Robert X. Cringely

Robert X. Cringely is the pen name of both technology journalist Mark Stephens and a string of writers for a column in InfoWorld, the one-time weekly computer trade newspaper published by IDG.

Robert X. Cringely
Cringely delivers the keynote speech at the 2006 CODI Conference in Salt Lake City.
Mark Stephens

(1953-01-28) January 28, 1953
EducationBA, College of Wooster, 1975
MA, Stanford University
OccupationJournalist, Technology writer
Known forInfoWorld column
Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition and Still Can't Get a Date
Mineserver Project on Kickstarter
Spouse(s)Mary Alyce


Mark Stephens was the third author to contribute to Infoworld under the Cringely pseudonym, the first two being Rory J. O'Connor and then Laurie Flynn. The original column, the first computer "gossip" column, was started by Mark Garetz and called According to Garetz; it was later taken over by John Dvorak. During Stephens' lengthy tenure (1987–1995), the character of Cringely changed dramatically (morphing from a private eye type to a slick, womanizing tech insider) and became an increasingly popular tech pundit after he published the book Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition and Still Can't Get a Date (1992, ISBN 0-88730-855-4).

After a financial disagreement in 1995, Stephens was dismissed from Infoworld and was promptly sued by IDG to prevent him from continuing to use the Cringely trademark. A settlement was reached out of court that allowed him to use the name, so long as he did not contribute to competing technology magazines. continued to publish the "Robert X. Cringely" Notes From the Field column as a blog, written by technology journalist Daniel Tynan until August 3, 2015.[1]

Mark Stephens


Mark Stephens was born in 1953, in Apple Creek, Ohio.[2][3] He earned a bachelor's degree from the College of Wooster in Ohio[2] in 1975 and a Master's degree in Communication from Stanford University in 1979, where he also pursued work toward a doctorate. He has claimed he was employee #12 at Apple, Inc.,[4] though Daniel Kottke also claims this number.[5]

Stephens' writing as Robert X. Cringely regularly appears in publications such as Forbes, Newsweek, Success, The New York Times, Upside, and Worth. Stephens has also appeared as Cringely in two documentaries based on his writings: Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires (1996) and Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet (1998) and in a three-part documentary on PBS called Plane Crazy, in which he attempted to build an aircraft in 30 days and fly it when completed. As Cringely, Stephens produced and hosted an Internet television show called NerdTV (2005–06) for PBS and, until late 2008, wrote an online column for the PBS website called I, Cringely: The Pulpit. On November 14, 2008, Stephens announced that he would stop contributing columns to PBS as of that December 15. He indicated that the move was his own decision "and not that of PBS, which has been nothing but good to me these many years".[6] He also blogged for the Technology Evangelist site during 2007.[7]

Today, his writings can be found at his own I, Cringely site[8] and at Adam Smith's Money World.[9]

Personal life

Stephens and his wife, Mary Alyce,[10] have three sons, as of Christmas 2009: Channing, Cole, and Fallon. They moved from Charleston, South Carolina to Santa Rosa, California around the end of July 2011.[11]

On July 5, 2017, Stephens announced that he was effectively blind due to cataracts.[12] Although he suggested that his eyesight would be restored in 10 days, as of August 14, 2017, he claimed he was still blind.[13] On January 2, 2018, Stephens reported that his eye surgery was complete and that he could see again. [14]

On October 13, 2017, Stephens posted a photo of his home[15] taken as he and his family fled the Tubbs fire in Northern California. It is presumed that the home burned along with thousands of other homes.



