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C H U C K
H O W I T T
with Amanda Lang
"Luck is the residue of design."
Chuck and business journalist/broadcaster Amanda Lang discuss how the University of Waterloo's burgeoning computer science department and innovative co-op program drew young entrepreneur and RIM founder Mike Lazaridis to the Region in 1979. Also considered is the origin and nature of the long-standing synergetic relationship between RIM/BlackBerry and the Kitchener-Waterloo tech sector. In addition, Chuck shares some background on the unique local perspective offered by BlackBerry Town setting it apart from the galaxy of books and articles covering the rise, fall, and re-birth of BlackBerry.
"License to be Radical"
Business to Business
with Ian McLean and Greg Durocher
In this first of a two-part interview (Broadcast, Nov. 17, 2019) Chuck and host Ian McLean consider the role the University of Waterloo played in establishing the foundation for the development of the KW tech sector. The discussion focuses on the contributions made by UW's visionary computer science pioneer Wes Graham and how his groundbreaking co-op program and progressive intellectual property policies attracted talented young entrepreneurs like Mike Lazaridis to the Region in the 1970s.
Note: This conversation begins at 24:47 and is preceded by an interview with Canadian Chamber of Congress President & CEO Perrin Beatty.
"Best Little Tech Sector"
The second part of the interview (Broadcast, Nov. 24, 2019): Chuck relates how RIM's relationships with Mobitex, Ted Rogers, and Bell South combined with Jim Balsillie's "guerilla sales tactics" contributed to the meteoric rise of the BlackBerry in the late 1990s and throughout the first decade of the 21st century. Chuck goes on to explain that despite BackBerry's eventual decline the tech giant's enduring halo effect nevertheless served to establish a spawning ground for KW's thriving tech sector.
Deep Dive Five
In this interview (Broadcast in early December, 2019) Chuck and his former KW Record colleague Mike Hammond discuss RIM/BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis's passion for quantum computing. Chuck traces Lazaridis's fascination with the subject back to his student days at U of W under the tutelage of Prof. Lynn Watt who first introduced him to quantum mechanics. Chuck and Mike speculate that Lazaridis's near-obsession with quantum computing distracted him from developing BlackBerry technology that would rival that of Apple's iPhone.
The Quantum Menace: Entangled in Quantum Computing
The interview is also included as part of another program focusing on quantum computing's role in the development of blockchain technology, crucial to cryptocurrency.
It's the People Behind the Business
In a wide-ranging interview (Posted on October 29, 2019) Chuck and John Francis, owner and operator of KW recruitment firm Theonera, discuss what inspired Chuck as a financial reporter and how BlackBerry Town came to be written. Chuck relates that it is the human aspects - motivation, capacity for taking chances, passion - that intrigue him most about entrepreneurs and comments that these qualities are what he emphasized in BlackBerry Town. Chuck and John also consider how hubris, complacency, and failure to fully nurture the consumer electronic aspects of the BlackBerry lead to the company's downfall. Chuck also offers some glimpses into the difficulties experienced by authors who are marketing their own works and shares his informed opinion on what success means to passionate entrepreneurs.
First aired February 4th, 2020, this segment was prompted by news that BB's manufacturer will no longer be making its once-ubiquitous mobile devices. Chuck reminisces about RIM/BlackBerry's colourful heyday, shares his informed opinion on the reasons for the company's downfall, and reflects on the present and future of BlackBerry.
It was a Magical Time in the Region
"Connecting the Dots that Created the Ecosystem"
BlackBerry Town: Q&A with Author Chuck Howitt (Sept, 29, 2019): In this interview with Communitech News' Craig Daniels, Chuck relates how BlackBerry Town morphed from a personal memoir to a history of the people and enterprises that created KW’s thriving tech ecosystem. Chuck also shares some of the surprises that he encountered in researching the evolution of this “Silicon Valley of the North” and identifies the University of Waterloo as one of the continuing driving forces in making KW a Mecca for aspiring tech entrepreneurs.
