How I became
a card-carrying member
of the Digital Revolution
I remember seeing the Wired advertisement on the side of buses in Chicago. The flourescent colours, the purposeful obscurity, it tantalized me. When the first issue finally hit the stands at Tower Records, I gladly laid down $5 for my copy. I remember that day I brought it back to school, no one else had no idea of what it was, or what it was about. Now this was a magazine for me! All these funky articles, incorporating, exploring technology and culture, with flash, pizazz, pinache and attitude. Finally here were people looking at a technological world, and saying, hey, this is cool, this is fun, this is happening. Why, there was even an advertisement with a baby peeing in it!
That day, I made the first of many calls to the Wired office, trying to get involved. Publisher Louis Rossetto had published his personal phone number with his introductory notice. I left him a message saying that I was connected to "the Chicago underground pirate/hacker scene," that I'd worked on a hacker newspaper, and that I was willing to talk to Wired about it. Oddly enough, they didn't call me back.But that was to be just the beginning of my quest. I bought further issues, as they trickled out, and absorbed it all. By November, I had sent in my resume and writing samples to apply for an editorial internship. After a month of silence, I called to find out I had been turned down.
About that time, I happened across John Markoff's piece about Mosiac in the New York Times. Inspired and intruiged, I immediately became immersed in the web when it was just beginning its fantastic flight.I spent Christmas and New Year's in San Francisco, and it was there, at MacWorld, that I finally made real contact. Wired old-timers Eugene Mosier and Will Kreth were maintaining the swamped booth there. I pestered Will about Wired until he finally said "Why don't you just come to our party tonight?"
It was a fabulous spread - two rooms set up for a mega-party. There was one rave chamber, with the finest in visuals and sound, and another room set up for the more sedate to chat and schmooze with tablecloths and candles. It was quite an introduction to the Wired scene. Unfortunately, I spent most of the party getting stoned on some of the best bud I'd ever smoked and talking to Captain Crunch about acid and raving. I learned a lot, but I wasn't any closer to a summer job at Wired.Throughout the next semester at Swarthmore, I tried to intern with the graphics department, and I was turned down. I offered to empty trash cans and I was turn down.
In January of 1994, I read some online information on HTML, set up a copy of MacHTTP on my Powerbook 180, and put up Justin's Home Page. At the time, I was a freshperson in the depths of Willets, a dorm nestled in the shrubbery of Swarthmore College in the removed pleasantness of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The first login from outside Swarthmore was February 4.
My pages grew, as the web did, and as I found more and more stuff to expand them.
I got the idea in my head that I should apply to work in Wired's online section and gave them a call. I was patched through to Julie Petersen, and we talked a bit about the web and online and my wanting to work there. When she asked for my e-mail address, I gave her my URL instead and waited nervously while she inspected my page. By the time she got to Cary Grant on acid, she was laughing, and I had an in.I flew out to San Francisco for an interview. I dressed in my Sunday finest, and even borrowed a pair of tassled loafers. Any apprehension on my part, about their coolness and tolerance, was quickly dissapated. Half of them were wearing Birkenstocks, and conversation drifted to drugs soon after my interview.
I started two weeks later as an Online Intern, without a desk, or a real job. We were all piled in on top of one another, back in the grotto - the hottest, least lit, least ventilated niche in the old Wired offices. Being at Wired was thrilling - the stars of the digital revolution (or digerati, as they're called) would come wandering through to see what we were up to. Being in the online department there was the most exciting place to be on the web - we found out about everything, and got to try everything, weeks before the public ever heard about it.