33 Years of TidBITS: Handcrafted Content from Humans

Originally published at: 33 Years of TidBITS: Handcrafted Content from Humans - TidBITS

In honor of the 33rd anniversary of TidBITS, Adam Engst explains the last six months of changes, including the departure of managing editor Josh Centers and an increased focus on sharing solutions to personal tech problems.


Universe Today made the same decision regarding AI. It’s the reason I’ll stick around.

Still, it will be interesting to see where AI will get us in the end ;-).

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Always enjoy your writings. Holy cow! 33 years, way to go.


So thankful for all you have communicated and taught. I’ve been reading you most of the 33 years. TibBITS has always been my polestar for anything Apple/Mac. I began with my first Apple in February 1984, and struggled for any help and direction. Having stuck with it now almost 40 years, I know I could not have done so without TidBITS and my giant TCO books collection. As a side note, one of our children got bit by the Apple and has been an Apple engineer for about 15 years. Thanks, Adam.


Congratulations! The recent articles you cite – and indeed this one too – are the reason I’ve been reading TidBITS from the very beginning. Personal perspective is exactly what makes the publication stand out. More, please.


Congratulations on 33 years.

WRT ChatGPT, I’d be very careful with it. As I’m sure you’ve already read in the news, it often suffers from hallucinations. That is, it will produce text that is grammatically correct and seems plausible, but is flat-out wrong. In many cases, it will even generate bogus citations to back up its claims.

Although it might seem like a convenience to assist in writing articles, I think it may end up making your job harder, because you will need to fact-check literally everything it tells you.


I had noticed, and quite enjoyed, the recent shift in tone. Glad to hear the story behind it.

'Grats on 33 years; looking forward to many more.


As a former newsletter editor and a stint as a conglomerator of aerospace news, I can attest that readers appreciate the human touch in what they read. AI can regurgitate, but it does not invent, and that will always distinguish the human from the machine.

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Nice going Adam and co.

Almost at 33⅓, so here’s a somewhat broken record as a sort-of, erm, prize:

Now to 45!


Adam! Thirty-three years … wow! Congratulations, and keep up the good work.


I have been using ChatGPT recently for quick instructions on how to do things (i.e. find items buried in Settings) and it generally does a great job and is better than a search engine, giving you a quick 1-2-3 answer versus having to try to skim several article hits for the details (and most articles seem to hide the answer deep in the text to force you to scroll through a bunch of ads).

This is great when I’m helping someone else with their tech and I don’t have the same OS version as them or I’m doing something else and can’t mimic their actions to remind me exactly which buttons to push. I can just forward them the AI’s precise instructions.

The thought had occurred to me that such simple how-tos could eliminate the need for tech publications, which are often how-to articles.

However, sometimes the AI is wrong: I recently asked it how to turn off Slideover on my mom’s iPad as she’d accidentally activated it and it told me to turn off a “multitasking” switch in Settings that wasn’t there. (I finally figured out on my own that you have to close all the Slideover windows to turn it off.)

Secondly, since AI’s are trained on existing websites that provide such information, what happens when all such articles are no longer being written because everyone is just using an AI to get the info? Then the AI’s info is dated/wrong/made-up and it becomes useless or a liability, and the demand for human-written articles goes back up? I’m not sure I see a long-term future in that.

As a near contemporary, I feel much the same way you do about news, scoops, rumors, next-big-things; blah. As a reader, I feel the same way I always did about your publication, which is what fascinating thing have I found? What obscure problem can I figure out? Look at this: this is cool/useful/saves time/secures my data. And so on.

All the voices in TidBits have been pretty useful and I value them all. The years of invaluable, life-changing, urgent advice to help make our Macs connect to the internet still inspire my gratitude, but the many more years of just listening to the conversation keep me a member.


The problem with generative language models like ChatGPT is that there is no actual intelligence (which is why I hate the term “AI”). None whatsoever. It doesn’t understand anything about your question or its answer.

It generates sequences of words and phrases that have a high probability of following each other, based on the very large corpus of text on which it was trained.

If you ask it something where the answer appears many times with some consistency in its training, then you might get good data. If you ask it something that doesn’t appear in its training, or appears with inconsistent results, then the odds of getting something useful is going to be much less.

Which is why it can do things like create bogus citations for statements. Because some of its training consists of articles with citations, and citations in general follow a small number of well-defined forms. But the actual text is virtually random, within the form, because that requires actual understanding, which it doesn’t have.

Adam, Please keep up the good job you are doing. I have been following TidBITS since the beginning. At the time I worked for Digital Equipment Corp. and was helping support our internal users with the Rainbow. At the same time, there were pockets of groups that were using the Macintosh for CAD/CAM work and because of my nosy nature I soon learned the Mac. Our daughter was going to college and we looked at the cost of the PCs and due to their high cost looked at the Macintosh SE. It was so easy to learn, I knew she’d like it and if she got in trouble, I could help. Currently, I’m retired, but still help a lot of friends with their Mac products. I have all of the TidBITS from #759 (13-Dec-04) on my system (for reference). My best to you and your staff!! Be Safe, Al


Adam, bravo :clap:. As a reader since the dawn of time, the work is much appreciated.

A podcast, yes, I think so, even monthly.


Congratulations. I had noticed and enjoyed the articles you’ve been writing, but had not stopped to think about what was happening behind the scenes. I’m an engineer who turned writer before having worked as an engineer; so I think a lot about how we write about technology. Maybe I’m looking into the engineering of writing. I like your analysis of when it’s time to upgrade; it’s the kind of thing I like to see because I find upgrading problematic. Too often upgrades break things, but waiting too long just makes more things break when I do make changes. And I enjoy the discussions here on Talk. Keep up the good work.


The direction you’re describing sounds pretty much like what I’ve valued most in TidBITS over the years, so I say well done and carry on. See you at renewal time in December!


Adam keep doin’ what ya doin’-it’s all good. I’ve been a fan before your kid arrived on Earth.Thanks


I’ve been reading TidBITS since the setext days. I’ve learned so much over the years, but in the past couple of years I’ve felt like TidBITS had gotten kind of meh. Many publications that used to give info and tips have faded away, and the few that are left are mostly made up rumors. (“See pictures of the iPhone 15!!”) I’ve trimmed my RSS feeds down to just a couple of sources.

I did notice a while back that I was enjoying reading tb again. While I doubt I’ll ever have the exact situation of trying to find a dead mouse in the laundry room, I now know an uncommon use of Airplay that could come in handy in some other situation I may encounter. This is the value that has kept me reading for 30 years. Glad to see that it is back.

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What a great piece of motivational writing! Congrats on finding this extension to your path of 33 years, and may you find much joy following it.