Steven Levy

A Geek Bill Of Rights

Only a few decades ago, exposing kids to computers was considered a radical idea, as well as a waste of precious mainframe time. Now the computer-children tandem is as natural as the combo of kids and dogs.

Predicting Terror: Foolish Bet

The way news broke last week of retired Adm. John Poindexter's pending resignation from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is emblematic of his troubled tenure as head of the Terrorist Information Awareness project: a leaked revelation with no official explanation.The departure comes after months of pressure.


With membership shrinking, America Online hopes to reload with its latest upgrade, AOL 9.0 (available free to members). Some features are goofy, like a Toontown version of emoticons called SuperBuddy Icons, including one based on Ben Stiller and another on a triggerfish.

Pirates Of The Internet

Last month I attended a hearing of the senate judiciary Committee with an intriguing title: "The dark side of a bright idea: Could personal and national-security risks compromise the potential of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks?" I certainly was aware that some members of Congress wanted to snuff out the grass-roots phenomena of people's swapping copyrighted songs on the Net.

Machine Vs. Man: Checkmate

Garry Kasparov's head is bowed, buried in his hands. Is he in despair, or just stealing a minute of rest in his relentless quest to regain the world championship, promote chess and represent humanity in the epic conflict between man and machine?

Net Savings

Propeller heads have long predicted that the Internet would become the preferred long-distance medium for actual conversation. But "voice over IP"--if that isn't geeky enough, try "VoIP"--has to date been a hard-to-use, low-quality means of barking to someone via the microphone of your PC.

Info With A Ball And Chain

When Steve Jobs introduced the iTunes music store a few weeks ago, the acclaim was nearly universal. Nonetheless, a small but vocal minority viewed the online emporium as a menace--because the iTunes program somewhat limits a consumer's ability to copy and share songs.

Net Savings

Propeller heads have long predicted that the Internet would become the preferred long-distance medium for actual conversation. But "voice over IP"--if that isn't geeky enough, try "VoIP"--has to date been a hard-to-use, low-quality means of barking to someone via the microphone of your PC.

Two Gorillas Make Nice

Last week the technology elite gathered in Carlsbad, Calif., for a Wall Street Journal technology conference. Nobody gave it a second thought that some of the Microsoft people seemed to be hanging around folks from America Online just a little too much for blood rivals.

Not The Same Old Song

Steve would have made a good rock star," said Roger Ames after Apple CEO Steve Jobs's tour de force introduction last week of the Apple iTunes Music Store.

Spot The Terrorist

Jay Walker achieved fame and fortune as an internet pioneer (, then notoriety and considerably less fortune as an icon of the dot-com bust. But his legacy might one day be a sweeping scheme for homeland security that doesn't earn him a buck.

The Connected Company

To understand how business runs in the 21st century, just look at the business end of the military. It's all about connectedness. Connections to outsiders lead to vital information: Saddam-istas in a compound near a Baghdad restaurant.

The Killer Browser

Just about the only place you could get something to eat at 4 in the morning in Champaign, Ill., in early 1993 was a convenience store called the White Hen Pantry. "It's kind of a Midwest 7-Eleven," says Marc Andreessen, who would often stumble out of his workspace at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at ungodly hours in search of sustenance.

Random Access Online: Bloggers' Delight

When I tracked down Sean-Paul Kelley, he was taking on CNN, NBC, Fox and The New York Times with a Compaq laptop wirelessly connected to a cable modem in the single bedroom of the San Antonio, Texas, apartment he shares with his wife and a calico cat named Barsik."I've got 32 windows open on my browser, the TV is on, and I've got the BBC on my RealPlayer," says the 32-year-old freelance financial consultant. "I woke up to 332 e-mails this morning."From this command post, Kelley single-handedly...

Secrecy Rarely Works

Last month some researchers at England's Cambridge University made a disturbing discovery about certain bank ATMs: it's possible to steal from them from your account.

Marketing: Flogging On A Blog

The exploding popularity of Weblogs--diarylike personal Web sites, also known as blogs--is often touted as a shining example of untainted expression. But marketers at Dr Pepper see the movement as the perfect launch point for a "grass roots" campaign for a new "milk-based product with an attitude," Raging Cow.

Microsoft Gets A Clue From Its Kiddie Corps

Bill Gates didn't get it. Neither did Steve Ballmer. In July 2000, when Tammy Savage, a 30-year-old manager in business development, went before Microsoft's heavy hitters and presented a case that they were clue-challenged in understanding an entire generation, the reception was chillier than a campsite on Mount Rainier.She'd told them all about her perception that for young people, the Internet is like oxygen, and the 13-24 set "are on instant messenger before their morning coffee." To serve...

Health: Fantastic Voyage

One day not long ago, Richard Saul Wurman, the design wizard behind the "Access" book series, realized: "I knew more about the way my car works than the way my body does." So, for himself and his readers, he began work on a series of meaty booklets that make sense of basic health issues--like men's and women's diagnostic tests, cardiovascular problems and drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and herbal).

How To Can The Spam

Looking at my bloated in box, it's amazing to realize that less than a measly decade ago, you could have had a reasonable debate about whether the Internet should accommodate any commercialism.

Sony's New Day

There are ghosts at Sony. You can hear them speak. On the ground floor of the company's Tokyo headquarters is a small museum. Behind a wall of glass, on a prominent pedestal, stands one of the original tape recorders produced in 1950 by a new enterprise called Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Co. (thankfully, the familiar name combining the Latin sonus and "sonny boy" came a few years later).

Technology: Big And Small

For gadget lovers and MAC fans, Christmas comes in January, when Apple Computer and the rest of the world's electronics manufacturers hold separate trade shows.Macworld Decked in his signature black shirt and jeans, Steve Jobs conducted his annual filibuster in San Francisco; he typically comes loaded with envelope-pushing goodies that re-energize the perpetually beleaguered Mac minority.


The keynote was preceded by a sour note: the night before Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage to address the annual San Francisco Macworld show, a Merrill Lynch analyst issued a dire "sell" rating for the company's stock, charging that "the new product pipeline looks skimpy and we expect continued market share losses." But Steve Jobs was singing a different tune.

Forcing Open Windows

Can anyone compete with Microsoft in the world of software applications? For years now, Bill Gates & Co. have had clear sailing: the Windows operating-system monopoly has helped make their key products--like Word and Outlook--into unbeatable juggernauts.

Another Go At The Tablet Pc

Experience the evolution. That's the weirdly appropriate slogan for Microsoft's highly touted tonic for the troubled computer industry, the Tablet PC. During its high-profile launch last Thursday, Bill Gates acknowledged that the laptop-you-can-write-on was only the latest (and presumably, greatest) of many failed pen-based computing iterations.

Global Search

Sure, you love your Google. But what if the object of your quest is to get a broad view of the subject? With traditional search engines, you might have to scroll through many pages of results.

Take My Bills, Please!

There was a telling moment in the recent agenda conference, a prominent gathering of high-tech execs not bankrupt or in handcuffs. Moderator James Fallows, whose day job consists partially of writing big-think articles for The Atlantic Monthly, was interviewing Rob Glaser, the CEO of Real Networks.

Cheat Sheet | Dressed To The Eights

This month America Online (AOL) and Microsoft Network (MSN) unveil what they call breakthrough software updates, both numbered Version 8. It seems AOL (35 million members, $24 a month) has finally wised up about MSN (9 million, $22 a month).AOL 8.0LOOK AND FEEL: Shedding its Pravda attitude toward personalization, it now offers six Welcome screens.