Saturday, July 10, 2004

31 Wired

The Premiere Issue of Wired magazine in 1993 just about knocked my eyeballs out. I didn’t like it at all. Strange colors, floating margins and side bars, and ads indistinguishable from serious articles. Now it is one of my favorites. The editors weren’t looking for me--they wanted the Digital Generation, according to Louis Rossetto, the editor/publisher:
“Why Wired? Because the Digital Revolution is whipping through our lives like a Bengali typhoon--while the mainstream media is still groping for the snooze button. And because the computer “press” is too busy churning out the latest PCinfoComputingCorporateWorld iteration of its ad sales formula cum parts catalog to discuss the meaning or context of social changes so profound their only parallels probably the discovery of fire.

There are a lot of magazines about technology. Wired is not one of them. Wired is about the most powerful people on the planet today--The Digital Generation. These are the people who not only foresaw how the merger of computers, telecommunications and the media is transforming life at the cusp of the new millennium, they are making it happen.

Our first instruction to our writers: Amaze us. Our second: We know a lot about digital technology, and we are bored with it. Tell us something we’ve never heard before, in a way we’ve never seen before. If it challenges our assumptions, so much the better.”
Looking at this issue almost 12 years later, most instructive is the article “Libraries without walls, for books without pages” by John Browning. I should have read it then instead of tossing the magazine into my growing pile of first issues--I’d have had a clearer idea of where my career was going. His brief overview of the history of libraries and technology mentions Fred Kilgour and the Ohio College Libraries Center (now OCLC in Dublin, OH). When I arrived at Ohio State in 1967, OCLC was in its infancy on the third floor of Thompson Library where I was a cataloguer of Slavic material. I think there were 3 staff people, and I used to go to lunch with one woman who was also new to the area. So maybe Rossetto was looking for me, and I didn’t catch on.

But in 1993 when this journal appeared, Marc Andreesen was an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I’d attended school and worked in the 60s. He was working on a project for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) developing the graphic interface browser called Mosaic. When Browning wrote his article, he was imagining just text and its digital future. As visionary as Browning's article was, he probably could not have foreseen what libraries are able to do today.

Yet the final article of this issue is on HDTV--the complaint being we didn’t need better resolution, but better programming. And we still don’t have either--at least not in my home.

Premiere Issue, 1.1 [March April] 1993
ISSN: 1059-1028
Publication schedule bi-monthly
Subject: Technology and Social Change
Wired USA
544 Second Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
$4.95; $19.95 6/year
Editor/publisher: Louis Rossetto
President: Jane Metcalf
Executive Editor: Kevin Kelly


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