Not Just Another Avro Arrow
Telling The Story of BlackBerry Town (Sept, 2, 2019): Record reporter James Jackson provides a comprehensive overview of BlackBerry Town. .Jackson notes Chuck's detailed treatment of the factors endemic to KW (particularly UW) that contributed to the rise of RIM/BlackBerry and his account of the proliferation of tech companies that developed and thrived in part because of BB's "halo effect". Chuck's consideration of the company's lasting legacy to the Region is also discussed. Finally, Jackson explores Chuck's description of the fraught relationship between the local tech giant and the hometown newspaper owing to Record reporter Matt Walcoff's frank, revealing, and critical reporting (which inspired Chuck to write the book) that oft times would jangle nerves in RIM's executive suites.
Waterloo As BlackBerry Town by Chuck Howitt (Oct. 21, 2019): In this interview Chuck relates how Waterloo's tech sector was firmly established by the time RIM was founded. Chuck also comments on KW's global reputation as tech hub, and shares his thoughts on the current state of KW's tech incubator community.
Martin de Groot
00:00 / 12:23
00:00 / 26:04
In part one of this two-part interview (first aired June 23, 2020 on Martin de Groot’s Promenade Show) Chuck takes us through the six-year odyssey that lead to the publication of BlackBerry Town. Martin and Chuck also discuss the factors contributing to both the rise and fall of BlackBerry/RIM; the emergence of KW as “Silicon Valley North" is also considered.
Part two looks at Chuck’s current projects and includes an insider’s perspective on the current state and possible future of responsible journalism. Note: The “Mirko” mentioned in this discussion is Mirko Petricevic, Chuck’s former colleague at The Record, who is leading a campaign to support local journalism.
Kate George interview editedPromenade 2
00:00 / 34:24
Chuck and Robert Reid, author of Casting into Mystery (illustrated with engravings by Wesley Bates), hold forth on the trials, challenges, and unexpected advantages of book publishing in the time of covid.
Although fortunate to have launched BlackBerry Town before covid hit, Chuck explains how subsequently he’s had to deal with covid-related postponements or cancelled bookstore signings and speaking engagements and how social media technology such as Zoom have served to pick up the slack.
Rob describes how although covid hampered Casting into Mystery’s launch he quickly adapted to the new normal's transformation of book promotion from a sprint to a marathon. Rob explains how, playing the long game, he and Wesley Bates have used social media and literary and fly fishing networks to promote their work in the U.S. as well as in Canada.
It’s radio with pictures! (First aired November 30, 2020)
Aspiring journalists, especially those with a penchant for financial reporting, will want to pull up a chair for Chuck’s first “multimedia” foray. In a wide-ranging conversation with CKMS radio host Bob Jonkman Chuck takes the listener on a tour of the nitty-gritty grunt work required to produce the well-researched, clearly-written, journalistic gem that is BlackBerry Town. Of particular interest is Chuck’s account of his use of RIM/BlackBerry quarterly earnings conference call transcripts in crafting the narrative and his lucid explanation of the back-dated stock option “scandal” that plagued RIM from 2004 to 2007.
On the subject of RIM/Blackberry’s fall from grace, Chuck attributes the titan’s discomfiture to a combination of “inside” and “outside” factors. The former consisting of complacency, and distractions from the sidelines such as the Perimeter Institute and CIGI, while the latter took the form of increasingly threatening competition from Apple and Google.
Kitchener-Waterloo From Factory To High-Tech Hub (Fall 2020): Howitt goes to college!
On November 27th, 2020 (Not Feb., as stated in the article). Chuck gave a Zoomklatsch talk to members of the WLU Retirees' Association. The article summarizes the talk, providing background into BlackBerry Town's origins, and presents some of the book's highlights.
This Number is No Longer in Service: Farewell to the BlackBerry (Jan. 4, 2022): Clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, wax cylinders, to these we can add the BlackBerry as a communications medium consigned to the recycling bin of history. BlackBerry announces that as of Jan. 4th, 2022 BlackBerry operating systems will no longer be supported by the company. Chuck explains that Apples and Androids coupled with hubris were the “Crackberry’s” undoing but reminds us, nevertheless, that the usurpers would not have seen the light of day without the seminal BB.
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