Ages and ages ago — like, 1993 — people would purchase a PC, plug it in and then stare in wonder at all the error messages. There wasn't much else to do with the things if you weren't part of the "information economy," though people gave it their best shot.
"Look!" Mom would cry. "I'm typing my recipe cards into the computer!"
"Wow," the children would say. "Mom is so smart." (Unless they were teenagers, in which case they would say, "Mom is such a dork.")
"From now on," Mom promised, "these recipes will be permanently stored in the computer until there's a hard disk crash and we lose everything. It's far superior to the old, unreliable system of index cards, some of which were handed down from your great-grandmother!"
The family would be eating dinner when suddenly the computer would announce, "You've got mail!" Everyone would bolt, racing to the monitor.
"Some generous person in China wants to sell us Viagra!" Mom would shriek excitedly.
Actually, no, that's not what the email said. Back then, most email said, "Tell me if you got this email!" The unfortunately named "spam" hadn't yet become a feature in life, so email was something of a joy. When your Uncle Fred passed along a joke someone had passed to him, you didn't write back TAKE ME OFF YOUR LIST, UNCLE FRED.
One of the things that Fred was kind enough to pass along was this oddity called "The Cameron Column." Written by some guy named W. Bruce Cameron, it was an emailed, opt-in newsletter that was random both in subject and publication schedule.
I was writing the thing and sending it out over the Internet because I wanted to write humor and hadn't been successful in getting my work published any other way. At its peak, The Cameron Column had 50,000 readers in 52 countries, if you count Texas as a country.
And then people's email boxes started filling up, computers became more reliable, and Uncle Fred got indicted. The column fell from favor. Around that time, though, I wrote a column called "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter." It was extraordinarily popular, to the point that thousands of people took my name off it and sent it around as if they themselves wrote it. It even showed up on Oliver North's website as something like "Colonel North's Rules for Dating His Daughter," which led me to conclude either that he had stolen my column or that I was Oliver North.
When I wrote to the colonel, he was immediately apologetic, explaining that he had a staff who edited the website and that he would make sure they were pushed out of an airplane. No, actually he made sure I got my byline on his site and promised me he would help me get syndicated, and that's exactly what he did.
Some things happened along the way to syndication: I wrote exclusively for the (now sadly departed) Rocky Mountain News for a few years, and, most significantly for me, I was able to turn my "8 Simple Rules" into a successful book and TV show on ABC starring John Ritter. But since Creators began carrying my column, I've been appearing in somewhere around 50 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada — probably, if you are reading this, I've been in your paper.
I've had several books published subsequent to "8 Simple Rules," including my New York Times bestseller, "A Dog's Purpose." Which leads me to where I am today: fortunate enough to have a couple more books in the pipeline, but so overwhelmed with all the work those commitments entail that changing gears every week for my column has become increasingly difficult.
This is my 689th weekly column, and I'm taking a break. Some newspapers have chosen to continue to run my column as a "best of" collection, and others are taking the position that none of my columns are "the best." After a rest, I may be back, but in case I'm not: Thank you for doing me the honor of reading my work, all these years. Without you, I'd still be sending emails, wondering if anyone was reading them. I am eternally grateful for your support.
W. Bruce Cameron
To write Bruce Cameron, visit his website at www.wbrucecameron.com. To find out more about Bruce Cameron and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.