Our friend Walt Mossberg may have retired, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of things to say: he’s signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press to write a book about the incredible rise of tech over the past 40 years, and what’s to come in the next decade. Tim Bartlett will be the editor.
The book is scheduled to come out in the early fall of 2019. “I’m going to take about a year to write it,” Walt tells me, suggesting his final column is “not a bad outline.”
“Every single thing that’s digital — the iPod, your favorite laptop, your phone — it’s all less than 40 years old.”
“It’s about the unbelievably compressed period in which the personal tech revolution has changed the world at every level, in every walk of life,” he says. “Every single thing that’s digital — e-readers, the iPod, your favorite laptop, your phone — it’s all less than 40 years old. It’s younger than Starbucks. It’s younger than Disneyland. And it began to get massive traction in the ‘90s, when I entered the picture.”
Of course, the book will feature tons of products and stories about the people behind them. “Some of the products were flops, but they mattered,” says Walt. “There’ll be people like Jobs and Gates, but also other people like Jeff Hawkins and Philippe Kahn, who did the first camera phone.”
Walt says he’ll “open the filter a little wider and be a little more liberal” in telling these stories than he’s previously been in his column or on his Ctrl-Walt-Delete podcast. There will be also be several stories he’s never told before, including his visit to a very sick Steve Jobs at his house to see the first iPad before it was public.
Most importantly, Walt also wants to use the book to highlight the responsibility the tech giants now have. “To me, the tech revolution has been a net positive, and I don’t think it’s a close call,” he says. “But there have been unintended consequences, like elections and harassment. The two things tie together in the headlong rush to do the next thing with no one asking questions along the way. We’ve never stopped to catch a breath.”
“This is the capstone of my career.”
“I’ve been preaching privacy, security, and fairness to consumers for a long time. I think you can do that and also say these things are cool and useful.”
Walt says he’ll be leaning on his own archive of columns and interviews, while also doing some additional reporting as he writes the book. “This is the capstone of my career and my thinking about this revolution,” he says. “The things that are coming are going to be just as disruptive. Probably more disruptive.”