Writing this tribute to Mike Harvey of Nibble magazine is long overdue for me. It’s overdue largely because of avoidance – Mike’s passing hit me especially hard when I learned about it on December 31, 2019.
It’s interesting how the unexpected can happen. Sometimes in life the choices one makes lead to a path that unexpectedly becomes a journey. I had the extreme pleasure of working with Mike over several months in 2016 while creating and editing the “Nibble Viewpoints” book I envisioned to share his business advice with the world. And, I felt lucky to have met Mike at KansasFest in 2016 for the book’s release after Bill Martens and I published it at Call-A.P.P.L.E.. Mike meant the world to me and he must have liked me a bit too, as he invited me to visit him.
Mike was a kind and brilliant man who made a major impact on personal computing through his Nibble magazine and other publications in the 1980s and 1990s. Not only did he empower his readers by making computers more approachable, but he enabled them to harness the power of computers through programs and programming tutorials. In every issue of Nibble, Mike shared business insights and advice in his “Viewpoint” editorial column – further helping people with personal development and starting a business.
Like many, I have fond memories of learning to program on my first computer by typing in programs that appeared in David Ahl’s BASIC Computer Games and Mike Harvey’s Nibble magazine. At the time, with the newness of computers and the magic of programming, it seemed like anything was possible – and it was. Publications like Nibble included a variety of programs that could be typed into a computer, hopefully without mistakes. Therein, I discovered something that had not been there before – both the allure of the new program and the discovery that “I” too could learn to write software. Nibble was incredibly inspiring for seeing the possibilities of what one could create on a computer – an expression of an idea that persists, and that can be improved and shared with others.
Beyond the empowering feeling of creating programs, were the lessons from Mike’s writings in Nibble. His monthly “Viewpoint” editorial shared not only insights into the computers and culture people were immersed in, but also his keen lessons, experiences and advice for improving one’s life, business relationships, and running a business. Mike’s long-running Nibble magazine and Viewpoint editorial made a tangible impact on many lives.
I don’t believe I’ve ever written about how the Nibble Viewpoints book came about. You might find it more interesting if I put my feelings in better perspective and shared some things from Mike too so you can get a feeling for what he was like, and what it was like to work with him. All in all, I received well over 150 emails from Mike during the four months that we collaborated together. I’ve tried to include some that capture his spirit, along with some that are very meaningful to me personally.
My friendship with Mike started back in 2008 when I wanted to learn more about the Nibble magazine PDFs he was offering for sale. After learning that his PDFs were not searchable and seeing the obvious benefit, I volunteered to OCR the issues for all 13 years. Mike sent me a disc with one year of issues for me to test. After completing my work and sending them back to him, I received this email:
From: Mike Harvey
Date: December 24, 2008
Thanks for your note. I received your DVD with the searchable Nibble copies and I’m impressed with what you accomplished. I sent you a complete set of the Nibble library yesterday with my compliments, so you’ll have more to work with if you’re so inclined…. but it’s not an absolute requirement.
Being very pleased that he liked the results and wanting to impress him, I naturally proceeded to OCR his entire magazine and book library. And I thought it was especially generous of him to make further efforts optional – considering he had just given me his DVD. Since I enjoy enhancing and improving things, I took the time to color correct and upgrade all of the covers, and add his credit metadata to the PDFs. And then I became a little obsessed and created a DVD called “Nibble Disassembled” with extracted pages organized into different categories of hardware, software, AppleFest, etc. in an attempt to showcase the ads.
After reviewing the magazines, I was reminded how interesting and educational his editorials were. Inspiration struck in early 2009, so I compiled all of the Viewpoint articles into single PDF and encouraged Mike to sell them as a standalone reference. He did. While each of these elements took time, it was worth it to me – I wanted to give something back to Mike who had done so many wonderful things for the Apple II world. Here are a few more replies:
From: Mike Harvey
Date: January 22, 2009
I’m impressed! I didn’t think it was possible to OCR all the magazines, and I’m very grateful to you for the effort. I’d be delighted for you to share in the credit for the work.
