A Farewell Tour of Benj’s Best HTG Computer History Articles

Elva Mankin

Benj Edwards / How-To Geek After 2.5 years and over 1,000 articles here, I’m leaving How-To Geek. It’s a bittersweet feeling, since I love this place, but new adventures are calling. Before I go, I thought it would be fun to round up my favorite and most popular features with behind-the-scenes […]

A Gallery of Benj Edwards Articles in Picture Frames on a Wooden Wall
Benj Edwards / How-To Geek

After 2.5 years and over 1,000 articles here, I’m leaving How-To Geek. It’s a bittersweet feeling, since I love this place, but new adventures are calling. Before I go, I thought it would be fun to round up my favorite and most popular features with behind-the-scenes tidbits. I think you might enjoy it, too.

My Five Favorite How-To Geek Articles

It’s no secret that in between how-to articles about the latest macOS, Windows, and iPhone tips, I like to write about tech history. It’s fun to educate and inform (and I’ve been doing it since 2005 for other sites). After writing 122 history features for How-To Geek, a handful have stood out as particularly memorable or interesting for me. I’ll give you a peek behind the scenes.

Id Software’s 30th Anniversary

A classic id Software logo on a blue background

In 2021, legendary game developer id Software turned 30. To celebrate, I contacted three out of four of the original id founders—John Carmack, John Romero, and Tom Hall—and asked them for key memories and their favorite moments at id. They replied with wonderful quotes, and it felt great to bring all three men together, so to speak, to celebrate their achievements in a positive way, since they had originally split up under less than ideal circumstances. With Romero’s help, I did try to contact Adrian Carmack too (the fourth founder), but he keeps a low profile these days and didn’t reply.

id Software stories did really well for us over the past few years, and Carmack and Romero also provided choice quotes for my pieces on NeXT, the VIC-20, the Apple II, and, of course, articles about Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, and Quake.

RELATED: From Keen to Doom: id Software’s Founders Talk 30 Years of Gaming History

The Mystery of QWERTY

The QWERTY Mystery

Out of personal curiosity, I set out to discover the origins of the standard QWERTY keyboard layout. I did deep research in several out-of-print history books, dusty scholarly articles from the typewriter era, and more. What I discovered is that no one alive knows exactly why the QWERTY keyboard layout is the way it is. It’s a genuine mystery that will likely remain unsolved forever unless some new, previously unknown documentary evidence comes to light in the future.

It’s absolutely fascinating to think of such a universal standard originating from a set of completely arbitrary (and seemingly random) decisions made 150 years ago. That’s quite a difference from our precision-engineering-driven world today.

RELATED: The QWERTY Keyboard Is Tech’s Biggest Unsolved Mystery

No Regrets About Gopher

The Gopher protocol (gopher://).

Back in mid-2020, I interviewed Mark P. McCahill, the co-creator of a web-like protocol popular on the early internet called Gopher. Given a few slight changes in history, Gopher could potentially be where the World Wide Web is now. When I asked McCahill if he had any regrets that Gopher didn’t win the information protocol war, he had a doozie of an answer: “Maybe that’s another reason I’m okay with the web beating out Gopher,” McCahill said. “I don’t have things like Facebook and its weaponized surveillance platform on my conscience directly.” That’s a quote I’ll remember for a long time.

RELATED: The Web Before the Web: A Look Back at Gopher

The Father of the Modem Screech

A screeching dial-up modem cartoon

One of my favorite types of articles is where I set out to write a simple explanation of something and end up discovering something entirely new, which has happened many times with my history pieces. Like the time I discovered that Caps Lock was likely added as a compatibility mode to make newer teletypes operate like older ones.

Another fun example is when I wrote about why dial-up modems make a screeching noise when they connect. I decided to ask the question “Why did they have speakers to begin with?” and found the answer with Dale Heatherington, who designed the first modem with an internal speaker in 1981. When I asked if we had Heatherington to thank for our 1990s noisy modem nostalgia, he replied, “Yep. Guilty as charged.”

RELATED: Why Did Dial-Up Modems Make So Much Noise?

How to Install Windows 3.1 on an iPad

Windows 3.1 Running on an iPad

When my long-time friend and collaborator Harry McCracken told me he knew how to install Windows 3.1 on an iPad, I thought it was too exciting to keep to myself. So I wrote about it for How-To Geek, hoping that the MS-DOS emulator app for the iPad was as Apple-approved as its author cautiously hoped it was.

Of course, the resulting media coverage brought it to Apple’s attention (with MacRumors, Daring Fireball, and 9to5Mac all chipping in), and the app got pulled from the store (so sadly, the instructions in that piece no longer work). I wrote a response piece about the freedom to learn from the past. So much power for historical learning is still locked away due to Apple’s closed iPhone/iPad platform.

RELATED: How to Install Windows 3.1 on an iPad

Runner-Up: My Windows History Pieces

Windows 2000 Hero

While those five stand out in my memory, there are stories behind other articles that are equally as fun, but I’d be writing for days. So I want to cheat by extending the list with a group of Windows history pieces that I really enjoyed writing. I covered the anniversaries of Windows 1.0, Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. I also wrote about the greatest and worst versions of Windows, the history of Windows icons, Windows logos, the Windows key, and more.

