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Paul Somerson ’73

May 25, 2018, in Providence, Rhode Island.

An award-winning writer, Paul was an editor for PC Magazine in the 1980s, publisher and editorial director of MacUser, and the editor-in-chief of PC/Computing from 1991 to 2000.

He was born in Philadelphia and majored in psychology at Reed, where he wrote his thesis, “The Effect of N₂O on Laughter Responses to Grotesque and Obscene Stimuli: A Graphic Analysis of Psychological Change,” advised by Prof. Les Squier [psychology 1953–88].

John Dickinson held a number of roles at PC Magazine and credited Paul with playing a crucial role in making the magazine successful after it was acquired by Ziff-Davis.

“His key contribution was his insistence that PCs should be fun as well as useful and that the magazine should be composed of great writing,” Dickinson said. “His ideas for feature articles were wonderful, and his own writing so good that copy editors were afraid to touch them.”

Bill Howard, a columnist and executive editor of the magazine, recalled that “Paul was the classic New York City editor: brilliant, mercurial, proud of every word he wrote.”

PC/Computing won a national magazine award in 1999 for an issue on “Undocumented Internet Secrets.”

Paul wrote the bestselling book DOS Power Tools, a primer for users struggling to understand their PCs. Filled with tips and techniques, the book was easily understood and sold nearly a million copies.

He left PC Magazine to help found MacUser and work on the UK version of PC Magazine, and then became editor-in-chief of PC/Computing. “Many of his ideas that would not fit into the business-serious mold that came to define PC Magazine became the foundation of PC/Computing,” Dickinson said.

Paul helped create a usability lab at PC/Computing, recruiting users of different skill levels to test hardware and software. Torture tests were devised to see whether keyboards would survive coffee, water, and soda spills.

After leaving Ziff-Davis in 2001, Paul established an antiques business specializing in early 20th-century American Arts and Crafts metal objects. Objects from his collection will be part of an exhibition on Arts and Crafts design at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts opening in November 2018.

A kind and intelligent man of broad interests, Paul savored good writing, great jokes, lively conversation, excellent food, and walks on the beaches of Westport. He was never happier than when he was home with family and his dogs, Ziggy and Coco, his parrot, Katie, and his cat, Simon. Paul is survived by his wife, Terry; his son, Sam; and his sister, Rosanne

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2018

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