End of a glorious eight-year affair

By the time you read this, I will no longer be part of this wonderful weekly tech publication. Yesterday marked my last day with The Straits Times as its digital editor, ending my eight-year affair with the other love of my life, after my wife and three girls.

It has been a privilege to serve our readers as a tech journalist, and then as editor of the longest-running tech publication in Singapore. Computer Times began over 20 years ago, before morphing into Digital Life and, now, The Straits Times Digital.

There has never been a dull moment these past eight years, as I discovered new innovations, toys and plenty of video games to keep me engaged. It wasn't just the gizmos, as I was at the heart of the tech happenings here, and took a front-row seat in many events that affected the industry.

How can I forget breaking the news that the Media Development Authority had banned a game for having a lesbian sex scene? Mass Effect had its ban lifted just a week later, as gamers here united with a single voice of reason.

The Government listened and allowed the game to be sold under the M18 rating, and this incident set the stage for a lighter approach towards sex in video games.

If you are a fan of Conan, Dragon Age, Witcher and the Mass Effect series, you should know that history was created back in 2000.

I am grateful to my bosses for giving me the opportunity to move from being a soldier to a general, first as deputy to Grace Chng - still the longest-serving tech journalist in Singapore - for four years, and as leader of The Straits Times tech team for three more years.

I have never really been a leader, being content to do my own thing. But it has been a glorious experience, working with my equally tech-crazy colleagues who derived immense pleasure from reviewing the latest gadgets and organising fantastic giveaways for our loyal readers.

Like when my colleague Sherwin Loh pulled off the first of many reader giveaways in which 30 of our readers each won a set of the newly launched Samsung Galaxy Note 3, one day before the telcos were even allowed to deliver them to their pre-order customers.

The reason that vendors such as Samsung, LG, Sony, Dell and many more were prepared to cut special deals for our readers is simply that Digital Life, and now The Straits Times Digital, remains one of the most, if not the most, influential tech publications here.

Spending hours with Irene Tham - who succeeds me as tech editor - strategising on how to negotiate with difficult newsmakers, and debating the strongest news angle, has been extremely pleasurable for my grey cells, especially since she did all the writing.

To Trevor Tan, I am indebted for his photography lessons and all things Apple. Alas, the first remains my Achilles' heel as I am quite happy just pointing and shooting. The second remains a closed ecosystem which I dislike, and don't even get me started on their latest music streaming service.

I am also indebted to Vincent Chang, whom I hired to take over my role as the PC guy, for his disciplined benchmarking tests, which allowed me to enjoy life a bit more, as I watched him run daily battery-life tests.

I never imagined I would one day helm a publication that reaches out to more than a million readers weekly. I studied law, worked as a litigation lawyer for four years, then as a lecturer for a further three years before I threw caution to the wind and switched careers at the age of 31.

I still remember why I did it. I was an avid gamer and spent more time conquering the lands of China in Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, as well as the fiefs of Japan in Nobunaga's Ambition, than I did reading up on the inexplicably never-ending supply of case law that my lecturers handed me.

I could not afford my own PC in the early 1990s so I had to rely on the public desktops strewn across the three different libraries at the National University of Singapore.

Those PCs did not even have a hard disk , so I had to insert the MS-DOS operating system floppy disk to boot up the system, and then switch to the program disks to run my favourite games.

The problem with the MS-DOS disk provided by the libraries was that it did not have enough "free memory" for me to run many of my more resource-hungry games. So I spent plenty of time researching how to rewrite the configuration file for MS-DOS, so that I could free up more memory to play Civilization and other games.

During my lecturing days at Temasek Polytechnic, I had plenty of time in between lessons to mark scripts and prepare for the next lessons, but I used most of the time surfing Tom's Hardware, Anandtech and Hardware Zone than trying to figure out creative ways to better engage my young wards in the ways of the law.

In 2000, I saw a newspaper advertisement for a new publication called Project Eyeball, which was hiring tech journalists.

I applied for the position but was told that I was too old. Fortunately, The Straits Times was starting a new Tech & Science desk and was looking at mid-career hires, so I joined, and the rest is history.

I have now gone over to what journalists call "the dark side", and have started a new public relations agency for vendors and brands.

I am still unsure if this is the right step to take and, maybe one day, I will regret moving away from the wonderful and action-packed life I have lived as a tech journalist.

But it is too late for regrets. I leave you, my readers, in the hands of The Straits Times Digital team, who I am confident will continue to deliver top-notch reviews and exciting breaking news for all of us to savour, in the years ahead.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'End of a glorious eight-year affair'. Print Edition | Subscribe