I’m glad you liked the cover art. We used several artists during those years, and the best paintings were done by Bob Tinney, who also did the covers for BYTE magazine. He was really terrific and we were lucky to have enticed him to do our covers.
Thanks again for an amazing job, and I’ll look forward to seeing the final collection on DVD. warmest regards,
From: Mike Harvey
Date: February 11, 2009
We’re still on our trip, and this is coming to you via satellite from our ship in the straits of Magellan off the coast of So. America. I’ve never ceased to be amazed by technology even though I’ve spent my entire career in the computer business.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what you’ve done with the books…. sounds terrific! And I’ll be delighted to sign the copy of the 10th Anniversary issue and send it back to you.
What is still hard to believe, and is a clear demonstration of Mike’s kindness and professionalism, is that he actually put my name on all the updated Nibble DVD labels!
By this point, I was already starting to recognize just how thoughtful and special Mike was. So I was inspired to email him and say, “Thanks for your generosity and if I may say so – your friendship. The Apple II was a magical time, and I’m feeling quite blessed with the opportunity to ‘meet’ you and give back more to our small community.” Somewhat ironically, Mike replied on Valentine’s Day:
From: Mike Harvey
Date: February 14, 2009
I certainly think of our relationship — and all you’ve done — as friendship and your efforts are deeply appreciated.
I didn’t go through every issue, but I can see that the covers are improved, and they really look great. It does make a nice difference.
Thanks for the Firefly DVD… I haven’t had a chance to view it yet, but I’ll view it with great interest. I must confess I’ve never seen the TV show… where and when is it broadcast?
I updated the site this morning and I think it gives good recognition to your efforts. Hope you enjoy it! Thanks again for everything Brian! Great job!!
Yes, it’s true, I never seem to miss an opportunity to proselytize my favorite TV series Firefly. After my recommendation, Mike watched both Firefly and Serenity, and asked me to send him the documentary I made with fans and cast called “Done The Impossible: The Fans’ Tale of Firefly & Serenity.” Mike said, “Yes, it did arrive and I watched it… with considerable amazement that the group felt so strongly about Firefly that it motivated you to create the video. Well done!!!“
We fell out of touch for a few years, as life often does blaze by for us all. We wouldn’t talk again until 2014, when I contacted Mike for art so Bill Martens and I could better promote Nibble in Call-A.P.P.L.E. magazine. Then in January 2016, I reached out to Mike to congratulate him on being the guest speaker at KansasFest and propose the Nibble Viewpoints book-to-be. In typical Mike fashion, I received a reply the very same day:
From: Brian Wiser
Date: January 15, 2016
Happy New Year! Congratulations on being a guest at KansasFest. I’ll be there. Years ago, beyond helping you with your Nibble PDFs, I also encouraged you to sell your Nibble Viewpoint editorial columns that I compiled into a PDF for you. They were a great combination of business advice and things happening in the Apple II world.
What do you think about having a book available with those? We’d like to reproduce those columns in high-quality physical and eBook form. If so, it would be nice to have a new preface from you to make the book even more special. I’d design a cover, do the layout, typesetting and editing. We would publish it for on-demand printing in paperback, hardback, and eBook. We could share in the profits and you could sign it for people at KansasFest and into the future. Thanks,
From: Mike Harvey
Date: January 15, 2016
It’s good to hear from you! It’s been quite a while. I’d be delighted to collaborate with you on publishing the Viewpoint editorials. I think it’s a great idea! What are the details that you envision? And how should we get started?
As you can see, it was very easy to work with Mike and that ease encapsulates one of my life motto’s, “It never hurts to ask.” Over the next four months, we collaborated on the book and exchanged almost daily emails.
