Barbara Kantrowitz

Stories by Barbara Kantrowitz

  • MEN, WOMEN & COMPUTERS

    AS A LONGTIME "STAR TREK" devotee, Janis Cortese was eager to be part of the Trekkie discussion group on the Internet. But when she first logged on, Cortese noticed that these fans of the final frontier devoted megabytes to such profound topics as whether Troi or Crusher had bigger breasts. In other words, the purveyors of this "Trek" dreck were all guys. Undeterred, Cortese. a physicist at California's Loma Linda University, figured she'd add perspective to the electronic gathering place with her own momentous questions. Why was the male cast racially diverse while almost all the females were young, white and skinny? Then, she tossed in a few lustful thoughts about the male crew members. ...
  • Child Abuse In Cyberspace

    EVEN THE CHELMSFORD, MASS., POLICE were shocked when they raided a local computer bulletin board called The County Morgue. The operator, John Rex Jr., a 23-year-old engineering student, ran the electronic forum out of the house he shared with his parents and two 15-foot pet pythons. Inside, police say they found firearms with 3,000 rounds of ammunition, explosives, bomb manuals and 43 videotapes, many of them either pornographic or about child molesters. ...
  • Bill And Craig's Big Idea

    IN THE WORLD OF THE START-UPS, THERE are ideas, big ideas and Big Ideas. On that scale, Bill Gates and Craig McCaw have a BIG IDEA. Last week they announced plans to launch 840 small communications satellites, nearly triple the amount circling the Earth today, so that virtually everyone will be able to send and receive video and sophisticated data. Their opening: the year 2001, not as far away as it sounds, especially considering the magnitude of the Gates/McCaw venture. And they want other people-customers, manufacturers, even government agencies-to finance the scheme. If anyone else had come up with such a plan, it would probably be laughed off the drawing board. But as James Moore of GeoPartners Research Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., telecommunications consulting firm, points out: "People become billionaires by taking unreasonable ideas and making them work. These are two people with a track record." ...
  • The Tempest In A D-Cup

    GET READY FOR THE BATTLE OF THE Bras. Last week, Gossard, the British lingerie maker, launched its Super Uplift bra, an engineering marvel consisting of 46 separate pieces of lace, padding. straps and wire that promise to make it possible for "even the most modest of bodices to flash real flesh." In May, Playtex will introduce its entry in the push-Lip sweepstakes, the Wonderbra. Its claim to fame is a testimonial from flat-chested model Kate Moss, who says, "They are so brilliant, I swear, even I get cleavage with them." ...
  • The Information Gap

    JONATHAN HEE, 15, AND MICHAEL Tran. 16, attend the same suburban high school, Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring, Md., outside Washington. Both hope to use computers at work someday. Tran would like to be a programmer or an engineer; Hee wants to be an engineer. But the similarity ends there. Hee is in Montgomery Blair's 400-student magnet science program, which boasts two state-of-the-art computer labs, Internet access and teachers who have been trained in the latest technology. Tran goes to the nonmagnet section of the school. which has 2,000 students, a few dozen obsolete computers and teachers who are struggling with too few resources for too many students. Jonathan has studied binary code and logic; he has his own computer at home. Michael took his first computer class this year: he has no machine of his own to hone his skills. ...
  • Sex On The Info Highway

    MEET THE COUPLE WHO CALL themselves the Roarks. This is how they looked for love on a Florida electronic bulletin board last week: "My fiancee and I have a well-evolved submissive/dominant relationship. She is classically beautiful (former model), quite intelligent (turned accountant) and a warm and loving individual ... She loves to role play-especially damsel in distress-and sometimes likes to be spanked. We often imagine spending an evening with another woman (ideally) or couple where the woman will be dominant over her while I will be ultimately dominant over both ... You should be sensitive, sensual, and sane; 25-40, attractive with an hourglass figure, feminine and busty (a preference we both share)." ...
  • Out Goes The Nouveau

