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The Idea of Wired
I miss Wired. And it wasn't until I read Gary Wolf's new book, Wired: A Romance, that I realized just how much I miss it.
I don't miss the magazine. after all -- it's still around. Sure, its content has been rationalized to its audience (most likely thanks to the combination of business and editorial guidance provided by its benevolent parent, Conde Nast), its design toned down to this side of readable, but it still musters monthly attempts at radical optimism. (Reinventing Cinema! The Ultimate Atlas! Geeks with the Right Stuff! The Impossible Gets Real!)
And I don't miss Hotwired. For all my elitist tendencies I much prefer the wide open beer bash of the current web publishing landscape (I'm doing my best to avoid using the b*sphere word in public, lest a big gaping hole open up in the earth beneath my feet) to the dressed-all-in-black dim-the-lights self-knowing ironic-hipster pour-me-a-flavored-martini cocktail party scene that was Flux and Ned Brainard and Brain Tennis and NetSurf and Packet.
What I do miss is the focal point that Wired created. Even though the enterprise (the content, the approach, the management, the business model) had flaws, it was always interesting enough to talk about. To even care about a little. The cover story on push was crap, and we knew it was crap, but it was engaging enough to compel a whole slew of people to disagree -- vehemently -- with that massive neon hand. Anyone who had taken an intro economics course was punching holes in the big smiley face, while secretly being seduced by the prospect of a long, endless boom.
And even after Wired failed to go out (twice), after Battelle had left for The Standard, and after it was clear that Louis and Jane were compelled to abandon ship, we were compelled to save it -- offering up 101 backhanded ways to do so.
The last chapter of Wolf's book (titled, appropriately, "The End,") captures Rossetto after the failed IPOs, but before the Conde Nast and Lycos deals. It leads off...
His magazine was a success; the next stage was to become rich. Sometimes people tried to offer Louis this interpretation, but the transition from intoxication to sobriety is painful, and he would never accept that Wired was merely the product of an unusual interregnum, a period of lucrative optimism in a brief decade between wars.
And it was with this graf that it hit me. Wolf's subtitle -- "A Romance" -- is right on the money. That unusual interregnum was defined by Wired. And the nostalgic longing I have now for that period of optimism (wrapped in a knowing wink) resembles the rose-colored way one typically looks back on a lost love.
I take it back. I don't miss Wired...I miss the idea of Wired.
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