Who the hell is that guy?

Photo for Macworld, taken in the hearing room of the House Committee on Science & Technology. (Photo by Ed Kashi)
Photo for Macworld, taken in the hearing room of the House Committee on Science & Technology. (Photo by Ed Kashi)

An email over the weekend from a reporter working on a story about the early days of the “Apple Mac Revolution” included a PDF file of the April 1985 issue of Macworld Magazine and asked if the Doug Thompson interviewed and photographed in the article “Washington’s Capitol Improvement” was me.

It was.  I had forgotten about that article, written 31 years ago by former Capitol Hill Press Secretary and freelance writer Rex Hammock.

macworld-april-85Hammock called me Capitol Hill’s “Mac Guru” because I had installed Macs in the Congressional Office I managed for then-Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana.  His article featured North Carolina Rep. Charlie Rose, who headed the subcommittee that approved the use of Macs on the Hill, and me, who automated the first office to use the new computer.

The photo by Ed Kashi, a photojournalist who shot for National Geographic and other publications, brought back memories of someone I almost didn’t recognize. Was I ever that young? Dark hair, a tie, and a sweater under my suit jacket? Was that really me?

I became a computer junkie in the 70s after The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois — where I worked as a reporter, photographer and columnist — converted to a min-computer Content Management System (CMS).

I had a Radio Shack TRS-80, then an Apple II and an Atari 800 and a Model 100 portable before moving to the IBM PC.  When the Mac came along, I approached it with skepticism but once I tried I was hooked.

To this day, I use Macs exclusively for writing, photography and video projects.  The latest Mac Pro sits in my studio, I use a Macbook Pro on assignments and have an iPad and an iPhone.

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Wrote Hammond in the magazine:

On the Approved List

Indeed, when it comes to speech writing, the Macintosh has provided an unanticipated yet pleasant bonus to at least one farsighted congressperson. Doug Thompson, administrative assistant to Republican Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana, says, “We discovered that printing Dan’s speeches in 14-point bold means that he now doesn’t have to wear glasses when he delivers statements on the House floor.” If Rose may be considered the main Mac backer on Capitol Hill, then Thompson can be called the resident Macintosh guru.

A former journalist and Hill press secretary who got “hooked on computers” in the mid-1970s when his paper’s newsroom was computerized, Thompson today manages a fully automated congressional office. And somewhat to his surprise, a Macintosh is the tool he uses to manage it.

“I was the ultimate IBM Personal Computer snob,” he explains. “I had a PC at home and one here in the office, and I was convinced that I was going to keep on using it.” But that was before his curiosity led him to check out the Macintosh on the day it arrived in Washington stores.

“I was determined not to like the Mac,” he says, but he was immediately struck by the computer’s simplicity and versatility. “After playing with it for about 15 minutes, I turned to the salesperson and asked how long it would take to get one.” That evening Thompson had a Macintosh at home, along with his three other personal computers. A few weeks later, when the Mac made it onto the House approved list of equipment (in near record time due to Rose’s enthusiasm), Thompson leased two for the office.

“It took me about a week to transfer all my PC files to the Mac using the Hill’s electronic mail system and an early version of MacTerminal,” Thompson recalls. Soon he had the office budget on Multiplan spreadsheets. He still keeps his old PC Multiplan spreadsheets to show people the difference.

On the wall behind his desk, Thompson started posting MacProject schedule charts outlining long range office projects. Bar and pie charts produced with Microsoft Chart began appearing in Congressman Burton’s constituent newsletter detailing copies ranging from the federal deficit co the balance of trade. The newsletter also began co display a map of Burton’s Indiana district drawn by Thompson in MacPaint.

Thompson quickly became the Hill’s unofficial staff expert on the Macintosh, and a steady stream of congressional aides began to flow through Congressman Burton’s office to see how the Mac could be used. “It’s gotten to the point,” jokes Thompson, “where I feel like asking for a commission from Falcon Systems, which is Apple’s vendor to all federal government agencies.”

That was a long time ago — 31 years.  As a photographer, it was always odd to have another person in the business photograph me.  Had my photo taken for magazine stories about a dozen times during our 23 years in Washington and it was often a major production with supplemental lighting, reflectors and test shots.  A lot different than what I did for newspapers.

Kashi shot the photo in the hearing room of the House Committee on Science & Technology.  Between the time Hammock conducted the interview and Kashi came to Washington to shoot the photos I had moved over to the committee staff as Special Assistant to the Ranking Member (Rep. Manuel Lujan of New Mexico).  The new position gave me a chance to travel internationally and investigate the crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in Russia, among other issues.

Kashi was, and still is, an acclaimed international photojournalist with many accolades and much deserved recognition.  It was an honor to be photographed by him.  He made me look a lot better than I did. He and his wife started filming and video work in 2002.  Amy and I started video projects around the same time and came to Floyd in 2002 and 2003 to shoot the documentary on The Friday Night Jamboree.  A year later we left Washington for good and moved to Floyd County.

Part of a lifetime of good memories.

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