Cary Lu

David Needle[hidden]

I didn't know Cary that well, but I always admired his knowledge and integrity.

I first encountered Cary at a press conference at Wang Labs headquarters around 1981. After the presentation and several innocuous product-related questions from the media, Cary asked what was, to my mind, the most memorable question ever asked at one of these events:

"Doesn't it bother you," he asked a Wang exec, "that you have to answer questions about technology from a group of journalists who don't really know anything the subject they're covering?"

What a buzz that sent through the crowd! It was a cranky thing to say, and probably didn't endear him to many of his colleagues, but the guy was never afraid to say what was on his mind. Unlike most of his peers, he could criticize any product or strategy with more than enough knowledge to back up what he said.

Another memory was a Boston Computer Society meeting around 1982. During an open 'annoucements from the floor' session a sales rep for CompuServe stood up and made a brief pitch for joining, touting new features.

"How much is it?" Cary asked from the audience.

"It's now only one hundred dollars for the software and membership," said the CompuServe guy.

"Still too much!" groused Cary. And of course he was right.

After moving to California in 1983 I'd run into Cary sporadically at trade shows and other events. He definitely mellowed and was much happier in general, if not habitually skeptical.

We once shared a cab at a trade show in San Francisco while looking for a place to eat. I'd already lived in the Bay Area a few years but was quickly lost as Cary directed the cab driver meticulously through blocks and blocks of different streets to a wonderful restaurant.

After no contact for several years I just happened to have called Cary a few months ago for an article I was working on, for Bandwidth magazine, the same title as the book he said he was working on. We had a nice conversation about freelancing and child-rearing and his rule of "no TV, except tape recordings of PBS shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy." A great policy I wish I had the fortitude to enforce with my own son.

He sounded great. I had no idea he was ill. It's quite a shock. I'll miss those chance encounters. I miss him already.