LifestyleThe put personal you ever long past, Peter Norton?...

The put personal you ever long past, Peter Norton? (2014)


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The man who made PC utilities infamous–and vice versa

Posted by Harry McCracken on June 5, 2014 at 9: 45 pm

Currently on Fb, my buddy, nerd extraordinaire Esther Schindler, shared a photograph of herself sporting an used T-shirt and challenged her followers to determine it:

Esther Schindler

Either you don’t personal any thought what that image skill, otherwise you realize exactly what it’s a ways.

It’s the torso, rolled-up sleeves and folded fingers of Peter Norton, the one that modified into once synonymous with PC utility software program, on a standard shirt produced to advertise one of his products. I came all the scheme in which through seeing him again–even with out his personal head–to be an incredibly Proustian skills.

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Norton modified into a mainframe and minicomputer programmer who sold an IBM PC soon after its 1981 launch and printed an a great deal successful suite of software program tools, the Norton Utilities, in 1982. Its killer app: UnErase, which could presumably enhance misplaced files succor sooner than rubbish can-vogue deletion enable you to alternate your mind after taking out a file.

Norton’s empire grew to incorporate more than one software program products, articles (including a lengthy-operating PC Journal column), and books. He modified into all around the put that PCs had been. After which, in 1990, he sold Peter Norton Computing to Symantec, which made the Norton line of software program a ways more successful.

After the sale, Peter Norton himself retained a high profile as a living symbol of PC upkeep; his inner most mark modified into so great that it transcended his precise involvement in products which bore his name. (Within the 1990s, a buddy of mine wrote a book with Norton: By then, I gathered, writing a book with Peter Norton fervent…smartly, somewhat mighty writing a book.)

And all along, that image of a considerate-taking a look computer nerd with crossed fingers modified into straight recognizable. Right here it’s a ways in an early incarnation, on a finest-promoting 1985 tome which Wikipedia informs me modified into most frequently known because the “purple shirt book.”

Peter Norton

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Each the formality of the necktie and the rolled-up sleeves of the standard Norton pose are basic. He modified into a talented, nevertheless he modified into additionally ready to determine as a lot as work on no topic ailed your computer.

Right here, on a Norton handbook duvet, is the folded-arm Norton as he’s remained burned into my mind all these years. (I’d forgotten that he didn’t wear glasses all along, at the least when posing for photos: As soon as he did, it added to his authoritative air.)


And right here, in a image which I acquire vaguely unsettling, is a folded-arm, purple-shirt Norton in a truly early (1991) ad for Norton AntiVirus, which at final grew to develop into the most uncomplicated-known Norton-branded product:

Peter Norton

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Esther, who appears to personal performed a bigger job of keeping onto attention-grabbing computer-exchange tchotchkes than I in fact personal, peaceful has her Peter Norton Mug:

Peter Norton Mug

As the image below, which I borrowed from this blog put up, reveals, unfriendly-armed Norton modified into no longer finest iconic, nevertheless additionally a computer icon. (Don’t protect me to this, nevertheless I could presumably philosophize that at the least one model of the Norton Utilities sported an interface that contains an sharp model of Peter.)

Peter Norton

I started utilizing MS-DOS PCs on a usual foundation in 1991, and that’s when I grew to develop into a user of Norton software program. I modified into namely fond of Disk Physician, which repaired corrupted hard drives; and Disk Editor,  which permit you to detect and edit the knowledge for your disk byte-by-byte. I dilapidated every of them more than once to enhance from catastrophe, succor when hard disks crashed loads more most frequently than they cease nowadays. I additionally swore by NCACHE and Tempo Disk, two utilities that had been kindly to their Microsoft equivalents.

No disrespect meant to later, Home windows-based mostly Norton products–they’ve rescued my computer on more than one event–nevertheless for me, the golden age of Peter Norton’s software program modified into when it modified into largely DOS-based mostly, lightning quick, and enable you to dig deeply into your computer. When Norton software program switched to Home windows, along with the full utility exchange, it bought more bloated and tended to head after a bigger, more consumery, less nerdy target audience. It had less to cease with the functions which Peter Norton himself had begun writing within the early 1980s. It felt less precise.

