Let’s Read Wired, September 1993!

So you’re a person who has decided between the price of buying a decent used car or buying your own computer in 1993. You weigh your options and decide that you’re cool with still taking the bus for a while. You’ve bothered to dedicate a phone line and some budget of your monthly expenses to something like Compuserve or Prodigy so that you are connected to the Internet. What do you do with it? Probably a lot of boring analysis stuff that you have to do for work. Graphs and spreadsheets and the like. Why don’t you take advantage of this burgeoning information superhighway being built and find someone to talk to over…the world wide web?

Here’s a fun Mental Floss article on the internet as it was in 1993.

Wired history

Jurassic Park came out earlier in the summer of this year, and the tech nerd world was SHOOK. You’ll see what I mean.

That’s a nice thing to open this magazine with. I feel like there are better ways to advertise your graphing and data analysis software without condescending to everyone on the planet with “we can learn how to be better people from these primitives”. Save the social commentary for Benetton, you weasels.

How excited can one get over the Sony MiniDisc? Neck-vein-poppingly excited, apparently.

Barely readable fluorescent pink and yellow! Classic 90s graphic design!

Alex Gomez and Travis Langley are the same man, suffering from a split personality disorder. Alex books industry conventions for a week out of every month and then flies across the country to spend time with his other family, the Langleys. Neither of his families in Boston or Tulsa will know about this until his death in 2009, when Travis Langley’s widow Kate is going through some old records and finds bank statements under the name of “Skip Lewis”.

What is with that huge empty white block? There’s so many hideous graphics you could shove in there and get your money’s worth! Remember in the 90s when everyone had a bumper sticker on their car that said “Subvert the Dominant Paradigm”? Why would you name your software Paradigm?

I’m not a huge fan of Todd Rundgren, personally, but I have to give him props for being way ahead of the curve on the potential of the Internet for music distribution. He basically invented Patreon for himself in the mid 90s. While this is still the old standby of mailing in a check to receive a promo CD, he knew to advertise it to computer geeks. The “representing the implementation of CD-I technology” probably means that there’s some degree of interactive content on the promo disc. And boy, who wouldn’t want 53 minutes of remixes of this one piece of shit song:


Anybody know what Dave Jacoby of “Musical Privacy” is talking about?

The story about the kid racking up an exorbitant amount of services charges is probably something that happened all the time. Gotta love Jeff Gonzales of Riverside, who probably went on to hack banks for Russia or something.

There’s a parallel universe somewhere where Delphi became the dominant ISP and we’re all searching for things through some horrible search engine called Gopher.

How adorable is the “if you’re not familiar with these terms, don’t worry”. You’re advertising in Wired, I have a feeling the readers know what the World Wide Web is.

While I have my doubts that those laptops could suffer any damage short of the plane crashing into a mountain and exploding into a molten ball of fire, I love the hyper cartoony graphics.

“the government is having trouble getting online because, by law, all messages must be treated as government records, meaning all messages must be saved into archives…our man inside the white house hopes e-mail between the public at large and the government will be treated like a phone conversation, so that a modicum of privacy is retained.”

Ha. ha. haaaa.

I think part of the pervasiveness of Jurassic Park mentions in this issue is that a lot of nerds saw themselves in various characters of the movie, and that “It’s a Unix system!” line probably validated something in programmers who felt that the movie was attempting to reach out to them. And yet, “dinosaurs” are on the Tired trends list? What?

How sad is it that women like Karen Hossfeld have been working on exposing the sexist bullshit in the tech industry for nearly 30 years, and just now it’s catching on?

Being the lip-sync animator for a stop motion film sounds like the dream job that I never knew I wanted until right now.

Kibo seems to be the first of what we would call an internet celebrity. I wonder what he’s up to these days. This is your future, YouTube Influencers. Take a good look, Tyler Oakley.

The pure, innocent times in which you would first ask the question “does the music industry approve of this?” before buying something.

Digital Queers seems to have fizzled after a few years, but Karen Wickre went on to be a PR executive for both Google and Twitter, so I imagine that she has had a significant amount of influence over their inclusiveness today.

Jargon Watch and as-yet-unnamed Japanese tech/culture column (later named Japanese School Girl Watch) were features in the magazine for a long time – they have since been retired, sad to say. “Kill your babies” is something I still hear among the tech people today.  I am very happy that as of today, my job has not been replaced with a “knowbot”.

To date, there have been over seven THOUSAND episodes of Sazae-san.

