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ap via nbc news
While I’ve been busy doing whatever (looking for a new home, etc.), I missed a few big birthdays here in online-land.
Tim Berners-Lee opened the first public World Wide Web site on 4/30/93 at the CERN particle-physics lab in Switzerland. For the occasion, that site has been put back up at its original URL.
Berners-Lee was, and still is, an idealist. In the original CERN site’s documents, he described the WWW as something that could open up information to the masses.
Instead of “walled garden” online networks such as CompuServe, Prodigy, and the original AOL, the Web would be open to all comers and contributors. Anybody could put anything on, or receive anything from, it.
This ultimate “disruptive technology,” creator of LOLcat memes and destroyer of newspapers, record labels, and middle-class livelihoods, got its start with the most noble of intentions.
(Just like many a mad-scientist-movie experiment.)
By pure coincidence, the first issue of Wired magazine was out that same month.
From the start, it was intended to be a lot more important than a mere buying guide to PC gear. It was to chronicle tech as the biggest economic, societal, and even ideological movement of our time.
It posited loudmouth, alpha-male San Franciscan Libertarians as the Voice of the Future. It sneered at governments, residents of “Tired” locales (France, Manhattan, Seattle), and people who dared to think about the well-being of others as backward-thinking parasites.
In the world according to the early Wired, CEOs were the new rock stars, even the new royalty. No social or environmental issue could be discussed in its pages, unless there was a potential solution that would also enrich (or at least never inconvenience) big business.
In the end, the bosses and bosses’ lackeys Wired worshipped got most of their way.
And as cyber-critic Jason Lanier notes, the 99 Percent are still trying to pick up the pieces.
That same week 10 years later, Apple launched the first version of the iTunes Store.
The iTunes application had been around since 2001, when Apple bought and revamped a third-party program called SoundJam MP.
Steve Jobs had identified music (and eventually general media) playback as a technology in which Apple had to lead, for the sake of the company’s survival. Otherwise, Windows-only applications and file formats (remember WinAmp?) would shut out Mac users, threatening Apple’s presence in home environments. By making iTunes, and making a Windows version of it, Jobs and co. stayed in the home-computer game.
Two years later, Windows Media-only file protection schemes were threatening to put a lock on “legal” (commercial) music downloads. Again, the Mac and its users would be shut out. Apple’s response not only had to be Windows-compatible, it had to dominate the market on both platforms.
The iTunes Store did that, and more.
Its stand-alone hardware adjuct, the iPod, quickly dominated the new market of portable digital music machines.
And along the way, iTunes allegedly “killed the old music industry.”
(Of course, many of us felt the old music industry had deserved to die, but that’s not the point here.)
But now, the notion of music downloads seems as archaic as the notion of buying music on little compact discs.
The big hype these days is for streaming music subscriptions, a field which Apple has yet to enter.
Yet through all these industry changes, one thing remains constant.
Most recording artists themselves still get the fiscal shaft.
washington dept. of natural resources via kxly-tv spokane
google earth via rhizome.org
perfect sound forever, via furious.com
An earlier version misstated the term Mr. Vidal called William F. Buckley Jr. in a debate. It was crypto-Nazi, not crypto-fascist.
ford 'seattle-ite xxi' car display at the world's fair; uw special collections via edmonds beacon
painting the needle for its big b-day party
Keith Seinfeld at KPLU recently asked, “Why does Seattle still care about the world’s fair?”
That’s an excellent question.
As international expos go, Seattle’s was relatively small.
And it took place a full half century ago.
Until Mad Men came along, that era was widely considered to have been a dullsville time, a time wtih nothing much worth remembering.
The “Space Age” predicted at the fair would seem would seem ridiculous just a few years later. It predicted domed cities and cheap nuclear power. It predicted computers in the home (in the form of fridge-sized consoles) and video conferencing (with a special “picturephone”), but it didn’t predict the Internet.
It sure didn’t predict the racial, sexual, musical, and social upheavals collectively known as “The Sixties.”
