Jerry Pournelle, the first author to write a novel on a computer, dies at 84

By Shawn Knight ยท 4 replies
Sep 11, 2017
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  1. The technology and science fiction community recently lost one of their own as Jerry Eugene Pournelle died following a sudden illness on September 8. He was 84.

    Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1933, Pournelle served in the Korean War before attending the University of Washington where he ultimately received a Ph.D. in political science. Over the years, Pournelle became a well-known science fiction writer, journalist and technology advocate.

    Pournelle is perhaps best known for being the first major author to write a published novel exclusively on a computer.

    In an interview with The Verge last year, Pournelle said a friend sold him on the idea of purchasing a computer in 1977 after demonstrating Electric Pencil (the first world processor for home computers).

    The software may have been primitive with only 14 lines of 64 characters on a monochrome monitor the size of a small black and white TV but Pournelle was hooked. At $12,000, the machine was far from affordable although Pournelle said the ability to correct typos electronically versus doing so by hand and retyping an entire manuscript via typewriter was worth it.

    “I earned back the $12,000 investment in under a year just with increased sales,” he said.

    Pournelle wrote on his blog just a day earlier that he had just returned from DragonCon with both a cold and the flu. He was supposed to attend the 20th Annual International Mars Society Convention over the weekend but decided to skip it because he “didn’t feel up to it.”

    Image courtesy Roland Dobbins, Flickr

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  2. Tanstar

    Tanstar TS Evangelist Posts: 656   +200

    I've read several of his works that he collaborated with Larry Niven on. "The Mote in God's Eye" is one of my all time favorite sci-fi books.
  3. Fimbulvetr

    Fimbulvetr TS Member Posts: 18   +21

    I recall regularly reading his 'Chaos Manor' column in BYTE magazine back in the day. RIP Mr. Pournelle.
  4. GreenNova343

    GreenNova343 TS Maniac Posts: 263   +162

    Yes, that was an excellent "hard" sci-fi novel. I remember reading that one as a kid & loved it.

    Sad to see one of the classic masters go.
  5. JuliusJ

    JuliusJ TS Rookie

    Loved his work especially all those collaborations with Larry Niven

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