    ONE DAY YOU WAKE UP, TAKE A long look around the living room and decide that the old, familiar stuff looks ... just plain old. There's only one thing to do, really. Chuck it and start again. If you're a living legend like Barbra Streisand, you can't exactly bold a tag sale in your yard, especially when the yard is 24 primo acres in Malibu. When Streisand decided to unload her $4 million collection of art deco and art nouveau furniture and art, she called Christie's, the tony auction house. The vast cache goes on the block in New York this week, but don't expect bargains: a Cartier clock ($100,000 to $150,000), a 1926 Rolls-Royce ($50,000 to $60,000), a Lipchitz sculpture ($150,000 to $200,000). ...
  • Hey Computer, Do My Taxes

    CANDICE BERGEN MAKES IT LOOK SIMPLE. In the Sprint Foncard ads, she merely tells the telephone to "Call home" without ever lifting a manicured finger. Major computer manufacturers are also touting the power of speech. Apple and Compaq, for example, sell machines that can respond to brief orders, like "Computer off" or "Open file." This is just baby talk compared with what the future could hold: computers that take fast dictation, a microchip in the car dashboard that answers when you ask directions, a calendar you can order to remind you to send your spouse flowers on your anniversary. ...
  • The Metaphor Is The Message

    IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS THE word. Or rather many, many words, weird words like edlin or pip. Those who understood what these words meant could get computers to do simple things, like copying data. But it was all too daunting for the average person, and computers remained largely the province of engineers and scientists. Then, a decade ago, Apple Computer introduced the Macintosh, and pictures crowded out words. The screen resembled a desktop with files that actually looked like file folders; discarded items went into an electronic trash can. A new class of users-writers, artists, business executives -embraced computers at work. ...
  • The Butlers Of The Digital Age Will Be Just A Keystroke Away

    Think of the proper english butler. Every morning, long before his lordship rises, the butler is scurrying through the great house, anticipating his master's every need. That's the basic concept behind "intelligent agents," software that travels through computer networks to fulfill users' requests. Agents can make travel reservations, collect interesting stories from news services or sort through electronic mail--while their master is miles from the keyboard. Agents were not much more than a futurist's dream until the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. There, a Silicon Valley company, General Magic Inc., announced the development of software called Telescript that includes features that may someday become the butlers of the digital age. ...
  • Happy Birthday: Still Wired At One

    WHEN WIRED MAGAZINE debuted, it was billed as a Rolling Stone for the computer generation. A year later it appears to have achieved just that. The paper version of the magazine is a required accessory for about 110,000 technotrendies--along with a color PowerBook and access to "the Net." Wired also reaches thousands more readers online, through America Online and the Internet. ...
  • In A Class Of Their Own

    WHILE OTHER 15-YEAR-OLDS ARE struggling through geometry, the periodic table and the agony of high school social life, Gabriel Willow is blissfully pondering the body angles of fish, the mysteries of evolution, origami and anything else that intrigues him. "I've got a pile of about 12 fish books," says the teenager, who lives in rural Maine. "I'm looking for fish with the most exaggerated shapes that I can do in origami, things like puffer fish and angler fish, barracudas." What educational institution allows such freedom? None. Gabriel has spent virtually all of his school years at home. For an exceptionally bright, self-motivated kid, home-schooling is a salvation, he says. "Everything isn't divided up into half-hour learning periods," he says. "I can pursue my own interests as far as I want to take them." ...
  • Who Holds The Key To The E-Mailbox?

    REPORTERS ARE PAID TO BE NOSY. BUT there are limits, at least if you work at the Los Angeles Times. Earlier this month Times editors recalled a reporter in the paper's Moscow bureau because they believed he was repeatedly reading his colleague's electronic-mail messages, according to sources at the Times. The reporter, Michael Hiltzik, was caught in a sting operation using phony messages. Hiltzik, back in Moscow temporarily, would not comment and editors at the paper said they couldn't discuss a "personnel matter." ...
  • It Can Rom, But It Can't Hide

    CLICK. YOU'RE INSIDE A COZY BOOKLINED STUDY. Click. A cartoon fish pops out of a painting of a seashell. Click. A slide show of vintage Vogue magazine covers flashes by. That's just one of 12 rooms in "Alice: An Interactive Museum," where the click of a computer's mouse unleashes a stream of eccentric inventions. Too surreal? Come back to earth with "Capitol Hill" from Software Toolworks, which turns users into freshman legislators. You learn how Washington works--and doesn't work--as you vote on bills, listen to debates and meet powerful wheelers and dealers. Losing faith in the future? Try "Isaac Asimov's The Ultimate Robot," from Microsoft. It tells you everything you ever wanted to know about droids and their kinetic kin; when you've absorbed all the lessons, you can use the on-screen tool kit to build your own mechanical helper. ...
  • Hillary's House