On many of those articles, I had the help of Microsoft veterans Steven Sinofsky and Brad Silverberg, who shared quotes and insider memories that helped a great deal. Before working for How-To Geek, I spent years writing about Apple and Mac history for Macworld, so it felt nice to balance that out a little with some Microsoft and Windows history. I’m completely platform-agnostic—I use Macs and Windows PCs equally.

My Ten Most Popular History Features

CP/M Operating System logo on a blue background

Since this is my last post on the site, I thought I’d also round up a list of my most popular How-To Geek articles as well. These are a mix, most-viewed, most popular on social media, and which articles received the most email feedback.

Curiously enough, by a 10-to-1 margin, I received the most email feedback after writing about CP/M, the obsolete operating system that inspired MS-DOS. The 1970s are still alive, my friends. (Note to the editor: The readership has pent-up demand for more CP/M content, Chris!)

The Benj Edwards History Collection

Atari 800 on a sunset background by Benj Edwards.
Benj Edwards

One last thing: My history works can get lost in the shuffle easily, so for historical reference, here’s a complete list of 122 How-To Geek history articles I’ve written. You’ll find them listed below in reverse chronological order (from newest to oldest). We originally published these pieces between February 25, 2020 and late August 2022.


  • Where Did the Term “Computer User” Come From?
  • Why Was Atari Called Atari?
  • What Is a Pixel?
  • Every Game Microsoft Ever Included in Windows, Ranked
  • A World Without Wires: 25 Years of Wi-Fi
  • “Atari Was Very, Very Hard” Nolan Bushnell on Atari, 50 Years Later
  • Why Do We Push Shift+Command+3 to Take a Screenshot on Mac?
  • What’s the Difference Between the “Enter” and “Return” Keys?
  • 45 Years Later, The Apple II Still Has Lessons to Teach Us
  • Steve Wozniak Talks Apple II on Its 45th Anniversary
  • What Is ANSI Art, and Why Was It Popular in the 1990s?
  • What is Link Rot, and How Does It Threaten the Web?
  • The Origins of Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+X, and Ctrl+Z Explained
  • Achtung! How Wolfenstein 3D Shocked the World, 30 Years Later
  • Every Microsoft Company Logo From 1975-2022
  • Every Microsoft Windows Logo From 1985 to 2022
  • Why Is Facebook Called Facebook?
  • Why Is a PC Called a PC?
  • Why Is Google Called Google?
  • Windows 3.1 Turns 30: Here’s How It Made Windows Essential
  • Video Games Turn 60: How Spacewar Launched a Revolution
  • What Happened to the iPhone 9?
  • The QWERTY Keyboard Is Tech’s Biggest Unsolved Mystery
  • Why Was There No Windows 9?
  • Why Apple’s Logo Has a Bite Taken Out of It
  • iPhone SMS Messages Aren’t Green for the Reason You Think
  • Why Is the Linux Mascot a Penguin?
  • Why Is a Mac Called a Mac?
  • 10 Years Later, Here’s Why the Raspberry Pi Still Rocks
  • Why Is It Called the Raspberry Pi?
  • What Is SMS, and Why Are Text Messages So Short?
  • Microsoft Solitaire Is Still King 30 Years Later
  • What Does the “i” in iPhone Stand For?
  • Why Is Windows Called Windows?
  • GORILLA.BAS: How to Play the Secret MS-DOS Game From Your Childhood
  • Remembering VRML: The Metaverse of 1995


