People and the News


Greg Miller, The Times Orange County edition’s high-tech reporter, exchanged e-mail messages with proud writers of computer viruses as part of his research on the experts who develop the antidotes to the costly “pathogens.” His award-winning 1996 portfolio also included an exclusive story about record-setting bonuses at Kingston Technology and another on the complex saga of Comparator Systems Corp.


Orange County Press Club

1st Place: Beat Reporting, Portfolio

2nd Place: Business Story (Comparator)


Kingston Worker Share in Windfall



Dec. 15, 1996

ANAHEIM--Setting a staggering new standard for generosity to employees, the co-founders of Kingston Technology Corp. unveiled a $100-million bonus package at the company’s holiday party Saturday night, and will soon begin giving workers checks for up to three times their annual salaries.

With payments averaging $75,000, the largess represents employees’ share of the $1.5-billion windfall received by David Sun and John Tu when they sold 80% of the Fountain Valley company--the world’s largest maker of computer memory products--to Softbank Corp. of Japan earlier this year.


Tu and Sun were by no means obligated to share the wealth. But in an age when employees are commonly treated as costs and Wall Street cheers executives nicknamed “Chainsaw Al,” the gesture is merely the most extreme example in a long tradition of generosity at Kingston.

“To share our success with everybody is the most joy we can have,” Sun said to hundreds of cheering employees and their families in a ballroom at the Anaheim Marriott.

Some fought back tears and others talked of buying houses, helping their parents--or simply saving their bonuses.


Comparator: Honest Mistake or Con Job?



June 8, 1996

The roomy Newport Beach office of Robert Reed Rogers reflects the tastes of a man who cultivates a dignified and worldly air. There are Indonesian tapestries, a replica of Egyptian papyrus and a lamp like those that once lit the cabins of the Orient Express.

But the most unsettling decoration in Rogers’ office--an uncanny copy of a ticking bomb--may be the most appropriate image for the company he runs.

After ticking softly for 17 years, Comparator Systems Corp. blew up last month in an unprecedented stock market explosion that has left federal investigators scurrying around the country trying to pick up the pieces.


Sifting through the debris, investigators are confronting a bizarre and complex story that involves the mysterious death of a Yugoslavian prince, the transfer of millions of shares of stock in shell companies registered in Nevada, and the crucial testimony of a former Comparator executive who later took a job as a porn movie actress.

It also involves thousands of investors who made and lost millions of dollars on a company they didn’t understand.


Cyber Sherlocks Hunt Virus Vandals



March 29, 1996

Joe Wells keeps thousands of viruses locked inside his bedroom closet.

They aren’t stored in vials, but on floppy disks. And instead of names like anthrax or rabies, they are called Helloween and Maltese Amoeba.

These are not human pathogens, but computer viruses. And Wells’ bedroom, inside a home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Thousand Oaks, is a kind of Centers for Disease Control of the electronic world.

Wells, 44, spends much of his time hunched over three computers that sit next to his bed. One is his laboratory rat, a PC that he purposely infects with viruses to see how they spread and what damage they cause.

The other computers keep him in touch with anti-virus experts around the globe. These “spies”--mostly researchers like Wells--let him know when a new strain of the Stoned virus spreads from Finland into Sweden, or when Ripper moves from Japan to Hong Kong. . . .


Wells is a member of a small fraternity of experts who battle the nameless, faceless high-tech vandals writing viruses from lairs as far-flung as Taiwan and the Czech Republic.

“They’re kind of like arsonists,” he said of his mostly adolescent foes.