    DAVID LETTERMAN WAS CLEARLY NOT impressed. After viewing pictures of the freshly renovated White House private quarters last week, he concluded that the only thing new in the Lincoln Bedroom was the deep fryer by the bed. Hey, Dave, could we show a little respect here? Bill and Hillary didn't make snide comments about your new digs (and for sure they cost a whole lot more than the $396,429.46 in private donations used to spiff up the White House). ...
  • Failing The Most Gifted Kids

    THEY'RE THE BEST AND THE brightest--and they're bored. That's the conclusion of the federal government's first assessment in 20 years of education for the nation's smartest students. Some gifted students, especially those from poor neighborhoods, are simply ignored. Others spend wasted hours in regular classrooms where teachers go over work that these students have already mastered. Still others try to hide their talents, to avoid being called a "nerd" or a "dweeb." ...
  • Take The Money And Run

    CALIFORNIA IS THE STATE that spawned the tax revolt (remember Proposition 13?) and term limitations. Now some Californians hope to add school vouchers to the "you saw it here first" list. A referendum that would give parents $2,600 in public funds to spend at any private school is the hottest item on the November ballot. Vouchers have been on the agenda in other states in recent years, but California's effort is the most visible and one of the best financed. Backers of Proposition 174 include an unwieldy coalition of conservatives, libertarians, minorities and Christian fundamentalists. They say that California public schools are so terrible that private schools can't be any worse and might be better. Proposition 174's powerful opponents are national and state teachers' unions, which claim that vouchers will destroy public schools by taking away badly needed funds. ...
  • The Fugitive

    After 23 years, Katherine Power turned herself in. The Vietnam-era radical could no longer bear "the shame and hiddenness' of life on the lam. ...
  • Live Wires

    SO, YOU'VE GOT YOUR VOICE MAIL, YOUR OFFICE FAX, YOUR home fax, your car fax, your cellular phone, your car phone, your pager, your laptop...and you think you're totally wired? ...
  • A Woodstock For Hackers And 'Phreaks'

    It was billed as Woodstock for the Nintendo generation. The techno-freaks who gathered at the Hackers at the End of the Universe conference in the Netherlands last week had at least one thing in common with their '60s counterparts: they believed rules were made to be broken. Example 1: Organizers labored to set up a sophisticated computer network at their campground outside Amsterdam. But just a half hour after the session opened, hackers had already cracked the network wide open, reprogramming the system to reject the selected password: guest. Example 2: A day later, other hackers tapped into the conference's phone system, leaving one line open to the United States for four hours without bothering to pay for the privilege. Not too nice, but what else would you expect? Even at a gathering of hundreds of their own kind from all over Europe, hackers are an anarchic breed, intent on outwitting any impediment to access. No code, even the most elaborate, is ever safe from their prying...
  • My First Date With Newton

    Most of the time, you'll find me in the slow lane on the electronic highway, but Apple Computer, Inc.'s Newton MessagePad, introduced last week, held out an irresistible lure: total control over all of life's little details like my schedule, my address book and my endless "To Do!' lists. Newton is also supposed to be able to read my handwriting: a feat heretofore unattainable by any living human. I had to know. Would it help, or was it hype? ...
  • Wild In The Streets

    Charles Conrad didn't have a chance. He was 55 years old, crippled by multiple sclerosis and needed a walker or wheelchair to get around. The boys who allegedly attacked him earlier this month were young--17, 15 and 14--and they were ruthless. Police say that when Conrad returned to his suburban Atlanta condominium while they were burgling it, the boys did what they had to do. They got rid of him. Permanently. ...
  • No Cheering In The Press Box

    Like most reporters, Sandy Nelson of Tacoma's Morning News Tribune is a champion of free speech. But while her colleagues worry about pressure from advertisers, Nelson says the villains in her story are her editors, who shunted her off to the copy desk because she was active in a gay-rights organization. Now she's suing them. "Journalists are like serfs," she says. "We have become the company's property 24 hours a day." Her editors, who plan to fight Nelson's court challenge, say they were just protecting the paper's integrity. "This case is not about lifestyles, freedom of speech or an individual," says managing editor Jan Brandt. "It's about protecting a newspaper's credibility. When a journalist takes a highly visible political role, it undermines the credibility of the paper." ...
  • He's The Next Best Thing: A Student Of Genius

