Walt Mossberg’s final column lands at The Verge
The 70-year-old tech journalist will ‘step away’ from his work at Vox Media, ending a brilliant career as America’s go-to authority on all things personal computing
The last column from legendary tech journalist Walt Mossberg landed on The Verge website. In it, titled The Disappearing Computer, Mossberg talks about how he sees that “a strange kind of lull has set in” — that we appear between two big waves of computingL one that has moved computing from difficult and for the few to one where technology is usually pretty easy to use, and for what Mossberg sees is to come.
His real message is that the next wave will see computing being mostly invisible, and all around us.
For those of us lucky enough to have lived and worked in the Bay Area during the dot com boom of the mid to late 90’s, Walt Mossberg was one of the few tech writers with much credibility outside of California. His columns were for end users, and so the tech community saw Mossberg as an important mirror. He reflected what everyone east of the Sierras might think of the latest products and services. That he knew what he was talking about made all the difference because many of his contemporaries rarely seemed to.
Later, he would join up with Kara Swisher and create the Journal’s annual All Things Digital conference. Meanwhile, after a brief time after the dot com boom busted, tech media soon exploded. The WSJ’s AllThingsD section, though, was still the leader, at least as far as the big techs were concerned. Along with the NYT’s David Pogue, Apple and others would make sure Mossberg and crew were the first places they would go to when wanting to demo something new.
Unfortunately, the tech media explosion probably had a lot to do with the way Apple’s attitude towards the media and media companies developed, but Mossberg can’t be blamed for all those new tech sites and some of the silly posts that appeared. Tech journalism today is really no worse than what we read in local newspapers about computing back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, there is just more of it.
If Mossberg sees that there is a lull in computing right now, with few exciting new products coming out, but with lots of potential on the horizon, the same can be said for tech media. Right now there is not much to talk about, and reading yet another story about what the iPhone 8 might look like excites me about as much as what the iPhone 7 delivered. But I think that between AI, self-driving cars, and VR, the future of tech reporting will have plenty of material.
It is hard to imagine now, but we needed people like Walt Mossberg to explain to us why the world wouldn’t end if 5 1/4 inch disk drives disappeared, or why the end of the optical drive might be a good thing if we all were going to be streaming data rather than writing it onto physical material.
Mossberg rarely got too excited about anything, offering readers a balanced view of things, the good and the bad. Once tech media exploded, and everyone reviewed every gadget out there, Mossberg wrote a lot less about products and more about trends and people. That, too, was a good thing.
I think News Corp’s failure to keep Mossberg and Swisher in-house was a mistake, but then again the two journalists certainly didn’t fit into the Murdoch empire and probably needed to escape. It was the WSJ’s loss, one it has not recovered from, in my opinion.
Mossberg is 70, and though we have politicians out there who say retirement is a bad thing and shouldn’t be allowed (a big exponent of this view is about to win a House seat from Montana), 70 seems like the right time, or past the right time, to “step away” as Mossberg describes his leaving Recode and Vox Media.
Mossberg did not overstay his welcome, though. And just because he is leaving Recode does not mean that we should write something close to an obituary. Hopefully, he’ll be around a while and have more things to say after a period of time to unwind. But my hope is that he really does step away eventually and enjoy the life he deserves. Thank you Walt Mossberg.