In 1998, it was revealed[16][17][18] that Stephens had falsely claimed to have received a Ph.D. from Stanford University and to have been employed as a professor there. Stanford's administration stated that while Stephens had been a teaching assistant and had pursued course work toward a doctoral degree, he had never held a professorship nor had he been awarded the degree. Stephens then stated that while he had received a master's degree from the department of Communications and completed the classes and tests required for the Ph.D., he acknowledged that he failed to complete his dissertation. Asked about the resulting controversy, Stephens told a reporter: "[A] new fact has now become painfully clear to me: you don't say you have the Ph.D. unless you really have the Ph.D."[19]


Beginning on September 29, 2015, Stephens and his three sons ran a Kickstarter project to produce the Mineserver, a $99 custom Minecraft server.[20] The funding period ran until October 21, 2015 with a goal of raising $15,000. Stephens, as Cringely, promoted the project on his popular I, Cringely blog[21][22] and it raised more than double its goal, reaching $35,452 coming from 388 backers. The Mineservers were reportedly ready to ship, once parts were ordered and assembled, but a series of delays meant the devices were not shipped in time for Christmas and in fact, as of June 2, 2017 (More than a year and a half from the date the project was funded[23] and more than six months since the last Kickstarter update), backers were still waiting for their rewards and promised updates.[24]

On May 22, 2017, Stephens published an update on his personal blog[25] claiming that he had run out of money and had decided to turn the project into a startup. On January 2, 2018, Cringely announced that, while the Mineservers had been burned along with his home during the October 2017 Northern California wildfires, there would be "a spec update and a new shipping schedule in a couple more weeks."[26] In a comment on his personal blog dated May 21, 2018, Cringely announced that "every supporter will get their Mineserver before the end of this year."[27] As of Jan 1, 2019, backers of the Kickstarter project were still complaining of no Mineserver, and no further communication from Stephens.[28] On January 28, 2019, Stephens wrote that he was trying to find an investor to revive the Mineserver business, but that potential investors have been scared away by "townspeople with pitchforks demanding my head". He went on to suggest that by not complaining, backers might get their Mineserver or their money back: "So if you want your Mineserver or your money back, please STOP bitching and help us find a solution."[29]


  1. Tynan, Daniel. "Notes From the Field". Infoworld.
  2. "The Double Life of Robert X. Cringely" by Liesl Schillinger, Wired Magazine, December 1998
  3. Robert X. Cringely on IMDb
  6. "Now For Something Completely Different". PBS. November 14, 2008.
  7. "Cringely blogged for this site during 2007". Technology Evangelist. 2007. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04.
  8. "Cringely's official website". I, Cringely.
  9. "Cringely Archive". Adam Smith's Money World.
  10. Cringely, Robert (2008-10-13). "Cool Threads". I, Cringely. PBS. Retrieved 2011-02-12. My wife (the young and lovely Mary Alyce) and I
  11. "Have you heard the one about Apple's data center?". I, Cringely. June 28, 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  12. "Cringely, like Milton, is blind. But Milton was a better writer". I, Cringely. July 5, 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  13. "A nanotechnology overnight sensation 30 years in the making!". I, Cringely. August 14, 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  14. "After surgery, a visionary finally sneaks back to work". I, Cringely. January 2, 2018. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  15. "I have no boils". I, Cringely. October 13, 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  16. "Stanford Says Cringely Never Completed Doctorate" by Laura Evenson, San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 1998
  17. "Compressed Data; Stanford Gave Writer A Start, but Not a Ph.D.", by Lisa Napoli, The New York Times, November 16, 1998, Late Edition – Final, Section C, Page 5, Column 3.
  18. Resume of the nerd" by Rob Morse, San Francisco Examiner, November 13, 1998.
  19. Leff, Marni (2001-04-06). "PBS analyst falsely claims Stanford Ph.D". Stanford Daily. Archived from the original on 2011-11-10. Retrieved 2011-02-12.
  20. "Mineserver™ -- A $99 Home Minecraft Server". Kickstarter.
  21. "The Cringely boys Kickstart Mineserver™, a $99 Minecraft server". I, Cringely.
  22. "Last chance to get a Mineserver™ for Christmas!". I, Cringely.
  23. "Mineserver Tracker". Mineserver Tracker.
  24. "Mineserver™ -- Comments". Kickstarter.
  25. "Mineserver Update: We're not dead yet!". I, Cringely.
  26. "After surgery, a visionary finally sneaks back to work". I, Cringely.
  27. "Cloud Computing May Finally End the Productivity Paradox". I, Cringely.
  28. "Mineserver™ -- A $99 Home Minecraft Server". Kickstarter.
  29. "Two thirds done, yet still writing predictions…". I, Cringely. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
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