  • What Is Spam, and Why Do We Call It That?
  • How to Read a Zip Disk on a Modern PC or Mac
  • The Computer Folder Is 40: How the Xerox Star Created the Desktop
  • X Marks the Spot: Microsoft’s Xbox Turns 20
  • The Microprocessor Is 50: Celebrating the Intel 4004
  • Green Hills Forever: Windows XP Is 20 Years Old
  • Multimedia Mania: Windows Media Player Turns 30
  • What Are Computer Files and Folders?
  • The First Commercial Video Game: How It Looked 50 Years Ago
  • The Modern PC Archetype: Use a 1970s Xerox Alto in Your Browser
  • OS/2’s Last Stand: IBM OS/2 Warp 4 Turns 25
  • Linux Turns 30: How A Hobby Project Conquered the World
  • The Golden Age of Shareware CDs
  • The Foundation of the Internet: TCP/IP Turns 40
  • Gaming When You Should Be Working: The History of the Boss Key
  • How to Play Microsoft Adventure, the World’s First IBM PC Game
  • 40 Years Later: What Was it Like to Use an IBM PC in 1981?
  • The First Website: How the Web Looked 30 Years Ago
  • Remembering Radio Shack’s Windows Competitor: Tandy DeskMate
  • Why Do Mice Have Scroll Wheels? Microsoft Intellimouse Turns 25
  • From Idea to Icon: 50 Years of the Floppy Disk
  • How to Install Windows 3.1 on an iPad
  • How “The Print Shop” Turned People into Banner Wizards in the 1980s
  • How Quake Shook the World: Quake Turns 25
  • A Visual History of Windows Icons: From Windows 1 to 11
  • A Successful Failure: The TI-99/4A Turns 40
  • Macintosh System 1: What Was Apple’s Mac OS 1.0 Like?
  • What Is Shareware, and Why Was It So Popular in the 1990s?
  • What Are Teletypes, and Why Were They Used with Computers?
  • What Is a “Computer Bug,” and Where Did the Term Come From?
  • The First PC to Sell Millions: Commodore VIC-20 Turns 40
  • Did You Know? Microsoft Made a Kids’ Word Processor in the 1990s
  • What Is a CRT, and Why Don’t We Use Them Anymore?
  • What Does “Burning a CD” Mean?
  • The 6 Worst Versions of Windows, Ranked
  • How to Run Windows 3’s File Manager in Windows 10
  • What’s the Best Way to Buy a Vintage Computer?
  • What Was CP/M, and Why Did It Lose to MS-DOS?
  • The 10 Greatest Versions of Windows, Ranked
  • Dogs, Dinosaurs, and Wine: The Lost CD-ROMs of Microsoft
  • Why Were Old Video Games So Pixelated?
  • Before Fortnite, There Was ZZT: Meet Epic’s First Game
  • Where Did the Numeric Keypads on PC Keyboards Come From?
  • Did You Know? The GPS Triangle Cursor Comes From Atari’s Asteroids
  • From Keen to Doom: id Software’s Founders Talk 30 Years of Gaming History
  • What Was Windows CE, and Why Did People Use It?
  • 25 Years of Making Connections With USB (After Three Attempts)
  • What Was the “Game Genie” Cheat Device, and How Did It Work?


  • 30 Years of Vorticons: How Commander Keen Changed PC Gaming
  • Why Do Keyboards Have a Windows Key? Here’s Where It Started
  • 35 Years of Microsoft Windows: Remembering Windows 1.0
  • Why Did ’90s PCs Have Keyhole Locks, and What Did They Do?
  • Before Mac OS X: What Was NeXTSTEP, and Why Did People Love It?
  • A Vintage Atari Is an Amazing Weather Terminal in 2020
  • 7 Nostalgic Halloween Websites from the ’90s and 2000s
  • What Was BeOS, and Why Did People Love It?
  • 5 Creepy Retro PC Games to Play This Halloween
  • 30 Years of ‘Minesweeper’ (Sudoku with Explosions)
  • Remembering GeoCities, the 1990s Precursor to Social Media
  • What Was IBM’s OS/2, and Why Did It Lose to Windows?
  • 20 Years Later: How the Mac OS X Public Beta Saved the Mac
  • Remember BBSes? Here’s How You Can Visit One Today
  • Windows 95 Turns 25: When Windows Went Mainstream
  • Why 2020 Is the Perfect Time to Revisit IRC
  • The History of Caps Lock: Why Does the Caps Lock Key Exist?
  • The CDs You Burned Are Going Bad: Here’s What You Need to Do
  • Virtually Forgotten: Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, 25 Years Later
  • The Web Before the Web: A Look Back at Gopher
  • Why Did the Turbo Button Slow Down Your PC in the ’90s?
  • Deja Vu: A Brief History of Every Mac CPU Architecture
  • Remembering Windows 2000, Microsoft’s Forgotten Masterpiece
  • Why Notepad Is Still Awesome for Taking Notes
  • How to Make Your Scroll Lock Key Useful on a Windows 10 PC
  • How the Gravis PC GamePad Transformed PC Gaming in the ’90s
  • Windows 3.0 Is 30 Years Old: Here’s What Made It Special
  • 40 Years Later, ‘Pac-Man’ Is Still Capturing Our Hearts
  • Why Did Dial-Up Modems Make So Much Noise?
  • How to Read a Floppy Disk on a Modern PC or Mac
  • Why I Still Use a 34-Year-Old IBM Model M Keyboard
  • The Best Retro Easter Eggs in Windows and Microsoft Office
  • How to Play Classic “Doom” in Widescreen on Your PC or Mac
  • How to Write an Apple II BASIC Program in Your Web Browser
  • How Apple’s 2020 iPad Pro Compares to the 1994 Trackpad Mac
  • Text-Based VR: Explore the Pioneering World of MUSHes
  • What Is the Konami Code, and How Do You Use it?
  • Even 25 Years Later, the Iomega Zip Is Unforgettable

New tech history is being created every day, and future tech historians will definitely have their hands full untangling this complex and rapidly-changing era. I’ll miss my friends at How-To Geek, but they’ll still keep writing great stuff for you. So keep reading, and stay safe out there! Benj Edwards out.

Next Post

College football odds, picks, predictions for Aug. 27, 2022: Computer simulation fading Illinois in Week 0

A Big Ten rivalry and an SEC school heading to Hawaii highlight the list of 11 college football games taking place on Saturday, Aug. 27. Nebraska vs. Northwestern at 12:30 p.m. ET is the only Power-5 matchup on the Week 0 college football schedule, and the Wildcats will look to […]
College football odds, picks, predictions for Aug. 27, 2022: Computer simulation fading Illinois in Week 0