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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.