WIRED and The WELL

Reading Rex Sorgatz’s commemoration of Wired Magazine’s first issue for its 15th birthday, I was reminded of the very first mentions of Wired online. Not on the web, which was only just getting started with the release of Mosaic 0.5 the month before, but on the uber-hip Northern California BBS, The WELL.

I love deep-diving the WELL archives for research. It’s an amazing glimpse at the tech and media scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but especially for anyone interested in Wired. Many of Wired’s founding staff and contributors were active on the WELL, and executive editor Kevin Kelly was a WELL co-founder, so it was natural that the BBS hosted the official Wired forum.

Below, for the first time on the public web, I’ve reprinted some of Wired’s early history on the WELL, including the first call-for-feedback from May 1992 (9 months before the first issue), the first press release, and some of the more interesting responses.

Topic: Wired On the Well (inna muchomedia style)

From: Will Kreth (wired)

Date: 1992-05-15 23:53:00

This topic is a unique opportunity for you to help design a radically different kind of computer magazine called WIRED. WIRED is the first magazine for the digerati that is not about speeds and feeds, but about the people, companies and ideas that are creating the Digital Revolution. Based in the SF Bay area, WIRED is backed by some pretty well-known Digital Visionaries, and include among its contributors many of the most talented technology journalists in the United States, Europe and Japan. Projected launch date for WIRED is Q4 ’92.

WIRED?

Do you want more from a magazine than platform bigotry? Are you annoyed by the clutter and noise in today’s computer magazines? Are you bored with computer magazines that read like parts catalogs? Do you crave meaning – the social,

technological, commercial, cultural and political context of the information revolution you are creating?

You can’t get that from the computer press. You don’t find that on television or the radio. The business and lifestyle magazines offer no hope.

That’s why we’re creating WIRED. WIRED’s mission is to stimulate the imaginations and reflect the aspirations of the most powerful people on the planet today – the people who are making and using digital technologies – and explore the technological, political, personal and cultural issues which will dominate life at the cusp of the new millennium.

WIRED will be brainfood. Every article will have a keen news slant, and each issue will have at least one article that is like a pitchfork to the solar plexus. WIRED is meant to delight. The design will be strong, innovative, state of the art. WIRED’s sensibilities are distinct: intelligent, venturesome, skeptical and journalistic, polished and still a bit edgy, hip and yet suspicious of hip, always happy to stir up a little trouble.

BACKGROUND

Some of you may remember a technology magazine out of Amsterdam, The Netherlands – initially called Language Technology (and later, perhaps better known, as ELECTRIC WORD). Electric Word was one of the most innovative magazines of the late ’80s – covering interactive media, word-based computing, and the Information Age in general – with a fresh, new perspective. It developed a base of near-fanatical subscribers the world over, and the reputation as “the least boring computer magazine in the world.” Unfortunately, after three years of publishing internationally, Electric Word was forced to close – due to a the financial flameout of its Dutch parent company.

The editor/publisher and marketing director of Electric Word (Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, respectively) moved to the Bay Area in June 1991 to start a new magazine. That magazine is WIRED.

YOUR OPPORTUNITY

WIRED is for and about you. So we wanted to use the technology to do something unique – include you in the design of a major publication as it moves from concept to beta to final release, so to speak. In a very real sense, this is your chance to influence the direction of WIRED from the very beginning.

So .

– what people, companies or ideas would you like to see in-depth stories about

– what investigative stories would you like to see

– what big issues would you focus on

– what CD-ROMS, books, cable shows, movies, music, fanzines, etc. should we review

– what departments would you like to see regularly

– which journalists do you want to read in our pages

– what new talent do you know who should be given a chance to contribute to our pages

– what artwork have you seen that you think should be featured

-.what photographers, computer artists, designers

– what online and 900-number services would you like to see offered

There are a lot of computer magazines the digerati have to read. With your help, now there will be one they’ll want to read.

Thank you.

