On Reading Issues of Wired from 1993 to 1995 [Anna Wiener – The New Yorker]
The tactile pleasure is undeniable, as is the nostalgia factor; each Day-Glo issue is an offline time capsule from the first dot-com bubble. Wired’s recurring gadget spread, “Fetish,” is where I always flip first: a catalogue of mid-nineties stuff-lust, resplendent with fine-art mouse pads, data gloves, chunky digital cameras, personal stereos, and vibrating office chairs for the gaming élite. Some of these products are unimaginable now, like SelectPhone, a digital phone book for all fifty states contained on four compact disks; the Clipper CS-1, a tubular, seven-foot-long work station (“the perfect cockpit for zooming through cyberspace”); or DataHand, a two-thousand-dollar sensor-laden, ergonomic “keyboard without keys.” Some of them, like the Receptor MessageWatch—a combination wristwatch and pager—look awfully familiar, if only to a point: “Major drawback,” the blurb concedes, “the watch currently only works in Seattle and Portland.” I love this section not just for its bald indulgence but because it’s a document of a time when consumer technology was still clumsy and undefined.
Part of the delight of early Wired is in the advertisements: glossy close-ups of laptops and personal digital assistants, mockups of angular browsers and snap-to-grid Web pages, artistic renderings from the video game Myst. (Many of the ads themselves looked like stripped, bandwidth-optimized Web sites for the dial-up era.) I laughed out loud to see a centerfold featuring Steve Case, America Online’s co-founder and then-C.E.O., modeling khakis for the Gap. (In true nineties synchronicity, the photograph is by Richard Avedon.) Two-page spreads selling business software promised an efficient, collaborative future, albeit a very male one. “It was a race to be first that made you who you are,” a 1994 ad for Global Village proclaimed, with copy slapped over a fleet of high-resolution spermatozoa. “Don’t let a fax/modem slow you now.”
Here’s the Clipper CS-1 – on permanent display at the London Museum of Design