Thursday, January 04, 2007

Weird flashback

So an acquaintance asked me if he could read my 1996 review of Bill Gates' unmemorable 1996 tome, The Road Ahead. Sure, I said, I'll send it to you. But no. Not only was it not on my Mac hard drive (probably hard drive #6 in the last 10 years) -- but I can't find it online. Anywhere. I think I wrote it for Computer Currents, now defunct, which morphed into the forgettable Computer User. And its archives go back to -- 1997.

It seems really impossible to me, the notion of not being able to find something online. I mean this isn't even a rare manuscript, for god's sake -- it's 500 words for a computer rag with an online archive (well, it did have one, anyway). So I guess it's lost in the ether. But the search did lead me to poke around my files of reviews and odd jobs from the past, and I did find my writeup of Michael Wolff's 1998 Burn Rate. (Yes, the same MW who was acerbic then, moved on to write an acidic column in New York magazine for years, and is now in fine astringent form for VF.) Here's a bit from that review that I have to say I still enjoy reading:

Wolff details the rise of Wired and its founders, Louis Rosetto and Jane Metcalfe, as they ascend from their no-account expat existence in Amsterdam to being publishing history-makers. He regales us with his attempt to do a deal with the intimidating and odd Maxwell sisters (daughters of infamous uber-publisher Robert Maxwell) who ran a search directory called Magellan (later bought by Excite). His stories about making deals with fusty computer publisher CMP, the chaotic Wonderland of AOL partnerships, the machinations of mega-corps like Time Warner trying to "get" the Internet -- all are gems found throughout Burn Rate. And Wolff's asides, weaving the tales together, about the ongoing puzzle of calculating online traffic, or charging for advertising "click-through" -- illuminate and give perspective to the overall story. ("Designing a web site has more in common with designing an airport terminal than it does with creating a magazine. It is all about ingress and egress, about routing and traffic flow.")
Until I re-read this, I had no idea I'd ever used the word "click-through" that long ago. (And how quaint -- a hyphen!) And here's another amusingly weird fact I uncovered tonight: there are 92 used copies of BR for sale on Amazon, starting at .01. A long time ago for sure. I even referred to Netscape as a company that "made it" in the same review. RIP, dear Netscape.

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