Louis Rossetto – Publisher

Jane Metcalfe – President

Will Kreth – Editorial Associate and SysOp

From: Will Kreth (wired)

Date: 1992-10-03 00:25:00

here it is…

Wired Press Release

(this is a copy of the press release snail-mailed internationally today)

San Francisco, CA, 5 October — Wired USA, a San Francisco company, announces the creation of _Wired_, the first consumer magazine for the Digital Generation to track technology’s impact on all facets of the human condition.

Wired embodies the most powerful force affecting our culture today: digital technology. It speaks of and for the Digital Generation: the tens of millions who create and use digital technology in ways that radically reshape our society. From the arts to medicine, finance to feature films, the Digital Generation is redefining our interaction with information and with each other.

Wired tracks this emerging digital culture, from the sweeping changes in business wrought by the personal computer to the sub-cultures born of teenage hackers and multi-million-dollar movies. Wired will be there to give context to this revolution; the big view, the whole view, the human view.

Wired is a collaboration by some of best and brightest of the Digital Generation. Wired’s principals and staff are drawn from key technology and techno-culture magazines. Wired’s initial financing comes from two of America’s foremost digital visionaries and entrepreneurs. And Wired’s contributors are the cream of writers covering technology from around the globe.

So What?

There are plenty of magazines addressing the technical aspects of computers. Wired is not one of them. Wired readers appreciate the power of chips, switches and screens but want a perspective that rises above those details to the “so-what”of digital technology. Wired delivers the “so-what.”It’s technically advanced, broadly informed, and out on the edge – but centered on how people really create, use and are affected by digital technology.

“If Rolling Stone covered music the way computer magazines cover the information society, it would be full of stories about amps and wah-wah pedals,”said Louis Rossetto, Editor-in-Chief and co-publisher of Wired.

“Wired’s main focus is not boxes, but the people, companies and ideas creating the Digital Revolution – and how information technology is affecting business, culture and society at large.S

Paul Saffo, a fellow at the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, has called Wired “Vanity Fair for Propeller Heads.”

We can live with that. What Wired most assuredly is not is another boring computer magazine. Wired is quick, smart and literate. In any given issue of Wired, one could expect to find stories about:

—-The entertainment industry’s fascination with new forms of media, with interviews and profiles of such figures as Francis Ford Coppola, Madonna or Todd Rundgren;

—-An analysis of the current war between cable, phone, media, and computer companies over the right to deliver information to your home;

—-News, reviews, and criticism about innovations in technology, including Personal Digital Assistants, interactive home entertainment systems, and on-line networks;

—-An insider’s view of how the world’s most successful technology companies – from giants like Sony and Apple to startups like Voyager and Go – flourish or fail; and

—-Conversations with industry figures like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and George Lucas, whose applications and visions are redefining the concept of work and play in a digital world.

Backed by Technology

Two of the most highly-regarded visionaries/entrepreneurs in the computer business have provided the initial investment for Wired: Nicholas Negroponte, director of the pioneering MIT Media Lab, and Charlie Jackson, founder of Silicon Beach, a legendary imaging, games and hypermedia tools software company.

“In my 25 years on the faculty of MIT I’ve never run into anything so timely, so interesting,” Negroponte said.

“I invested because the computer magazines put me to sleep,”Jackson said. “We need a way-cool magazine like Wired to stimluate our thinking and help us understand what all these new and exciting technologies mean to us.S

Louis Rossetto, former editor of the now legendary Electric Word magazine and editorial director of Media Nederland, will serve as Editor-in-Chief/Publisher. Jane Metcalfe, formerly marketing director of Electric Word, is President and Co-publisher. Kevin Kelly, former editor and publisher of the seminal Whole Earth Review, is Executive Editor. And John Battelle, former senior writer at MacWEEK and correspondent for the LA Times, is Managing Editor.

Wired’s list of contributors are some of the best writers on technology and culture today, including: John Perry Barlow (author and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation), Stewart Brand (founder of the Whole Earth Review), Fred Davis (former Editor-in-Chief of MacUser), Linda Jacobson (former managing editor of EQ), John Markoff (New York Times), Gina Smith (PC Magazine columnist) and science fiction author and journalist Bruce Sterling.