And a lot of the fair’s attractions were so utterly corny, you can wonder why they were taken seriously even then. Attractions such as the world’s largest fruitcake. Or the Bubbleator (essentially just a domed platform on a hydraulic lift). Or the adults-only risqué puppet show (by the future producers of H.R. Pufnstuf).
Yet a lot of us do care about all that. And not just us old-timers either.
And not just for the physical structures the fair left behind (the Space Needle, the Science Center, etc.).
The fair was the single most important thing that happened in Seattle between World War II and the rise of Microsoft. (The launch of the Boeing 707 was the next most important.)
The fair revved up the whole Northwest tourism industry, just as jet aircraft and Interstate highways were getting more Americans to explore other parts of their nation. This once-remote corner of the country became a top destination.
The fair was a coming-out party for a new Seattle.
A Seattle dominated not by timber and fishing but by tech. Specifically, by aerospace. Boeing had only a secondary role in equipping the U.S. space program, but its planes were already making Earth a seemingly smaller place.
The fair didn’t start the Seattle arts and performance scenes, but it gave them a new oomph.
Seattle Opera and the Seattle Repertory Theatre were immediately established in the fair’s wake.
ACT Theatre came soon after. Visual art here was already becoming famous, thanks to the “Northwest School” painters; the fair’s legacy led to increased local exposure to both local and national artists.
The fair established a foothold for modern architecture here.
Before the fair, there hadn’t been a major change to Seattle’s skyline since the Smith Tower in 1914. (The few new downtown buildings were relatively short, such as the 19-story Norton Building.)
The Space Needle became the city’s defining icon, instantly and forever.
The U.S. Science Pavilion (now Pacific Science Center) established the career of Seattle-born architect Minoru Uamasaki, who later designed the former World Trade Center.
Speaking of tragedy and turmoil, some commentators have described the fair’s era as “a simpler time.”
The Cuban missile crisis, revealed just after the fair ended, threatened to turn the cold war hot.
The whole Vietnam debacle was getting underway.
The civil rights and black power movements were quickly gaining traction.
The birth control pill was just entering widespread use.
Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, which helped launch the U.S. environmental movement, came out while the fair was on.
So yes, there were big issues and conflicts in 1962.
But there was also something else.
There was optimism.
In every exhibit and display at the fair, there was the notion that humans could work together to solve things.
And, at least at the fair, most everything was considered solveable.
I wrote in 1997, at the fair’s 35th anniversary, that its creators sincerely felt Americas would strive “to ensure mass prosperity (without socialism), strengthen science, popularize education, advance minority rights, and promote artistic excellence.”
It’s that forward-looking confidence that got lost along the road from the Century 21 Exposition to the 21st century.
It’s something many of us would like to see more of these days.
And that, more than Belgian waffles or an Elvis movie, is why Seattle still cares about the World’s Fair.
And why you should too.
(Cross posted with City Living.)
souvenir display at the world's fair anniversary exhibition
Three of the Big Six book publishers (Hachette, News Corp.’s HarperCollins, and CBS’s Simon & Schuster) have settled with the U.S. Justice Dept. in the dispute over alleged e-book price fixing.
The publishers still insist they’re innocent; but they agreed in the settlement to not interfere with, or retaliate against, discounted e-book retail prices.
Apple, Pearson’s Penguin, and Holtzbrinck’s Macmillan have not yet settled; they also insist they did not collude to keep e-book prices up. Bertlesmann’s Random House was not sued.
This is, of course, all really about Amazon, and its ongoing drives to keep e-book retail prices down and its share of those revenues up. The big publishers, and some smaller ones too, claim that’s bad for them and for the book biz as a whole.
In other randomosity:
revel body, via geekwire.com
A few days late but always a welcome sight, it’s the yummy return of the annual MISCmedia In/Out List.
As always, this listing denotes what will become hot or not-so-hot during the next year, not necessarily what’s hot or not-so-hot now. If you believe everything big now will just keep getting bigger, I can score you a cheap subscription to News of the World.
satirical ad by leah l. burton, godsownparty.com