintly recall having the pleasure of sending back Guy's copy for rewrites once or twice. That didn't happen often, though. And when it did, there was never any drama. He was a true pro. Except that his copy was always so reliably late that we were able to build its lateness into the schedule.
My main memory of that time, however, is of Guy's support for Trish and I as our relationship blossomed. It was an office romance. There were difficulties (I'd left the paper but was still freelancing for other titles in the building). Throughout, Guy was a loyal friend. For all that he could be irascible, irreverant, rude and even lewd, Guy had a strong moral and ethical core and his friends got the benefit of it.
There are other memories. Plastic explosive on bonfire night. Curries in Kings Cross. The impossibility of finding anything on his desk. But the thing for which Guy should always remain a legend is ... being Guy Kewney. There won't be another.
» Go here to make a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support or Marie Curie Cancer Care in memory of Guy - or simply because these are outstanding organisations deserving of your support...
PS (I'll add memories as they come to me):
In his own commemoration of Guy, Manek Dubash has reminded me of the infamous Kewney Chaos Field, or Kewney Distortion Field as it was sometimes known. My own memory of this strange but powerful force was the NeXT Cube. Guy was the first person I knew to get his hands on one (he probably just phoned Steve Jobs and insisted on it). And in typical Kewney fashion, instead of simply reviewing it, he adopted it as his main work computer, at least in the PC Dealer office. We were all invited, frequently, to ogle its fab graphics and great typography. We were 'treated' at regular intervals to its astonishing and very loud audio capabilities. It was, of course, the precursor of the OS X Mac. And it was huge, blotting out their view of the sky for most of Guy's coworkers. Of course, the time Guy invested getting to understand the software and explore the OS (read, play with the computer) meant that his copy just got later. No matter. We knew it couldn't last. How long before the first one blew up? A week? Two, tops. He got a replacement, but we knew it was doomed...