In early 1986 I was a student at the College of San Mateo. Down the hallway form Studio B was the PBS Affiliate KCSM where, the Computer Chronicles TV show had been produced since 1981. Since I wasn’t a complete screw up in class, the production manager of the station asked if I would like to help out on an upcoming Saturday and be the stage manager for a couple of episodes of the show.
You have to remember that, not only did i not OWN a computer in 1986 but i thought they were a complete and UTTER waste of time. But hey, I wanted to get into the television and this gave me the oportunity to work on a real TV show, so i said sure.
That first Saturday the regular stage manager was not available so they asked me to cue the talent and to ask the host where the first question was going to so that I could prep the director and let him know how to have his cameras ready to start off the interview. Its not a hard task but apparently they thought i was really good at it and I remember hearing the director on the headset say, “wow, this kid (I was 23 years old) is good, we may have to keep him”. I just remember thinking… “damn… I don’t want to get pidgin holed into this job. I really want to direct.” In less than 10 years, I WAS directing the show.
Stewart Cheifet was not only the host of Computer Chronicles but he was also the Executive Producer and owned every bit of it lock stock and barrel. Not only did I learn television by working for Stewart but I also decided to buy my first computer in 1989 after working on the show for 3 years.
In my directing years on the show I used to really enjoy the end of the shoot days. It was in that last hour of the day that Stewart would sit at his “home base” desk on the set and I would sit in the control room and Stewart and I developed quite a rapport.
We would shoot 2 show opens, two “Pick of the Weeks” and two teases. I got very comfortable working with Stewart in this manner, he on camera with a quality lav on his shirt, me listening on high end audio monitors in the control room while Stewart listened to me via the talk back speaker in the studio. We had many chats about the tech industry that way and I was always VERY honored when he would take my input and shape what he said on camera.
I owe much of my career to Stewart and I consider it a HUGE honor that I can call him up and just talk today, 10 years after I last directed a segment of Chronicles.
Anyone who has ever podcasted about technology, anyone who has ever watched a show on TV about the computer industry has Stewart to thank. He was the first, he was the original and he is CLEARLY the most copied. Over the years Stewart has received many letters from people who “got into tech” because of watching the show, some of whom now own their own technology companies.
2011 marks the 30th anniversary of The Computer Chronicles which first aired as a local “user group meeting” in the San Francisco Bay Area on KCSM Channel 60 in 1981. Today, Stewart and I had a chat about doing a retrospective online sometime this summer.
I’m REALLY looking forward to this and I hope you’ll join us.