Composed, even within the Home windows age, the crossed-arm Norton modified into so infamous that I remembered it as appearing on all his software program products and books.

No longer so. Poking all the scheme in which throughout the Web, I came all the scheme in which through photos of him appropriate decide up of standing there (in a purple shirt), leaning on computers, putting out with co-authors, brandishing toolboxes and hourglasses, sporting a stethoscope, and performing magic tricks with gears. And, on one namely keen kit, garbed in a storage-vogue uniform with a “Peter” mark, engaged on a humongous floppy disk jacked up within the air.

Norton Boxes

That bottom row reveals bins dating from the turn of the century, when Symantec doubled down on Peter Norton imagery–factual sooner than it permanently removed the actual person altogether from product packaging in 2001. It modified into the end of an era, even if I’m no longer particular if someone noticed at the time.

Why did Norton products no longer carry photos of their founder? I don’t know. Maybe Symantec did in depth market making an try out sooner than it made the pass; perchance no longer.

But these later-era functions, with photos of cheerful, confident computer customers in preference to a thunder-solving computer geek, hint at the corporate’s thinking.


I don’t care what the rationale modified into: Depicting someone other than Peter Norton on a Norton field modified into love Planters adorning a can of nuts with an anthropomorphic legume who wasn’t Mr. Peanut.

At present, Norton could very smartly be peaceful the most uncomplicated-known name in utility software program; it’s even dilapidated on products for iOS and Android. But Symantec has entirely disassociated the emblem from Peter. Factual as nobody remembers one thing about Duncan Hines other than that he licensed his name to a cake-mix company, it’s imaginable–even presumably useless obvious–that virtually all fogeys that exercise Norton products don’t personal a clue who Peter Norton is.

Right here’s the present Norton Utilities kit, which appears namely attracted to reminding us that Symantec is the corporate within the succor of Norton:

Norton Utiltiies

I’m overjoyed that the Norton Utilities peaceful exist–they even consist of as a lot as the moment variations of about a of the functions I once cherished, akin to Disk Physician. But so mighty has modified about PCs that it’s tough to undergo in mind how a truly great early variations of the kit had been. Creating a terribly upright recordsdata-restoration program is no longer the avenue to standing and riches that it modified into within the 1980s.

Pointless to negate, an dreadful lot of oldsters that bewitch Norton products within the interim underneath no circumstances detect a field in any appreciate. Shrinkwrapped software program of the form which once brought Peter Norton glory is basically a thing of the past; Symantec has migrated mighty of its line to a downloadable, subscription-based mostly mannequin.

Base line: If there’s a young Peter Norton available within the market nowadays, he’s no longer going to develop into infamous by appearing on utility-software program bins sold in retail stores.

As for Peter Norton himself, he could had been synonymous with PC utilities, nevertheless they weren’t his sole obsession. After promoting Peter Norton Computing to Symantec, he went on to exercise a huge chunk of his loot on

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  1. Ok, I read parts of his books back in the days and this jogged those memories … including pinging friends who used those books more than me.

    Was curious what his net worth was … and found answers in single digit millions, except one article that said 175M but that was a 20 year old article. (I think given the flavor of the week, I can safely blame google for not finding the right links :)). I did read the wikipedia entry about him but still wonder about the ups and downs of his life and how he is doing nowadays at 78. If someone has a more recent profile, even a hagiography, please do share a link.

  2. Norton Editor was my favorite editor. I carried it around on a 3 1/2" diskette (with other essential utilities), for years.

    It had a unique feature in its copy-paste. If you marked a region and then moved 1 character into the region and pasted it, the editor expanded the marked region to include the copied text. You could repeat that and grow a paste buffer exponentially. I used to have fun using that to create huge files with funny (to a teenager) quotes quickly on diskettes that my friends had laying around and then hiding the file.

    More info here:

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