The story behind Newton’s Telecom Dictionary is that of the dynamic, flamboyant, Harry Newton and his circuitous route to America and the worlds of telecom, media and technology investing.
(Note: Newton is a former employer of yours truly, so perhaps I have a deeper, more historically comprehensive perspective of all this than a casual book “reviewer.”)
Once upon a time — 1939, to be exact — there was an oenologist (expert in the field of winemaking) named Nussbaum living in Romania who saw that World War II was looming and felt certain that he and his Austrian wife would face a pogrom against the Jews by the Nazis, the Russians, or both. Indeed, the area where he lived, Chernivtsi Oblast (“Regiunea Cernăuți” in Romanian) was occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940 and transferred to the Ukrainian SSR that August.
Nussbaum and his wife grabbed their valuables and made their way to Genoa, Italy, where they boarded a boat to Sydney, Australia, arriving as stateless refugees just days before the start of the war.
Changing their name to the more socially acceptable (for Australia) “Newton,” they began a climb to financial success, starting with a chain of hamburger shops, then a “frock shop” (ladies clothing store) and, after the war, the elder Newton became a successful investment banker possessing both domestic and international investments. (After cutting up onions for hamburgers for seven years, he never ate another dreaded foul-smelling onion for the rest of his life.)
The elder Newton instilled in his young son Harry his business sense, with such dictums as “Take a little home. You never know what tomorrow will bring.”
While a teenager in the 1960s, Harry Newton earned an Economics undergraduate degree from Sydney University, Australia, briefly did some reporting for a financial newspaper in Sydney, then decided to make his fortune in America.
Harry’s boss at the time told him he’d love the Americans because, “…just like you, they substitute enthusiasm for intelligence,” which was a backhanded compliment; he really meant that the Americans got things done.
Harrys’ father also encouraged his emigration to America, believing that US currency would hold up better than Australia’s and living in the US would be safer. (And, truth be told, Australia didn’t suffer from the Sub-Prime Great Recession.)
Once in America, Harry soon earned an MBA from Harvard, supporting himself in part with the help of his ability as a photographer (I recall his favorite film was Kodak Tri-X).
In the 1970s Harry became a telecom consultant and worked at Bill McGowan’s MCI Communications when MCI had six employees, no money, and faced competitor AT&T, which had over a million employees. Less than a decade later, MCI had 30,000 employees and AT&T was broken up by government-mandated Divestiture.
But by 1978 Harry had left MCI and founded Telecom Library, a publishing, conference and research firm.
During the 42 years he was in telecom, Harry Newton was the most popular public speaker in the industry, speaking before every telecommunications and networking trade show and convention in the United States, Canada, England, France, Australia and New Zealand.
He received the sobriquet “Hurricane Harry,” owing to an onstage presence often described as captivating, impish, intuitive and occasionally profane.
Harry also consulted to many telecommunications companies, many of which were later sold (to companies such as Intel) or went IPO. His research findings have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, Inc., The New York Times, and most telecommunications trade publications. He has appeared on CNBC and various financial radio shows as an industry expert.
Harry dominated the telecom industry in the 1990s with his two famous biannual events: Call Center Demo and Computer Telephony Conference and Exposition (later simply called CT Expo), which, in its last year under his control, attracted 26,000 people.
Also during this time Harry and his business partner, Gerry Friesen, founded and grew seven monthly magazines — Call Center, Computer Telephony, Imaging, LAN (later changed to Network Magazine), Teleconnect, Telecom Gear and Technology Investor.
Moreover, the Telecom Library book division published over 40 books on networking, imaging, telecommunications and computer telephony.
Harry and Gerry sold Telecom Library in September 1997 to Miller Freeman (later called CMP and now part of United Business Media) for $130 million.
Today, Harry Newton lives on Manhattan’s Central Park West, in an abode that sports 40 feet of windows facing Central Park. He’s been happily married to the same woman for 40 years. He has two kids, both happily married, and three grandchildren. He writes a blog (technologyinvestor.com) and updates his best-selling Newton’s Telecom Dictionary.
Harry recounts that he put together the dictionary’s first edition — then entitled “The Teleconnect Telecom Dictionary” — over a rainy weekend in 1982. The most recent, 30th edition defines 29,019 terms in 1,423 pages. It has remained the standard reference work in telecom and sits on the desk of every telecom company employee, having sold over 815,000 copies.
The book is so comprehensive that three of the entries even mention yours truly (chuckle).
It’s available from Amazon. You can also buy an app version for the iPad and iPhone from Apple’s App store.
Richard Grigonis is an internationally known technology editor and writer. He was executive editor of Technology Management Corporation’s IP Communications Group of magazines from 2006 to 2009. The author of five books on computers and telecom, including the highly influential Computer Telephony Encyclopedia (2000), he was the chief technical editor of Harry Newton's Computer Telephony magazine (later retitled Communications Convergence after its acquisition by Miller Freeman/CMP Media) from its first year of operation in 1994 until 2003. Read more reports from Richard Grigonis — Click Here Now.
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