One of the first challenges was the magazine PDFs that I had previously OCR’d. While they were searchable, the extracted text was not sufficiently accurate for editing and reproduction. Mike graciously volunteered to rescan over 200 editorials in Nibble, Nibble Mac, and PC Hands On magazines, as there were different editorials and differences in content among reprinted versions. I gave him some tips for optimal scanning, we did a few tests and… success!
Then we started collaborating on his preface, where he would write something, and I’d make suggestions and give feedback. He wrote working titles for the first three years of Viewpoints that never had official titles, which definitely helped. I often asked for Mike’s guidance and shared my own insights, so that our combined vision of the book would culminate into the best possible expression. Mike was absolutely fantastic to work with and very responsive to every need and question I posed – the consummate professional.
Almost every day over those months, I’d wake up at 8am and there would be an email from Mike answering my question from just before I went to bed. I told him, “You’re starting early and I’m so impressed! Forgive the expression, at your age you’re still a go-getter – you’re right there – I love it!” He replied, “I don’t know what it is about me, but I need to be doing something – I need to be doing something all the time.”
It’s clearly evident from many emails I’ve received at the crack of dawn, that Mike always started his day early, working quickly and with precision – just like the days when he was running Nibble magazine. This dedication of his was at the heart of Nibble’s success over the years. That passion and perseverance are admirable traits, and I believe, common to anyone who is successful with their endeavors.
Needing a way to organize all of the editorials, I proposed organizing them into “Business Insights” and “Apple / Nibble History” with categories under each of those. And as with any editing, some things would need to be removed. He was very trusting and told me, “I think your decisions are just fine, and I trust your judgement with what to keep and what to toss.” Bill Martens was a good sounding board as well for some editorials that were candidates for possible inclusion or exclusion, and we talked a lot about it.
Many of the editorials were updated and revisited over the years, which proved to be an interesting challenge, requiring me to creatively and accurately merge all unique elements from all versions across three magazines. Sometimes there would just be a unique sentence or two that added value, or sentences that had been removed, but I made sure to include everything Mike had written. When I mentioned I was doing this careful merging, Mike was initially concerned but trusted me nevertheless. The editing resulted in single, cohesive editorials that encapsulated everything he had written about a particular subject.
By mid-May 2016, the book was nearly finished after four solid months of work and over 150 emails from Mike. I’ll never forget his astonishment when I told him the length and he said, “WOW! 500 pages??? and THANKS!”
Beyond the importance of the internal content and organization was the cover, and the way the world would see the book. Knowing that Mike was also a digital artist, using his art was the clear and logical choice. After looking at the art on his website, I chose the “Rainbow Maze” as the clear winner, seeing the maze as navigating the mysteries of business and ultimately life itself. Initially, Mike wasn’t sure of the choice, but he quickly came around, and his art is featured on the cover I designed.
With the cover’s color, I wanted something bold and thought of red, as red is often associated with Apple, but not just any red would do. After looking at lots of Nibble covers, I sampled a darker red from one issue that became the background color. When Mike told me how sensitive he was to color and red, and that he really liked the red I chose, I told him, “Well, that red came from one of your magazines, so you actually picked the color!” It was finally time for Mike to see the book before the public did, so Bill ordered a proof copy and sent it to Mike. This email still brings tears to my eyes:
From: Mike Harvey
Date: June 3, 2016
I’m bowled over!!!!!!!!!! The proof copy of Nibble Viewpoints just arrived and you’ve done an amazing job!!! I couldn’t be happier with the look, the layout, the design, and the way you’ve handled the mountain of material. Thank you so much!!!
When you announced the commercial availability, I’ll put a big ad on my website and direct orders to you guys! And I’ll undoubtedly by 10-15 copies for friends and relatives when you’re able to sell it.
I thought your selection of the cover art, and the background color, were terrific. I never would have thought that my “Rainbow Maze” would be a candidate, but I think it works beautifully! Another “touch” superbly well executed.