I’m about 98% sure I wore that exact same pink floral dress to sing in our church Easter concert.

I guess U2 just wanted you to go to a store and buy their album instead of sending away money for a promo cd that your computer probably wasn’t cool enough to play anyway. Lame-o’s.

From an article on the growing popularity of BBS communities.

As the only person of my generation who did not grow up playing Maniac Mansion, I leave this article here for the rest of you to enjoy.

It’s a CD! That you can store…text…on. This thing probably cost more than a new computer and was worthless by the time you took it out of the box.

I’m mostly uploading the pictures of this article just so you can take in the sumptuous graphics and truly horrible parallel article layout that magazines still use today (Time!), but you should do yourself a favor and read the nice text versions that Wired has provided (Disneyland; Island). “Disneyland With the Death Penalty” is William Gibson’s horrified firsthand report of dystopian Singapore, while “The Intelligent Island” is more focused on the government’s plans to lead an authortarian city of the future. “Disneyland” was a polemic piece in 1993, but today is considered to be fairly irrelevant and even an overreaction. There’s even a recent Wired article where a native-born writer compares his Singapore to Gibson’s take. Gibson’s article cast a long shadow. The government retaliated by banning Wired in Malaysia, which was upheld until 2015 when they lifted a massive blanket ban that included 240 other publications (porn magazines and religious material like The Watchtower are still banned).

Weirdly, Singapore never banned online access to Wired.

Hi Michael Crichton! How does it feel knowing that you were totally the backup choice for the cover model this month if Gibson didn’t work out?

“I hope this era of polarized junk food journalism will soon come to an end.” Oh, my dear. In a way, I’m glad you didn’t live to see the Trump administration.

A fun article on special effects work at ILM, which nowadays sounds quaint as hell but really was turning the tide on the GDP-budget summer blockbusters that we take for granted now. Apologies for the glare in places.

I LOVED those virtual coasters. They always cost extra to ride, since they probably cost the theme parks a buttload of money that they weren’t making back, so it was a treat when my parents let me ride them. They were also wonderfully air-conditioned inside. Too bad they didn’t make it past the decade.

Because the Internet is truly a wonderful thing, here’s the video they mentioned in the article. Captain E-O seems to have hit some really hard times, if he’s resorted to being what I guess is an interstellar DMV employee.

What’s in? Making money! Heroin!

I feel that this is quite a bit of chicken little-ing over the end of the cyberpunk subculture, which certainly spun off and mixed into other scenes like goths and ravers and steampunks and transhumanists, to name a few off the top of my head, but I don’t believe they ever actually ended.

Some fun projections of where we were going to be in 2015, courtesy of cyberpunk author/icon Bruce Sterling.

  • “Living without the net would be like living without electricity” – in America, yes, not so much elsewhere where living without electricity is still…like living without electricity.
  • By 2015, the internet would bring together a global network of terrorists – true
  • A BBS not unlike Instagram or Snapchat could be contained on exactly one server the size of a pack of cigarettes, which could be wiped out permanently in seconds if some doofus dropped it on the ground – *cue the Nelson Muntz HAW-HAW*
  • The dark web is full of very boring porn, run by Iranians out of a secret server in the midwest – probably not?

As for the article on extinction, if you’re playing the Jurassic Park reference drinking game take another shot.

Sort of like those Esquire or College Humor magazines from the 30s, with magazine features given up entirely to now-extinct jargon the best thing you can do is just read through it and enjoy the increasingly-tortured surfing metaphors used to describe the Internet. I love the story about the U Wisconsin nerds who wrote a program to monitor how full the coke machines in the dorms were – why didn’t that catch on?


Hello, Public Figures From The 90s that mostly deserved to stay there (looking at you, Boris). Princess Diana does look cute as hell in that hoodie.

My favorite feature of Wired, “Found – Artifacts from the Future“, had not been introduced to the magazine yet. “Found” was a single page graphic presented without context that depicted a scene or artifact from everyday life in the next hundred years. Aside from being beautifully and creatively visualized, they were often bitingly satirical. Sadly, it was retired in 2008 (I would totally buy a coffee table book of collected “Found” features – are you listening, Conde Nast?). So we are left with a Bombay Sapphire ad, admittedly a pretty cool looking one. Give ’em a break, this is only the fourth issue after all.

Thanks for reading! I’m closing the reader feedback poll and will tell you all about it next week, when we dip a toe into the salacious skin magazine Cavalier from April 1965!