Thomas Pabst, Founder (1996 - 2001; Chairman through 2008)
Tom's Hardware: What are some of the highlights that you recall from your time at the helm of Tom’s Hardware from an industry happening standpoint?
Dr. Thomas Pabst: Considering that Tom’s Hardware was founded in 1996, the first big thing for me that happened in the computer hardware industry was most certainly 3D-acceleration. In the beginning, there was only 3dfx and its Voodoo accelerator that was truly able to improve gaming experience. Nvidia caught up with 3dfx within a few years, though, and shortly after that 3dfx vanished. It took ATi, later acquired by AMD, quite a while until it was able to hold a candle to Nvidia.
Other than that, I would say the birth of AMD’s Athlon CPU was a big thing, as it created true competition with Intel.
Flat screens have changed more than just the world of computing or home entertainment, but who would see them as a highlight today? We are used to them. Without them, no smartphones or tablets.
I find it amusing that I am sitting here, wondering why I am only able to list so few items. I attended so many launch events and yet none really stuck in memory. It shows how transient computer hardware happens to be, and how most supposedly big advances turned out being reasonably meaningless in the end.
TH: What about from an internal Tom’s point of view — here I’m talking about milestones or significant achievements on a brand level?
TP: Thank you for this question! It is an easy one. There are many memorable moments, but the big milestones were joining Pair Networks; the first "real world" 3D benchmark; my two big battles with Intel, each of which got me into U.S. headlines; and my epic pieces about AMD's Athlon and Nvidia's GeForce 3.
August 1996: An important moment for the very young Tom’s Hardware Guide was joining Pair Network, based in Pittsburgh, as our hosting service. Kevin Martin's business grew alongside Tom's Hardware and provided us with the best web hosting we could have possibly wished for. In the beginning, we operated from a mere server share, but the rapid increase in readership quickly required a dedicated server and increased to a sizeable 2-digit number of dedicated servers within a few years. Kevin’s team always stood closely by our side, and we never had an outage despite plenty of cyber attacks for the whole 11 years that I ran Tom’s Hardware.
- November 3, 1996: Tom's Monster Truck Madness Frame Rate Benchmark
- March 10, 1997: Tom's Blurb: Intel's Press Incident and What Else You Should Know
- March 12, 1997: New York Times: Dispute Over Unauthorized Reviews Leaves Intel Embarrassed
- August 9, 1999: The New Athlon Processor: AMD Is Finally Overtaking Intel
- August 28, 2000: Windows IT Pro: CPU embarrassment: Intel recalls Pentium III 1.13GHz & Intel Admits Problems With Pentium III 1.13 GHz: Production and Shipments Halted
- February 27, 2001: High-Tech And Vertex Juggling - Nvidia's New GeForce3 GPU
Besides that, I'd list the baptism of what was initially dubbed "Tom's Roadrunner Page" to "Tom's Hardware Guide" in 1996.
I could talk about technicalities, like the introduction of Tom's News and new areas like networking or games, but to be honest, the world of publication is extremely simple. If you want to increase your readership, publish ground breaking, unafraid and truly meaningful articles. It's what gives you international recognition and TV coverage, and it will make people want to read more of your stuff.
TH: What are some of the technologies that excite you most today? What do you think holds the most promise?
TP: I have learned being skeptical, and the frighteningly antisocial effect of the most significant advance in recent years -- the smartphone -- has proven that progress often comes at a price.
Right now, I am very curious about VR, but while it may provide an experience that surpasses everything that's been there before, it turns people into deprived zombies, even worse than the smartphone already has.
What is exciting, naturally not without worries, are the new opportunities for personal mobility, may it be self-driving cars or self-flying personal aircrafts.
While VR will merely be a stepping stone, hopefully surpassed by a less antisocial and weird-looking interface, self-moving vehicles are most certainly the future, especially for metropolitan areas.
TH: Are there areas where you feel as if the hardware technology providers are failing?
TP: The industry is divided in very few truly innovative businesses, and then [into] a myriad of companies that sneakily wait for others to have the courage of bringing real novelties to the market so that they can make their very own "me too" product. It's a sad situation, but look at Tom's Hardware's history and all the "me too" hardware websites that came up a few years later. It's human nature. There are few with vision, and many simply driven by jealousy and greed.
Other than that, I truly wonder if the classic IT hardware providers are even interested in what the people out there actually need or want, or if they rather try pushing one thing after another down customer’s throats. Today, being nothing but a normal consumer, I feel as if the best thing I can do is wait that the "something" that I want or need will miraculously appear. The alternative seems to be entering the production circus and simply creating what you so badly want by yourself. You might as well find plenty of others who were waiting for the very same thing, too.
TH: What are you up to now?
TP: Since I sold Tom’s Hardware, I moved to Asia -- to be exact, Singapore, which had been something I wanted to do since 1998 and should have done much sooner. I got married and am the proud dad of two little sons, Ciarán and Conor. I have since 2009 been working on a new platform for product information that does not have the shortcomings and possible flaws of classic publishing. If it is one thing that I learned when running Tom’s Hardware, it is the issues some readers have, should they be of fundamentally differing opinion. I want to create a source of information that leaves no room for doubts or accusations, which is a win for all -- the readers as well as the information providers. I have countless new ideas, but this is my true pièce de résistance. It is time to look for investors now.