Gadgeteer Spotlight articles are short informal interviews with some of this industry’s most influential and interesting people. Gain some insight and learn some interesting facts about the people behind some of our favorite gadgets, gizmos and gear.
Today we sit down (virtually) with Peter Rojas (Editorial Director) and Ryan Block (Editor-in-Chief) of Engadget.com…
Peter and Ryan, gadget rock stars
When was Engadget first started?
Peter: March of 2004.
Peter, did you originally start Engadget with Ryan or did he come along once it was already established?
Peter: I originally started Engadget, and suckered Ryan into writing for me in June of 2004.
Ryan, did you already know Peter before you joined the site?
Ryan: Yeah, we knew each other from around town, mutual friends. Pete and I have different versions of the story of the night we met, but both stories more or less involve he and I getting in a fight about laptops, and not really liking one another for a while. We should have read the signs — we were obviously way more similar than different!
How many employees does Engadget have now?
Peter: Four full-time editors and an amazing crew of freelance contributors and columnists.
Ryan: …we actually just hired our fifth full time editor this week! I don’t think Pete counted himself, but that’d be six…
I know Peter had a stint on HGTV demoing gadgets for the I Want That! Tech Toys show. Any plans for more face time on TV?
Peter: No, but perhaps at some future point. I like doing TV, but it totally doesn’t come natural to me. I find it to be a LOT harder than blogging.
Ryan, do you have aspirations to be in front of the camera too?
Ryan: I’m with Pete, on-camera work is a lot harder than it looks. I’ve been doing some video for Engadget lately, but I know my strengths aren’t in hosting. I do hope Pete does some more TV though, if I’m anything to go by then he’s pretty friggin’ talented at it.
Peter where do you call home?
Peter: I live in Manhattan, but have been spending most of this summer in California.
How about you Ryan?
Ryan: I spent a while in New York, but I moved to SF just over a year ago — I’m still getting adjusted to the pace, but I really love it out here.
I know you both are constantly playing with new phones all the time, just like I do, but what phones do you keep coming back to and use on a daily basis?
Peter: I’m still using a Treo, currently have a Treo 700p, which I tolerate more than I love. It’s sort of the least bad option for me given what I need out of a phone, it seems like there’s a trade-off with every smartphone out there these days.
Ryan: For a while the device I kept coming back to was the HTC TyTn / Hermes. And then along came the iPhone, which has so many issues of its own, but so many things I instantly couldn’t live without (like visual voicemail, the browser, etc.). I still look longingly at the Hermes on my desk, though.
What is your primary computer?
Peter: When I’m at home I do most of my writing on a beat up old HP that I’ve tricked out, but I’m on the road for two months this summer, so right now my main machine is a Dell X1. It’s served me well.
Ryan: Well, on my desk right now I have a Vista Ultimate box (with Drobo) next to a MacBook Pro — but obviously it’s the laptop that walks out the door with me.
What is your favorite gadget right now?
Peter: The Xbox 360, even though I never have enough time to get at any of the games I buy.
Ryan: Tough call. It’s so easy for me to say my Sharp HDTV, since that’s the conduit all these great devices are pushed through — but if you wanted to be really specific, my TiVo Series3 and Xbox 360 are at the top of the heap for favorite gadgets that don’t leave the house. I know you didn’t ask, but my least favorite gadget was the POS Comcast HD DVR the Series3 replaced. That thing caused me so much friggin’ heartache.
What is your all time favorite gadget?
Peter: I don’t think I’ve ever given a consistent answer to this question! Might be the 14-hour Series 1 TiVo I got when it first came out. Totally amazed everyone who came over that I could pause live TV. Still works, too, I gave it to a friend of mine a few months ago. Though I’d have to say that my favorite was the Sony D-88 Discman my dad gave me for Christmas when I was 12, it was designed to play 3-inch CD singles.
Ryan: Tough call! On the nostalgia tip, it might have to be a tie between NES, SNES, and original Game Boy. I think those were instrumental in my gadget lust, they were just so different from everything else out at the time. Remember the N64 kid? ( http://youtube.com/watch?v=pFlcqWQVVuU ) That was totally me for the original Game Boy. If I had to pick something else, it might be these crazy Japanese robotics sets that my parents got for me as a kid. To this day I still don’t know what they were (it wasn’t Macross or anything like that), but I’ve always been obsessed with robots.
What car do you both drive?
Peter: I’ve never owned a car.
Ryan: No car! I’m actually waiting for a mass-market electric, or at very least an hybrid with an electric drivetrain, like the Chevy Volt.
Which gear bag do you use and what is in it right now?
Peter: I bit Ryan’s style and got a black Jack Spade messenger bag. Usually carries my X1, my Sansa e280, a Sprint USB EV-DO modem, and a notepad for jotting down ideas (for some reason I prefer taking notes on paper than on my Treo).
Ryan: I have this totally nondescript Jack Spade messenger bag, which actually makes for a fantastic gadget tote. You’d normally catch me with my laptop, Panasonic point and shoot, EV-DO modem, a bunch of expense receipts, and whatever seven phones I’m testing that week. And a few pens — I’m totally with Peter, it’s hard to imagine something replacing a pen and paper.
Outside of the running Engadget, what are your other interests / hobbies?
Peter: Right now I’m spending most of my spare time on RCRD LBL, this new all-digital record label I’m starting with the guys from Downtown Records, but when I do have a free moment I like to read (real, actual books!) and go to the movies (NYC is great because it gets every independent and foreign movie).
Ryan: I’m fairly average in my extracurricular pursuits, I guess — a bit of city biking, exploring SF parks (plus the occasional movie in the Dolores park, which is always a good time), some Xbox when the mood strikes, slowly trying to work my way through countless books I probably should have long since read. I also spend a lot of time in local coffee shops, it’s kind of like the new bar hopping.
Thanks guys! Engadget is one of a few sites that I visit multiple times each day. Keep up the exhaustive onslaught of gadgets!