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Twelve Years of Tech 'Aha!' Moments

It has been a fun and incredible ride.

James Temple for Re/code

Over the years, a lot of people have asked me how I got into tech journalism. The truth is, it was a complete accident.

When a small trade publication called Law Office Computing in Orange County, Calif., first offered me an associate editor position, I didn’t know anything about technology.

I bought my computers based on price and design, and was content to use the software that came with it. CPU, GPU, RAM — what’s that? I only got a cellphone because my family foisted my cousin’s old Motorola StarTac on me after I got into a serious car accident.

Then, something happened: As I started using that StarTac, all I could think was, “This is so cool! I can text all my friends and call them anytime I want!”

I’ve had a lot of those “aha!” tech moments since then. I’ve been lucky enough to dive deep into tech and write about it for the past 12 years, at amazing publications like CNET, AllThingsD and Re/code.

I’ve learned a tremendous amount and worked with some of the most brilliant people in the business.

But after doing this for so many years, I’m ready for a new adventure. I’ve decided to move on from tech reviews, and this will be my last column for Re/code. I’ll announce my next move at another time, but for my final column, I hope you’ll indulge me as I recount a few of the more memorable product launches I’ve covered, and the things I’ll miss and won’t miss about reviewing tech products.

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

For the greater part of my career, I have tested and reviewed smartphones, and a lot of handsets crossed my desk, from the Motorola Q to the Nokia E90 Communicator to the T-Mobile G1. (Remember the Microsoft Kin? Yeah …)

There’s one phone in particular that I will never forget: The Palm Pre.

The Pre launch was memorable for a couple of reasons. For one, Palm made a ridiculous rule that no one could touch the device — not even to adjust the angle of the phone for a photo. I was in Orlando, and blame it on the humidity or lack of sleep, but after being told “no touching” one too many times, I completely lost it. (I thought for sure I was going to win a Pulitzer for that one.)

But it was also more memorable because I was really excited about webOS. It was different from anything at the time, and it had smart features that could give Apple and Google a run for their money. But alas, it was too little, too late. To this day I’m bummed that webOS never took off.

Most recently, I was blown away by the HTC Vive virtual-reality headset. VR wasn’t something that was even on my radar as a consumer. Why would I want to sit in a room and put on a pair of goggles to visit a virtual environment, when I can go outside and enjoy the real world? Then I tried the Vive, and I got it.

Bonnie Cha

The experience of feeling like you’re actually exploring a shipwreck, or walking around a piece of art that you just drew, was pretty eye-opening. I may not be ready to buy one, but I’m excited to see where the category is headed.

As thrilling as it was to cover some of the biggest product launches, like the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy S6, I also loved discovering amazing products from smaller, little-known companies.

Pixel Press brought out my inner child with its paper-to-digital video game creation app. Pact still keeps me going to the gym on a regular basis. Hotel Tonight has saved my butt a number of times.

It wasn’t just products, either. Like many people who remember where they were when a major news event happened, I remember exactly what I was doing during big tech events. During the launch of the first iPhone, I was vacationing in Italy, but I remember thinking I wasn’t convinced I was going to give up my BlackBerry Bold yet. I mean, why would I want to give up my physical keyboard for an all-screen phone?

AT&T and T-Mobile’s merger announcement? I was shopping at Bed, Bath & Beyond on the Upper West Side. When the news broke that Steve Jobs had passed away, I was on a plane from New York to San Francisco, and felt a desperate need to be connected to the news during my Wi-Fi-less flight.

I suspect I’m going to feel that way the next time there’s another major tech announcement. It’s going to be weird to wake up and not feel the urgent need to scour headlines or Twitter to see what I missed overnight — though part of me looks forward to that, too.

I’ll certainly miss my colleagues and peers, and the buzz and camaraderie of the newsroom during breaking news events. I’ll miss going mini-golfing and stand-up paddle boarding to test action cameras for “work,” as well as freaking out my co-workers with a telepresence robot. I’ll even miss angry emails from readers — or, more accurately, responding to angry emails in a nice, civil manner.

I probably won’t miss conducting 10-hour battery tests (or falling asleep during battery tests, as any reviewer can understand), trying not to get trampled during the running of the tech journalists at events, heeding senseless embargoes and the annual insanity of the International CES in Vegas.

I’m excited for my next step, and separately, I’m excited to see what Re/code and its new sister site, the Verge, will do, separately and in collaboration, now that they have common ownership.

I’m also thankful to all the readers who have read my reviews throughout the years, who have shared those “aha!” moments in technology with me.

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