During and after the boom it seemed to lose its focus on quality writing and countercultural verve, particularly when it got flooded by blurbs and articles about $10,000 wristwatches and stock picks.
There were still some gems though, here and there. But I don’t think much of the writing ever approached this in terms of timeliness and caliber.
It is about the human and cultural impact of the telegraph as much as the technology. The telegraph enabled instant communication, and when the first undersea cables were laid in the mid-1800s, that communication stretched from one continent to another. This changed many things.
One of my favorite chapters is "Love on the Lines", about the telegraph operators who flirted with each other in Morse code and even got married "on line".
Neal Stephenson just appeared on Tyler Cowen's Conversions with Tyler Podcast: https://medium.com/conversations-with-tyler/tyler-cowen-neal...
Worth reading either way!
It is a reference for his taste for under-age boys, which seems to be from what I can tell, the reason he lived in Sri Lanka
It's sad to see what Wired (and mainstream tech journalism in general) has become in recent years.
In 1996 I was a little kid, but one of the first books I read on my PC somewhere around 2000 was Cryptonomicon. Back then I didn't have dialup, what I had instead was a cherished copy of a CD full of pirated books, called something like Pocket Library.
If only my parents realized back then how much ... questionable material was there, I would probably have been banned access to that PC forever.
But Cryptonomicon was fine.
I also remember vividly the expensive advertisements: complete 3d pyramids popping up when you turned the page, and once (my personal favorite) an ad with that Frenchmen scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which included a scratch-and-sniff sticker that read: "scratch here and I will fart in your general direction". Try to resist an ad like that...
This is a timeless classic from Wired, written by Neal Stephenson in 1996. I love this article not only because of the article itself, but its enthusiasm and energy from the age it was written in.
Today, Wired is a mainstream tech magazine written mainly for a nontechnical audience, which has said stupid things like "a new evolution of DDoS [is] known as Memcache" (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18020811), and only occasionally has good articles. But back at that time, it was just before the dotCom bubble, Wired represented the avant-garde of Silicon Valley that was going to revolutionize everything through computing and the Internet, the free and fast flow of information enables decentralization, and would liberate us from all the old forms of political control. It was an age with a bright future where everything seems possible.
You can see many of those optimisms from this article.
> Q: Why not just go south around Singapore and keep the cable in the water, then?
> A: Because Singapore is controlled by the enemy.
> Q: Who is the enemy?
> A: FLAG's enemies are legion.
> In any case, the deal fell through because of a strong anti-FLAG faction within KDD that could not tolerate the notion of giving any concessions whatever to IDC.
One goal of constructing FLAG was explicitly reduce United States's and challenge traditional ISP's control over the infrastructure. Decentralization!
> The lack of freedom stems both from bad laws, which are grudgingly giving way to deregulation, and from monopolies willing to do all manner of unsavory things in order to protect their turf.
With a techno-libertarian free capitalism "innovation/disruption" spirit.
> Douglas Barnes, an Oakland-based hacker and cypherpunk, looked into this issue a couple of years ago when, inspired by Bruce Sterling's Islands in the Net, he was doing background research on a project to set up a data haven in the Caribbean. "I found out that the idea of the Internet as a highly distributed, redundant global communications system is a myth,'' he discovered. "Virtually all communications between countries take place through a very small number of bottlenecks, and the available bandwidth simply isn't that great.'' And he cautions: "Even outfits like FLAG don't really grok the Internet. The undersized cables they are running reflect their myopic outlook.''
Cypherpunk! And yes, Neal acknowledged multiple times in the article that FLAG was not the holy grail, it still had a lot of problems and far from the libertarian ideal of decentralization, but he still believed FLAG was going to be the beginning of the new network order.
However, the dream eventually came to an end.
Wired-inspired dotCom bubble busted.
Although FLAG was the first move to break U.S. and traditional ISP's monopoly, future projects in the next 10 years didn't quite accomplish this goal.
Silicon Valley became the new giant establishment and monopoly, and the massive deregulation was partially responsible to that.
Authoritarian regimes have done a good job preventing the information flowing online to bring liberal political changes.
Arab Spring ended horribly.
The revolution of the Internet has been seized as the means of mass surveillance.
The unfortunate side-effects of empowering individuals created wild populism, "Fake News", and flat Earth, and we started to suffer from them. I know it's unavoidable to an extent and I feel the freedom from the Internet is still worthwhile even with these side-effects, but back to 1995, it was pure utopianism and we were too overoptimistic and completely ignored this aspect.
More like endorsement.