Adam Banks.

A self portrait of Adam Banks

A short tribute to Adam Banks who passed away this last week

Simple twists of fate are odd when we look back through the lens of time passed. They gain such significance, but let’s be honest they are just happenstance and pure chance. I was at school aged 14, perhaps 15 and there were no Acorn BBC computers available, so I was sat in front of a Mac SE FDHD. This single event put Adam and me on a collision course.

Fast forward a bit and I am consumed by Apple and Macs, I know, cool right? Anyway, part of that inconspicuous consumption was a copy of MacUser magazine every two weeks, which Adam edited and wrote for. I read the magazine from cover to cover for year after year.

Then one day, I find myself sat at a desk on the fifth floor of Denis Publishing in London, I have cut out some detail you can fill that in yourself with a montage set to music, Yakety Sax would fit. Anyway, I am in awe, absolutely beyond imposter syndrome – I have no clue what is going on or how it has happened, but I’m employed by MacUser magazine.

I have to pinch myself, this entity which has been my bible, map and guide to the stars has let me inside and I am going to be part of it. I sit at my desk from which I can see old covers I bought and designs that never saw the light of day. I meet real people who’ve been 2D to me for so long I sort of feel like I know them. I’m set adrift on a fanboy sea and not only can I not sail, I can’t swim, I have no boat and I have no idea which way is up.

Then…Someone, I’m not sure who, is asking who might write something, I’m not sure what “Get Adam to do it” comes the call from across some desks and all of a sudden I’m back in the room. Adam Banks. I know all these names; I know all these people who do not have a clue who the clueless northern lad in the corner is. I’m in awe, not ashamed to say it.

I look up and Julian who is sat opposite me picks up the phone (I know, right? The. Phone.) and dials. I have no idea why, but the call to Adam specifically caught my attention. I remember it very clearly even now. I watched in rapt awe – Julian could just call Adam Banks and speak to him. What. The. Fuck?

Julian waits and then Adam Banks answers the phone, just like that, Actual Adam Banks is on the phone to another person, just meters away from where I sit and everyone else is acting like this is totally normal. My brain isn’t really coping with this. I zone out a bit. It’s overwhelming. Adam has clearly said “Hello” Adam Banks answers his own phone, I can’t really believe that. Then Julian screams down the handset:

“BANKSY! YOU ABSOLUTE SLAAAG, can you do me 2000 words on…”

Later that week it was the MacUser awards, a ceremony where printers and scanners won prizes and PR people and journalists did Colombia’s economy the power of good. All hard to imagine these days. Anyway, I was staying over at Julian’s house after. On our way out of the door of the awards it turned out that Adam was also staying over. I can’t begin to describe to you how insane it felt. Not only was I drunk on free wine, I was in a minicab (unlicenced) heading to somewhere in South London with Adam Banks. Insane.

The cab driver dropped us off somewhere near our destination and we began the short walk to Julian’s house. As we were rounding the corner to his street a car travelling at twice the speed of sound approached, screeching, sparks flying everywhere, the scene made all the more dramatic by a background of blue light getting ever closer. The car hit the kerb and I instinctively jumped into Adam’s arms. I’m not kidding, full-on jumped on him.

The car bumped off the kerb and continued, chased by several police cars. As the dust settled, I realised that the car was a good 100 feet away from us and would not, could not have caused me or Adam or Julian any damage whatsoever. As the sound and light show faded away my embarrassment deepened in equal and opposite measure. Adam told me not to worry about it, but that I should forever remember the night he saved my life.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the world’s most cliché greasy spoon and went back to the office and chatted about Apple-related things, like that was a normal thing to do. In the space of about 3 days, I had met, got drunk with, broken stale bread, been to South London with and had my life saved by Adam Banks.

I know that asking someone to understand the fever dreams of a 15-year-old boy come true is always a big ask, but Apple was my passion at the time and MacUser the main conduit for that passion. So, to try and illustrate: imagine you’re drunk in a minicab heading to Sidcup or Dartford I forget which, with the protagonist of your 15-year-old fever dreams who or whatever they may be.

Over the next several years we worked together apart on many things. Reviews, work-throughs, features, presentations, discussions about publishing, my work, his work, unpaid invoices – his first then years later, mine. We made jokes about publishers and their desire to re-use the word repurpose in ever more creative ways. That some of my work is connected to his will forever give me a deep sense of pride. Adam was always generous and an absolute pleasure to be around, near or in the same general space as.

Like many freelancers our orbits were sometimes tight and other times far too wide. Adam was all the nice things that people are saying about him and much, much more. Adam was a riot of joy and good humour, a real-life life saver. They say, never meet your heroes. They are wrong, the absolute slags.

Who am I to judge? Mobile World Congress cancelled

Mobile World Congress Barcelona has been cancelled and this is sad, I like the cut of some of the gibs of people complaining that it shouldn’t have been cancelled though. Can you imagine the pearl-clutching-sanctimonious- shrieking if they’d gone ahead and a technology journalist caught a cold? However, as with all clouds there is a silver lining, it has provided me with a perfect opportunity to link a current event with something I did years ago and, as they say, repurpose it.

Believe it or not, I was a judge for the GSMA Global Mobile Awards Most Innovative Mobile App at Mobile World Congress a few years back. Which is easier done than said. The panel was made up of some incredible names, Cherie Blair, yes that one – some other famous people, very high-profile technology journalists and, err, me – they CC’d everyone into the first email so I got some good contacts too.

