Rodney Lain Mourned By Many
Rodney Lain Death Certificate
From Wired News, available online at:
Popular Mac Columnist Mourned By Leander Kahney
2:00 a.m. June 19, 2002 PDT
One of the most dedicated and energetic boosters of the Macintosh is being mourned after committing suicide last Friday.
Rodney O. Lain, an online columnist known as the "Angry Mac Man" and the iBrotha, shot himself at his home in Eagan, Minnesota.
For the last few years, Lain, 34, had been treated for depression. Friends say he appears to have stopped taking his medication a few days before his death. Lain was found by his widow, Irma. The couple had no children.
Lain's death is being widely mourned in the online Mac community. Hundreds of people have posted messages of condolence on forums at the Mac Observer, MacAddict and MacNN, and eulogies have been published by former editors at AppleLinks, Low End Mac, MacObserver and MyMac.
"I'm amazed at how many people knew him," said friend Bill F. "I'm getting e-mails from editors and readers everywhere who loved his writing."
Lain, an African-American, was an indefatigable Mac evangelist, who styled himself as the "black Guy Kawasaki" after Apple's former pitch-man.
He gained a wide audience as a prolific and provocative Mac pundit. In the last few years he had been published by most of the major Mac related websites, including AppleLinks, AppleLust, MacAddict and Low End Mac. Much of Lain's writing is archived at his iBrotha website.
Lain held various full-time day jobs, but for six years, he also worked part-time at local computer superstores for the pure pleasure of preaching and selling Macs face-to-face.
"That was one of his outlets for evangelizing the Mac," said friend Juan Cabanela, an astrophysics professor at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. "It wasn't about money. He did it to meet people. He was an incredibly gregarious person. He liked to talk about Macs more than anything."
As a columnist, Lain was a passionate Mac advocate. But he also liked to court controversy. He was often critical of Apple and the Mac, a heretical attitude in the conformist Mac world. And like all good columnists, he wrote to provoke.
One piece entitled The Macintosh is the Nigger of the Computer Industry caused a storm of protest. In it, Lain compared Mac users to America's black underclass.
His writing earned him a large and dedicated audience on the Net. A small group of detractors even created an entire site devoted to ridiculing him and his articles.
"His passion seemed disturbing but also fascinating to watch from a hack-sociological perspective," said programmer Montgomery Gabrys, who helped create the T.E.M.P. site. "Vaulting computer users to civil rights martyrs was perverse enough to grab our attention."
Lain often used the Mac platform as a way of writing about issues like poverty, racism and politics. His columns were often prefaced with a quote from literature or popular culture.
Friends say Lain had a Masters degree in English literature and had taught at universities in Macon, Georgia, where he grew up, and St. Paul, Minnesota.
For the last couple years Lain worked full-time as a technical supervisor at United Parcel Service. But evenings and weekends, he had a second career in the Mac section of various computer superstores, earning a reputation as a star salesman. There are reports of customers leaving with basket-loads of merchandise.
"If I had 10 Rodney Lains, I wouldn't have to worry about anything," one of his CompUSA managers told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
Lain was hired full-time at Power On Software, a Mac software publisher, after one of the company's executives saw the way he worked a crowd of shoppers at CompuUSA.
"I saw Rodney and he was speaking with a whole group of customers," said Corey Johnson, Power On's operations manager. "He had gathered a crowd. His speaking skills were something to behold. He could really keep people's attention. He was selling Macs to several people there at the same time.
"It was like preaching. He was preaching the Mac gospel. He was showing them the light, which is something people don't get when they go into CompUSA. It was really quite something. When I saw that, I said we really have to hire this guy."
After working in tech support at Power On for about two years, Lain joined UPS. At the same time he sold Macs at Best Buy, CompUSA and Micro Center. Two weeks before his death he started a new job at Apple's store in Minneapolis' Mall of America, a position he had coveted.
"He will be sorely missed on this earth," said Johnson. "He was an incredible talent."
Before his association with of Mac community, Lain was active in various Christian churches.
"I've been a fanatic," he told Minnesota Public Radio. "I've been a mainstream church fanatic, I've been a fringe church fanatic. I've been all over that stuff. It helps me understand this Macintosh thing too. I know not to take it too seriously like some of the other people do. If Apple were to die today, I'd find something else to write about."
"Maybe (the Mac) is my religion," he added. "In a way, this is the serving and stuff I used to do when I was in the church. I was always one of the most active people; always the first to step up and do something. It's no different now. And I believe I can worship God by just helping people, and that's what I'm doing."
Lain's friend, Bill, said: "The Mac community gave him an outlet for his preaching tendencies. He was very involved in the Mac world. He told me he was too honest to be a preacher and that he loved Macs. It gave him something larger than himself to help him deal with his depression."
Bill said Lain had been on a manic-depressive cycle for a number of years. When he was up he was friendly, sociable and productive. But every few months he would withdraw and spend a week or so in bed.
"He had problems with depression going back to his youth," said Bill. "His father abandoned the family when he was young. He was raised in poverty and always told he would never amount to anything. Despite what was said, he did amount to something."
"What if all of Rodney's passion and devotion was put toward something else other than a computer company?" asked Gabrys. "Now, that truly could have changed the world."
Rodney Lain Death Certificate
Rodney Lain and Mark Flynn
Rodney Lain Mourned By Many
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