I can’t remember exactly which year I first met John Hein, but it was in an age before Google and Facebook when nerdy folk such as myself would put the handsets of their rotary phones into suction-cupped devices that allowed you to connect to the Internet at the heady speed of 150 bits per second. To those of you reading this over a 64 mbps connection (that’s the average in the UK at the moment, apparently), you’re on a 64,000,000 bits per second connection. How times change.
He liked his ale. As long as it was Real Ale.
It was through this medium that I stumbled upon John. The trickle of data didn’t allow for images, let alone video. Our communication was strictly text-based on a platform called Compulink – possibly the oldest ISP in the UK having started nearly 40 years ago in 1983. John was a frequent poster to the bulletin boards on Compulink, including the gay special interest group that I had kicked off. We were a tight community and often met offline, and John would rarely miss a drinking session in London despite having the farthest to travel from Edinburgh.
When I founded Broadway Baby back in 2004 I reconnected with John. As publisher of ScotsGay he was a very vocal member of the Fringe Society and a welcome familiar face as I found my own feet in Edinburgh’s Festival elite. ScotsGay covered the festivals, and as Broadway Baby grew the two publications worked together on many projects and shared resources often. My yearly pilgrimage to the Scottish capital would not be complete without sharing at least one pint with John. He liked his ale. As long as it was Real Ale.
So on learning of his death this Christmas I am deeply saddened. Not least because the events of 2020 meant I could not have that final pint with him this year, but also because John Hein was pioneer of technology and gay rights in Scotland – and also an irascible bugger at times. I’ll certainly miss him.