If you spliced the thought- memes behind Mondo 2000, Time and the Whole Earth Review, the result would probably be something like Wired. In fact, one of its editors described Wired to me as "Mondo 2000 for grown ups," which may be a self- contradictory phrase, but only time will tell.
In truth, Wired has just learned to get up on its feet and toddle around the room, and like every precocious child, it often gets into more than it can handle. The highlight of its premiere issue is Bruce Sterling's report on military virtual reality. The rest of the zine strains to look dangerous and edgy but, at this stage, its butt cheeks are clenched a bit too tightly for
anyone's comfort. Wired has great potential given its budget and the talent it can call on to fill its pages, it just has to get past the puberty blues stage and develop its own identity. If it does, stand back, because this puppy could burn brightly.
"What is Wired?" is the correct Jeopardy answer to: What you'd see leaving tracks in the cloud chamber if you cranked the Superconducting Supercollider up to 10**10 GeV (enough power to shake George Bush's other home state from end to end) and chucked in highly charged versions of PC Magazine and Rolling Stone.
Since its appearance in early '93, Wired's caused no-nonsense,
rectilinearly oriented bit-twiddlers to take umbrage with the most riotous layout since early Spy: text and background color combinations often seem to have been left over from those considered too extreme for the liner of Peter Gabriel's Melting Face album; in the "Electric Word" section, what could best be termed "text samples" stream along, oblivious of one another, in parallel tracks from page to page, sputtering out at odd, and sometimes undiscernible, intervals; in the cover-to-cover visual hiss and pop, the "Content" page itself barely rises above the signal-to-noise welter enough to let us know it's not just another ad. But half the fun may well be in the Easter-egg hunt itself.
Chanters of the latest style mantra, on the other hand, wince at the geeky "Fetish" section, where a glazing of VR chic is daubed onto the old Popular Mechanics spiffy- newproducts pages; somewhere, off in the K.C. and the Sunshine Band center of your mind, nags the certainty that the vaunted Brinkman Endymion loud- speaker will seem as fustily quaint to the reader of 2002 as the personal gyrocopter kit (mom and the kids, in gingham housedress and eyeglass straps respectively, wave to dad from the ranch-style house below) looks now. One attribute of technolust is its increasingly short half-life.
Wired is still ramping up, having gone from a 1.1 Premiere release (or was it a demo?) full of let's-put-Sterling-Negroponte- and-Paglia's-names-on-the-cover-and-see-if-anyone-subscribes desperation (oh yeah, we almost left out "Digital Sex") to a promise of quarterly (issue 1.2) and, now, bimonthly (1.3) publication. I'm happy. I keep getting more bang for my subscription buck.
Questions of big names and interesting topics, which have buzzed around WIRED's sector of cyberspace since its inception, seem to be getting answered. ("Well, what happens when they've used up Jaron Lanier, too?" Answer: Let him wax messianic-obscurantist and rave for two or so column-inches, every other month, over what tunes he's listening to, even if we don't really care and can't locate these recordings of fifth-world yowlings anyway.) After all, Bruce Sterling has led us, with a Clancy-like morbid delight, through the virtual carnage of the E-battlefield; we've been treated to a combination primer on cryptography and profile of PGP renegades which wisely managed to walk the microchannel between Mondo's nanosecond flash and Scientific American's pedantic singlemindedness. Even the excesses--a piece, in issue 1.1, on the freakshow of Otaku culture, laid out lengthwise in coyly pseudo-Asian fashion, comes to mind--are at least diverting as exercises, left to the student, in proving the diminishing validity of print in the age of multimedia. But, in the boilerplate of newsguys, it remains to be seen whether there's anything left to do or say after Wired strip-mines the quarry of VR and PGP ore: one bad sign, in issue 1.3, is a one-pager on "Hacking the Material World" (hey, at Ohio State, we just called it "Tunnel Running") which reads more like a query letter with sample copy than an actual feature. As many have feared from the beginning, it may be that Wired has already taken to using grout in lieu of tile to cover the wall. And instant nostalgia-- issue 1.3's technoid homage to Radio Shack's halcyon days-- manages both to smack of shameless Smithsonianism and muddle the mag's raison d'etre. While an interesting pose, it neither intrigues nor informs. These reservations aside, one must concede that as both an antic visual feast and an example of a medium busily deconstructing itself, Wired will likely provide a dosage of cannibal-verite for at least another year.
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Here is the TEXT POPUP for Wired
Some people do art for immortality. You have to give that up if you're going to work in high-tech media. Everything is written on the wind.
- Stewart Brand
Zero's life revolves around computer games. He only ventures out of his six-mat in Kawagoe to acquire new gameboards...
Zero is a self-proclaimed Otaku...Japan's socially inept but often brilliant technological shut-ins.
from "The Incredibly Strange Mutant Creatures Who Rule the Universe of Alienated Japanese Zombie Computer Nerds (Otaku to You)" by Karl Taro Greenfeld
The cold war is over. Military budgets are slashed. But it's a cruel, hostile world out there. How to get more bang for the buck? If you're the US military, the answer is to build ever smarter weapons, and be prepared to use them by training hard. In cyberspace.
How effective is this strategy? Ask the Iraqis.
from introduction to Bruce Sterling's "War is Virtual Hell"