Russ Walter's Secret Guide To Computers

I haven't read this book. Or maybe I did read it and just don't remember. I do remember Russ Walter. In the early days of personal computers, Russ advertised that you could call him any time, day or night, with any computer question and that he would answer it with no charge. Russ was selling his book, "The Secret Guide to Computers", which he still sells today. He still advertises that you can call him 24 hours a day:

You can phone day or night (around-the-clock, 24 hours), since I'm usually in and sleep just lightly. (If no answer, I'm out on a brief errand, so try again an hour later.)

At least some of his book is now available on-line with a copy-left (he says "copywrong") license. Russ describes it in no uncertain terms:

Unlike a Dummies book (which is written for dummies and keeps them dumb) and a standard textbook (shoved at overworked college students to bore them into snoring louder), this book throws you into the action fast, makes you competent, then makes you wise. It explains how to buy a computer, then use its operating systems and programs, then reprogram it to change its soul and launch your career.

When Russ appeared in public at computer shows (which were much different events back then), he'd wear a wizards outfit. Apparently he still does that, though he says "I wear a witch's black hat and red kimono over a monk's habit and roller skates, while my white gloves caress an African spear. Why? Because it's fun!".

I don't recall ever seeing Russ. He lived in Somerville, MA for a time, so we were in the same state, but I never cared much for computer shows (still don't) and while I did attend a few Boston Computer Society meetings now and then, I don't think we ever crossed paths. I do remember calling him once about some problem. He had no idea what I was talking about (it was a Unix thing) but he did seem like a bright enough guy. Strangely, I don't recall him trying to sell me a book.

I was reminded of Russ by a newsgroup post about someone else ( Generic Unix ). I found him easily enough with Google even though I couldn't remember his name, or the name of his book. It was the fifth hit for "boston computer society computer wizard", which was the sum of my memory at that moment. I was delighted to find that he is still alive, still strange, still selling his book, and apparently still answering his phone. No, I didn't call him. /read/index.php (link dead, sorry)

But this is alive as of April 2015: Secret Guide to Computers & Tricky Living with Secret Tutoring.

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