Barney's Rubble

Celebs Aren't All Dopes: Famous People with Tech Backgrounds

I spent three great years running a magazine called AmigaWorld in the late '80s to the early '90s (not nearly as great as this Redmond gig, though!).

The Amiga was built for artists, musicians, animators, videographers and programmers. It attracted lots of celebrities who became friends of the magazine. Todd Rundgren did an intense 3-D ray-traced cover for me; author and pioneer in geostationary satellites Arthur C. Clarke was an avid reader and great pen pal; and Penn and Teller did some amazing video work with the Commodore machine -- and in the process told me the dirtiest joke I've ever heard (way worse than "The Aristocrats"). And Sir Clarke wrote an entire novel, "The Ghost from the Grand Banks" (Aspect, 2001), based upon making Mandelbrots on his Amiga.

Before that I spent three years at ComputerWorld (I guess that's how long it takes for people to get sick of me). At the time, professional wrestler King Kong Bundy was doing commercials for Vendex, a PC clone maker. I thought it would be a hoot to interview him about computers.

I asked lots of questions about OS/2 versus Windows, but the best one was when I asked if he had a wife or any girlfriends. "A lot of girlfriends," the King said. "But only one wife."

Years later, I was at one of the very last Comdex shows in Las Vegas and Sinbad was giving a free show. I like Sinbad, so was expecting a funny, general-purpose standup act. Instead he spent 45 minutes riffing on all things computer. This guy knew way more about using computers than I did! He could be a CIO.

Ever since, I've been interested in the connection between celebrities and computers. And now that computers are so thoroughly mainstream, that connection is deeper than ever. Our Web chief Becky Nagel started researching this topic and because we have her so overworked, she didn't have time to write about it -- so I volunteered. Thanks, Beck!

Here's what she, I and other 1105 Media staffers found:

The late Tom Rettig was an amazing database developer and played Jeff on "Lassie" for three years. One of the nicest, smartest people you'll ever meet. Scott Adams of Dilbert fame was a software developer for 16 years, but after he stole my idea that Bill Gates should run for President and nabbed all the credit, I don't want to give him too much attention. Pro wrestler Shane Roberts spent five years in IT. Liam Neeson studied computer science in Belfast.

One Brad Pitt is the opposite. Pitt has reportedly never Googled his own name and claims he barely knows how to use a PC. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

And of course, computer folk such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are now the real celebs. Who did I miss? Send your thoughts on tech-savvy celebs to [email protected].

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.


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