As the PC World Turned

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In 1989, the staff accomplished something that, with luck, will remain a singular achievement: They produced PC World in the wake of a major earthquake .

Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

Robert Kanes (art department staffer, 1985-2007; Art Director/Creative Director, 1993-2007):
I don't know whether there's really such a thing as earthquake weather, but if there is, October 17th, 1989, was a decent example: odd skies, unusually still air, and a slight feeling of static electricity wherever you went. At 5:04 pm, I was at my desk on the east side of the sixth floor of 501 Second Street. When the shaking began, the first thing I thought was, "no problem, just another average quake." But as the shaking continued, and continued, and continued, it was clear this was no ordinary event. After a few seconds, file drawers and cabinets started moving, and small-to-medium-sized objects were jumping around. At 10 seconds, everyone started looking for doorways to stand in, or simply crouched under any convenient table. At 15 seconds (which is a really long time at this magnitude), all the window seals were popping around our side of the building. Luckily no one was hurt.

What we didn't immediately grasp was that everything that was down at our offices at 501 Second St. (power, networks, computers) was going to stay down for awhile, because no one knew whether the building was safe to occupy. And unfortunately, we were just heading into the cycle of shipping magazine pages to our printer. In a bold move to head off a second disaster, our director of manufacturing, Linda Manes, called our prepress house, located in a different part of the city, and ascertained that they were still up and functioning. She asked if we could possibly do some emergency work there, and the owner, Orlan DiMario, immediately offered us his shop. A long-time supplier and friend of the company, he moved quickly to prepare a "PCW" work area, setting up tables and computers and providing us unlimited access, extended proofing opportunities, food, refreshments, and catnap areas.

PC World jumped on the offer and assembled an emergency team consisting of core editorial, design, and production people, who all worked around the clock to make sure that the magazine never missed a single press deadline. This is how Lithographic Consultants became PC World's second home for a week, and how an entire issue was recreated from bits and pieces, to be reassembled, proofed, and shipped, from straight out of the Bayview District!

Eric Knorr (member of editorial staff, 1985-1993 and current editor in chief of InfoWorld; seen below in 1980s staff photo):
When I was promoted to editor of PCW in 1990, I was without either a managing editor or an art director, as they called creative directors in those days. I hired Steve Fox as managing editor post haste, but the art director hire was tougher, so I had to rely on Bill, a freelance art director in New York who was a friend of Pat Kenealy, our new publisher. Bill was doing our covers, and Pat had rather specific parameters for them, one of which was that the main cover subject (usually hardware) had to appear to be in motion.

Pat, who with Bill had presided over the magazine's highly successful redesign a few months before, reviewed every cover before it went to the printer. If Pat didn't like the concept we came up with, he would send us back to the drawing board with extreme prejudice. One cover, the subject of which was a laptop roundup, proved particularly problematic.

We tried every possible way to make the laptop appear to be in motion, but Pat liked none of them.

The sketches from Bill became increasingly desperate: a laptop in the hands of someone running down the hall, a laptop parachuting from the sky, a laptop on the back of a bicycle, and so on. Each rejection pushed us closer to the drop-dead date.
I remember sitting in my office beside myself with stress as I strained to come up with yet another idea. I had a bottle of organic fruit soda on my desk, which I proceeded to twist open. Apparently due to a lack of preservatives, the soda had fermented, and sprayed everywhere. At that moment I thought: What if we shot a laptop on a plane from outside the window?

Lo and behold, Pat liked the idea. Shooting through the window of an actual plane proved impractical, so Bill decided to set up a studio shot, and Steve took a red-eye to New York oversee it. Approximately 24 hours later Steve shouted "We're building your plane!" over the phone through the sound of a drill shrieking in the background.

Actually, it was a few panels of fuselage and a window, but for a brief while, I felt intoxicated that an idea in my head had become an expensive reality and a good cover shot so quickly. That high dissipated the moment I realized that the cover was so late, we had to start the cycle for the next one in just a few days.

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