Steven Levy

The Hacker Hemingway

Midway through Neal Stephenson's new novel, a rambling and revelatory 918-page meditation on cryptography with digressions on dental surgeons, fiber-optic cables and the proper way to consume Cap'n Crunch cereal, one of the characters posts a long e-mail detailing a trip into the Philippine rain forest.

Runs, Bits And Errors

Last week Bill Gates came out with a book detailing his thoughts on the future of work. "Business @ the Speed of Thought" (which, incidentally, doesn't squander a drop of ink on the author's current antitrust woes) begins with a simple premise of deceptive power: "...

Play It Your Way

For years the bane of the Macintosh faithful has been a depressing lack of games. Then in January, the Connectix company announced a startling shortcut: a program that actually allowed the latest Macs to run Sony PlayStation games.

Free Pcs. . .For A Price

BILL GROSS WANTS TO GIVE you a computer. Free. Just say the word, and a 333 MHz Compaq Presario will be winging its way to you. Monitor included. Though at first his new company (called Free-PC, natch) is distributing only 10,000 of these machines, Gross hopes eventually to send one to all of the nearly 1.5 million handout-seekers who have visited his Web site, called his company and even left messages on his home answering machine since the plan was announced last week.

A Window On Their World

THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE'S case against Microsoft has been billed as a showdown to determine the nature of high-tech antitrust law in the next century. Something to shed light on big questions.

Clock Of Ages

TO DANNY HILLIS, THE POINT of building a millennium clock--a monumental device that ticks annually, chimes every thousand years and keeps accurate time for 10,000 years--is telling a story.

Code Warriors

THE OWNER OF THE SUDDENLY tiny Cyber Loft cafe stopped counting at 70 people. ""It's never been this crowded before,'' he said of the pasty-skinned mass of keyboard-clicking humanity that braved bitter temperatures to attend last Wednesday night's meeting of the Philadelphia Linux Users Group.

A Blow To The Empire

SOFTWARE GIANT IS THE MOST SERIOUS THREAT EVER TO BILL GATES'S HIGH-TECH KINGDOM.FEDERAL JUDGE THOMAS PENFIELD JACKSON HAD some news for his packed courtroom--he had conducted an informal software demonstration.

Getting Away With It

Meg Maddux Wakeman can tell you the exact time the phone rang on Friday with the news she dreaded most: 3:52 a.m. Not yet dawn in Seattle, but enough of the day had passed on the European continent for a three-judge panel in the French Cour d'Appel to jam a Gallic finger into America's eye and extend a long-term nightmare for Wakeman and her family.

The Cellular Phone

WITH ITS CATCHY NAME and clear convenience the walkie-talkie was one of the hits of World War II. So after the war, companies moved to capitalize on the public interest in wireless phones.

The Computer

AS THE CENTURY COMES TO a close, the technology that obsesses us, captivates us, infuriates us and dominates us is the computer. But ultimately, this most amazing of inventions won't be seen as an artifact of the old millennium but the defining force of the one just dawning.

The Mouse

HUMBLE IN SIZE (FITS in your palm) and even humbler m name, the computer mouse is now taken for granted. Actually it's part and parcel of the elephant--size leap forward in computing that it accompanied: the graphical user interface, or GUI.

Bar Codes

SUPERMARKET CLERKS use bar-code scanners to whisk your purchases from cart to bag in no time, but the technology behind them developed more slowly. In 1948, a grad student named Bernard Silver overheard a food-chain exec bemoan the lack of an automated-checkout system.

Bureaucracy Vs. Behemoth

NORMALLY A 48-PAGE LEGAL brief addressing a government antitrust action does not make for scintillating reading in bed, bus or bathtub. But last week's response by Microsoft to Janet Reno's Oct. 20 charge of unfair monopolistic practices delivers an unusually high quotient of delicious quips, dismissive put-downs and just plain fightin' words.

Breaking Windows

BILL GATES WASN'T acting like a man who had just been given the news that the government was going on television to call him an illegal monopolist. But on Monday, a little after 10 a.m.

Ready To Ware

SICK OF LUGGING YOUR LAPTOP? Depressed at your inability to surf the Web, recalculate a spreadsheet or explore the world of Riven while simultaneously suffering through a lecture, riding the subway or negotiating the slalom run at Gstaad?

Did The Net Kill Eddie?

THE DEATH OF 11-YEAR-OLD EDDIE WERNER was heart-rending, all the more so because the scenario was so familiar. A disappearance. The small body discovered in nearby woods.

World Wide Wake

It is with great sadness I sit here in front of my computer. I cannot be at the embassy to sign the condolence book . . . I cannot be at the service to say goodbye to a wonderful human being.

A Big Brother?

A bruised Apple and the mighty Microsoft have agreed to a truce in the war of the desktop. It buys Steve Jobs some time to save the company he loves. And it's a bonanza for Bill Gates.

On The Net, Anything Goes

BORN OF A HYSTERIA TRIGGERED by a genuine problem - the ease with which wired-up teenagers can get hold of nasty pictures on the Internet - the Communications Decency Act (CDA) was never really destined to be a companion piece to the Bill of Rights.

God Save The Mouse!

AT ONE TIME IT WOULD have seemed a grotesque mismatch: Cambridge University, since the 13th century a snooty bastion of intellect, opening its gowns to a rapaciously entrepreneurial Harvard dropout who founded his company in 1975.

How To Build A Master

STEVEN LEVY DEEP BLUE WAS not the first computer to take on a world champion in a beloved game. In August 1994 the greatest checkers player who ever lived, a 67-year-old born-again math professor named Marion Tinsley, faced the toughest challenge of a long career: Chinook a.k.a.

Garry Sings The Blues

THE GRANDMASTERS WERE PUZzled. Why was Garry Kasparov putting on his watch? The world chess champion doesn't do this until a game is virtually over, and this was not even an hour into the final round of a tied-up six-game match against IBM's Deep Blue computer - the contest trumpeted as the ultimate battle between man and machine.

Big Blue's Hand Of God

BEFORE THE CLASSIC REMATCH of Kasparov versus Deep Blue - the man-against-machine conflict that pitted the world's best chess player against an electronic foe - one thing was agreed upon by all parties and observers.

Man Vs. Machine

THE HOPE OF HUMANITY IS IN a good mood. On a bitterly cold Sunday in late April in Moscow, less than a week before embarking for New York City to represent our species in a battle that may one day become the prime landmark in technology's ineluctable march to surpass its makers, Garry Kasparov is padding around his mother's roomy apartment in slippers, a knit vest and khakis.