William R. Bethke: Connoisseur of
were not just tools for work to William R. Bethke. There
was a logic, an internal magic and mystery that drew him
to understand their hummings and beepings. His house in
Hamilton, N.J., resembled an elephant's graveyard for
computers. Wires, cables and circuit boards filled his
workshop-office and spilled into the basement, some
machines partly disassembled, others lovingly rebuilt
from spare parts.
"If somebody had an old computer, they would
automatically think of Bill; if someone needed a new
computer, he would refurbish one and give it to them,"
said Mr. Bethke's wife, Valerie. "He liked everything
that was technical and complex."
Mr. Bethke, 36, followed his nose for technology
pretty much right out of high school, landing a job first
at I.B.M., which sent him to school and taught him to
diagnose the ailments of sick machines, and later at
Marsh & McLennan's computer processing department at
the World Trade Center. He liked to shoot pistols at a
gun range with his friend and next-door neighbor, David
Koprivich, perhaps from the same impulse -- an
appreciation of finely tuned mechanical performance.
He was never quite able to communicate the love of
technology to his wife, but Ms. Bethke said she got used
to it: "I'd just say, 'O.K., honey.'"