Yesterday the news of Jerry Weinberg’s death was announced. I have lost a friend and a mentor. I am sad, but like many others, I am also feeling a great deal of gratitude for Jerry’s life. He was kind, and brilliant, and so many other things that I plan to share to the best of my ability. He lived a full life. An oversized life. This earth is better for his presence. I’m not going to try to write a summary of his accomplishments right now–that would fill a book, and that’s what’s I’m trying to do a little bit at a time.
My biography project has turned a corner. From now on, the new information I gather must come from indirect sources rather than directly from Jerry’s own vivid memories. Knowing that Jerry wouldn’t be around forever, I focused on asking him about events early in his life that would be hard to know from any other source. There are a still a few subjects that will be difficult to research, like his programming experiences before he started consulting on broader topics. I hope I can count on some of the thousands of people who were touched by Jerry to help me understand more about his story.
I am so happy that I started sending him my barrage of countless questions a few years ago, which he patiently answered. The biography project was somewhat of an artificial catalyst for us to start interacting more than we ever did before, but we were both pleased to have the motivation to swap stories with each other. This was how it all started:
I asked him if he ever thought about writing about early computer history, and he replied, “I’ve thought about it, but it’s not my cup of tea. But why don’t you write it?” I found out later that when people pitch book ideas to him, he often reflects these requests back to where they came from. When it became clear that the project would work better as a biography, he was even more insistent that someone other than him should write it. No one else seemed to be doing it, so I decided to give it a try.
Since then, I have logged more than 300 pages worth of conversations with him. It will take some work to turn it into cohesive chapters, but I’m enjoying the process of organizing the extensive set of fieldstones I’ve collected while also still adding to the pile (see Jerry’s book Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method if you don’t know why I’m referring to stones). Recently, his replies had slowed their pace, until this, the last email he ever sent me–
TOO SICK TO WRITE.
SEND MUCH LATER.
Jerry still has a lot to say to us all. He has left behind a rich legacy for us still to discover. Rest well, my friend. You have sent us much.