In one sense, the day Paul Allen bought a magazine in Cambridge was the beginning of the end for the newsstand that sold it to him. Allen showed the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics to his buddy, geeky Harvard student Bill Gates, and the computer revolution began to unfold. Today, Out of Town News in Harvard Square is facing closure, its stock no longer attractive to an Internet Nation.
"I can still remember grabbing the Popular Electronics as if it was
yesterday," Allen, who once worked for Honeywell in suburban Boston, told the Boston Globe. Gates had also recalled the moment, in a 1995 Newsweek essay: "As we read excitedly about the first truly personal computer, Paul and
I didn't know exactly how it would be used, but we were sure it would
change us and the world of computing. We were right. The
personal-computer revolution happened and it has affected millions of
The iconic newsstand is now looking for a rescuer, though, so far, it apparently won't be either of the two Microsoft co-founding multi-billionaires. The key to survival is to diversify the stand's sales, says one observer. Doug Campbell, the owner of Seattle's Bulldog News, can speak to that. When newsprint sales dipped, he also began successfully peddling calendars, notebooks and coffee, whatever it took to stave off darkness.
The Globe says that Out of Town News, opened in 1955 and subsequently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, had a few other notable visitors as well, including John Kenneth Galbraith, who each day bought a copy of Le Monde; Julia Child, who came for the
cooking magazines; and Robert Frost, who stopped by - perhaps on a snowy evening - to get directions