Again, this is something I didn’t expect and I’m thrilled that the Nibble legacy will live on through your outstanding book! Thank you… thank you!!
From: Brian Wiser
Date: June 3, 2016
Thank you Mike! Your email has brought tears of joy to my eyes. I definitely poured my heart into the design, editing and organization, so I couldn’t be more thrilled and honored that you like the book. It’s a book that I’m very proud of.
I’ve always respected you and believed in your advice. I feel a real satisfaction that this book, a nice upgrade from the Viewpoints PDF compilation I made for you in 2008, is one of my personal milestones – almost as if I can cross something off my bucket list 🙂
Warmest thanks for all you’ve done and do to make other’s lives better,
After the book was released a month before KansasFest, Mike even asked me to collaborate with him on his KansasFest presentation over several weeks. It was a real honor to be helping him and to be trusted with so much.
When I finally met Mike for the first time at KansasFest in 2016, it was a very emotional experience for me. I also felt compelled to document more of his legacy, and Mike agreed to be interviewed. Wanting to give the interview the broadest audience possible, I invited my good friend John Leake from the RetroMacCast podcast to participate. John put our joint interview in episode 413, which I also transcribed with photos on the Call-A.P.P.L.E. website.
And wanting to further promote the book, I designed and printed bookmarks that are essentially miniature versions of the cover. To give people a special memory, I left a space for Mike to sign. And he did sign in beautiful blue, many bookmarks that I still have. Mike was very gracious by signing them and worked through the pain in his hands. Sadly, hardly any copies of his book sold at KansasFest, which still makes no sense to me. Still, I hope that these bookmarks can find a home with future purchasers and appreciators of Mike’s brilliant book.
As much as possible, I spent lots of time with Mike at KansasFest. Beyond talking about our book, he shared a few other tidbits with me, Bill, and John over lunch:
“When I was in grad school, I used to be an RC Cola fan. This is during the JFK election, I bought a 6-pack, opened it up, started drinking it, I felt something slippery in my mouth…a dead mouse! So I wrote a letter to RC, ‘I found a mouse in your bottle of RC and I want some remuneration.’ I think they sent me a free coupon for two 6-packs!”
“The thing about the magazine business is there are all kinds of ways you can get screwed, and most of the ways involve people who owe you money who don’t pay. I had a controller who was just right on top of everything. One thing I’ll never forget, one big surprise was when my distributor went bankrupt. I was in a staff meeting, my secretary came in and said, ‘You’ve got to take this call.’ And they wrote out $250,000 – that was big bucks back then.”
“Normally publishers won’t pay the author until it is published. I would pay the author when we bought it, and then pay them with whatever disk sales we did. We were writing some fairly hefty author checks over the years.”
At our parting, Mike gave me something I’ll always treasure – a Nibble lapel pin with a small diamond that few have seen before. Knowing I would appreciate the pin – the last one he had – he wanted to give me something special to say thanks. As he later told me, “I had a limited number made up for the Nibble staff in the last year we published.” In my mind, I always imagine that I was part of Mike’s Nibble staff, and perhaps I was through the creation of his book and the honor of receiving his pin.
We continued to stay in contact. The last time we exchanged emails was in May 2018 where he told me, “If you’re ever out this way, you have a standing invitation.” Sadly, I never took Mike up on that offer, although I thought about it frequently. I suppose this is another lesson in Carpe Diem!
Reading through our many emails and remembering our interactions, it strikes me how Mike was always kind, courteous, thoughtful, and trusting. And he was smart – extremely smart! Mike was always complimenting me about something, which was a great and sincere way of encouraging me. He also shared plans related to promotion and KansasFest, among other things. We even shared photos and joys from some of our vacations. I really cared about him.
In every sense of the word, Mike Harvey cared about people and making a difference in their lives. He spent his life pursuing that dream through all of his magazines and businesses. He certainly made a difference in my life and I will be forever grateful for the time we shared.