    Mention Howard Gardner's name to a growing cadre of educators and the response verges on the reverence teenagers lavish on a rock star. "I think Howard is a genius," says Ann Lewin, founder of the Capitol Children's Museum in Washington, D.C. Whether or not he deserves Lewin's label, Gardner is certainly a careful student of geniuses. In his latest book, "Creating Minds," he profiles great minds of the 20th century. The book is sure to get attention not only for Gardner's typology of intelligence but also because of his guru-like status. ...
  • A Town Like No Other

    Country-music fans gravitate to the Grand Ole Opry, painters dream of Provence and ski bums settle in Aspen. Lesbians have a mecca too. It's Northampton, Mass. a.k.a. Lesbianville, U.S.A. in a profile of the town las year, the National Enquire claimed that "10,000 cuddling, kissing lesbians call it home sweet home." While n one really knows how many o Northampton's 30,000 residents are homosexual women (the best guess is one in 10 women), lesbians are clearly an important and somewhat controversial presence. "It's more an issue of visibility than numbers," says Mayor Mary L. Ford, who is straight but has many lesbian supporters. ...
  • Very High Tech, But No Pencil

    An artist's studio should be messy, littered with half-finished canvases and wilting still lifes. But David Poole's work space is as orderly as a scientific laboratory, filled with impersonal machines. Two desktop computers are his easels; highpriced software transforms their circuitry into electronic paint and paper. Shelves full of recording equipment are his accompanying orchestra. The machines give Poole the power to create 3-D illustrations and animation that would be impossible for a single person to produce by conventional means. Recently, he worked on a poster with a science-fiction theme. With a few keystrokes, he could create and then examine mutant monsters from dozens of angles. In seconds, he could change texture, lighting, color. It's certainly impressive-but is it art? ...
  • An Interactive Life

    To get an idea of what the future might bring, step into the past. At the Edison National Historical Site in West Orange, N.J., there's a room full of a dozen old phonograph machines. Some were built by Thomas Edison, who invented recorded sound in 1877, and others were produced by competitors. In the decades represented by the display, the concept and purpose of sound recording changed dramatically. Edison conceived of his phonograph as a business machine that would help people in distant places communicate. He intended to record voices-nothing more. His competitors envisioned the greater potential for entertainment and art. Where he saw internal memos, someone else saw Beethoven. ...
  • A Fantasy Crashes

    Walls embalmed in 18 coats of lacquer. Chintz here, there and everywhere. Curtains with enough fabric to make dresses for Scarlett O'Hara and half the women in Georgia. Those were the interior-design emblems of the '80s, and the statement they made was intentionally blunt: we've got money to burn. The pinnacle for many designers and owners was a spread in Architectural Digest (AD to aficionados), HG and Metropolitan Home. Their influence was so great that even after the stock market and real-estate prices crashed in the late '80s, readers were loyal. ...
  • The Group Classroom

    In a typical high school, a noisy class usually means there's a substitute teacher on hand. But in room 403 at Pomperaug High School in Southbury, Conn., chatter is actually part of the learning process. Gone is the traditional format: teacher at the head of the class, students lined up at individual desks. The 34 sophomores are grouped in clusters while four teachers mill about, overseeing their work. The curriculum is innovative, too. It's an interdisciplinary course called Project Discovery, which combines English, social studies and biology. Each student within a cluster has a project; on a recent day some were writing biological classifications on note cards while others were putting together essays. ...
  • Day Of Judgement

    The announcement blared over loudspeakers just before dawn on April 19. Many of the Branch Davidians were sleeping; a few were awake, reading their Bibles. "This is not an assault! Do not fire! Come out now and you will not be harmed!" FBI agents were warning cult members to leave Ranch Apocalypse on what the agents hoped would be the last day of the standoff. Survivors heard a different message. "Some of the very religious people," says Jack Zimmermann, a cult member's lawyer, "thought it was the last day of the world." For most of them, it would be. ...