Computers 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.’ '