For the small price of judging apps and mobile related stuff across a small number of entries, about 20,000 if I recall correctly, I got a pass to the show and access to the executive lounge.

There was free Wi-Fi in the lounge and free soft drinks – though I spent most of my time in the press lounge where there were no free drinks, I did have the Wi-Fi password though, so was basically treated as a demi-god. This being one of the world’s premier digital shows they’d put the Wi-Fi access code on the back of the Presss Room sign and then on realising they’d put an extra ‘s’ in Press, taken the sign down and along with it the code. I may be misremembering the fact, but the gist is there.

I attended launches by Huawei, Polycom, China Unicorn Unicom, Rovi, Otterbox, Sandisk and Nokia – lolz remember them? The Sandisk PR man had a nightmare as I nonchalantly asked the spokesperson they’d proffered up as a flash-based hard drive expert what he thought of Apple’s flash storage solutions, it was as if I had uncovered the scabby wound of a chip on his shoulder and dabbed it with a salt solution. Sufficed to say, he wasn’t happy I’d asked what their product was like compared to someone else’s. I’d put the shrug emoji in here if I knew how. PR guy winced when I asked and then again at the answer, joke was on them though as I had zero chance of writing anything about flash-based hard drive storage with any of the magazines I was writing for. Well, that’s not strictly true in that it’s not true at all, but it makes me feel better to think that.

Best launch of all though was the Nokia one – I can’t remember exactly why, but they launched a phone not intended for the European market and then got flustered by the first question from the assembled journalists which was something along the lines of “why are you showing us this?” Then they launched something I feel sure with the Symbian OS. I think there was whooping from the crowd at that point, I may have been hallucinating because of the Symbian bit, but feel sure there was. I also got invited to Nokia-World or whatever it was called, that took place in Finland so I was excited about that at least. Sadly, this was just about the same time they discovered the platform fire and they never did quite put it out so Finland got filleted.

Anyway, the award for which I was a judge went to SwiftKey one of those Swyping keyboard things that were all the rage on smartphones before they all got Sherlocked (look it up kids). There was a lavish awards ceremony followed by a party, but I got lost, ended up at the wrong event and never did get to celebrate with Cherie Blair or Tim Minchin. However, this personal mishap did lead me to partake in what I can only describe as one of my finest culinary achievements as a freelance journalist.

The glitz and glamour of a press trip can never be adequated illustrated, but here is my evening meal of crisps, warm beer and a tin of olives.

Hopefully, MWC will return, I mean, I don’t really mind either way now that I’m not likely to return to the hard life of fulltime tech journalism, but it was a fun one in a beautiful city where tins of olives and warm beer are readily available and pickpockets and price gouging taxi drivers do it with a smile on their face.

Chris Brennan and I’m quoting here, “Important”

Here, writ large is another example of the problem* with digital – an interview I did with Twitter Tech Numbers Celebrity and Raconteur with a cool name Horace Dediu. Of course, I’m only referencing this because it is a good example of digital publishing problems and not because of the sub-head he gave this post. The sub-head, just in case you were wondering, is:

Chris Brennan asked a few important questions regarding potential saturation of the iPhone market.

Horace Dediu

It was for a piece in MacUser magazine, a feature on the future of Apple as I recall, Now, both the magazine and the website for MacUser are gone and therefore so is the interview**. For the avoidance of any doubt, I’m talking of the UK-based MacUser magazine and not that imposter and ne’er-do-well MacUser magazine from the United States that Felix Dennis sold to the Yanks for $1 BILLION*** and a bag of chips.

Both the US and proper UK version of MacUser are now Dodo-like, the only people who can read the interview are those who still have access to the printed magazine and, well, those with access to Deidu’s website. Which is emblematic of digital content. Once it’s out there it’s not yours anymore, not only is the author dead so is their intellectual property value. The dead tree version isn’t bringing in any revenue at all any more though so at least on that there’s some equality.

A short diversion. Funny story, I emailed HD (that’s what all his close good buddies call him, I guess) and asked him if he’d be willing to do an interview and given that I am a very polite young man, or was at least, young that is, I’m still polite, he agreed. I was delighted, he gave some good answers. Then, just before the magazine went to print he published it on his website. Fair enough I guess given that they were his words, but then it felt a bit weird as that didn’t normally happen, more traditional for the journalist to publish the piece before the interviewee does.

Turns out, it was good for me that he did break with tradition and publish the interview as it is now pretty much the only place you can read it. However, I guess my wider point is that aside from being able to flex my ego by quoting the sub-head he chose, is that the thing only exists because he chooses to keep it there and not because the original publisher wants it. Once his site goes, so does the interview. Digital is dead quick and dead, quick.

I do love the comments on this piece, naturally, as the comments are open to the great unwashed they are of the highest quality. I especially like the guy who on reading an article titled, and I’m paraphrasing here a touch ‘greatest questions I’ve ever been asked’ both criticise me for my choice of questions and praised HD for his answers as if the two are wholly unrelated.

*Not sure ‘problem’ is the right word, but then neither are any others so I stuck with it, you may sue me later.

** I am 52% certain the interview was also on the MacUser website, but I could be wrong.

***May not have been a billion.