In addition, Wired will draw on the insights and talents of an editorial “brain trust”comprised of this field’s most astute observers. These include: John Evans (NewsCorp.), Nat Goldhaber (CEO, Kaleida), Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus), Michael Rogers (Newsweek), Paul Saffo (Institute for the Future) and Michael Schrage (LA Times columnist).

In addition to its unique editorial angle, Wired is using digital technology to re-invent what a magazine is supposed to look like. Full color throughout, Wired is designed by John Plunkett, an award-winning designer and partner in the design firm Plunkett & Kuhr. Wired features a hot, young, unconventional design, reflecting the magazine’s radical approach to digital technology.

Wired will start as a bimonthly, eventually becoming a monthly. The first issue of Wired will premier at Macworld (5 January 1993 in San Francisco), and at the Consumer Electronics Show (7 January in Las Vegas). The initial print run for the premier issue will be 175,000 copies. Wired will be available on newsstands for $4.95, subscriptions are $20.

\ \ \ \ -###-

Subscriptions:

e-mail: kreth@well.sf.ca.us

include your complete mailing address (snail, not e-mail). We will add your name to a database and send you a card in January for you to fill-out and send back with your payment.

Writer’s guidelines are available on the WELL at:

uh/00/kreth/guidelines-wired

If you have trouble downloading them – type suppport.

To the WELL community. Thanks for waiting.

Wired

From: Will Kreth (kreth)

Date: 1993-01-17 18:24:00

It looks as if the newsstand arrival date of the premiere issue of Wired is

moving up to this Thursday (Jan. 21) across the US. The initial estimate of

Jan. 26 was a bit of a “margin-for-error” buffer. Right after the

innauguration, and air-thang!

Before the Tomahawk Cruise phalluses started to fly on CNN this weekend,

Wired was profiled on CNN’s “Future Watch.” Anyone catch it?

From: Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff)

Date: 1993-01-17 18:59:00

I saw an ad on a NY bus. And everyone in Amsterdam wanted to know about

the mag. Impressive.

From: Peter Merholz (peterme)

Date: 1993-01-23 17:17:00

Does WIRED have an account on the WELL?

From: Tom Hargadon (foxhedge)

Date: 1993-01-23 20:35:00

wired is wired on the well

kreth is here too

and they even have a private conference

those folks are everywhere!!!

From: Douglas Crockford (crock)

Date: 1993-01-25 08:01:00

Who cares if it communicates, as long as it’s Hip.

From: Will Kreth (kreth)

Date: 1993-01-26 16:15:00

>> I’ve seen big ads for Wired on Muni buses, but can’t find the magazine

>> anywhere.

A thousand pardons for the prolonged teaser-ads. The bus and construction site poster campaign was supposed to break on the 15th of Jan., but they had the materials at New Year’s – so they filled up the blank sides of busses and comp’ed us two weeks. (Actually, the construction sites did start on the 15th).

I had gotten word that the magazines would be on the newsstand last Thursday – but, what really happened is that ICD-Hearst (our distrubtor) sent a limited # of copies (like, ten to a newsstand) to major markets.

SO….today – Jan. 26th is the actual newsstand release date – en mas, the whole nine yards. There’s a bottle of Mumm’s Extra Dry in the fridge. Time for some bubbly…

Again the distributor is ICD-Hearst, so you should be able to find it at Waldenbooks, B.Dalton, Safeway, Albertsons and selected computer bookstores and software stores that have computer book and magazine sections. Computer bookstores should be getting the magazine through IPD, out of Solano Beach, CA (San Diego area). Regional distributors include Eastern, Cal West, and Hudson News.

To subscribe over the phone via credit card, call 1-800-SO WIRED.

To subscribe via snail-mail, send a check or money order for $19.95 US to:

Wired

P.O. Box 191826

San Francisco, CA 94119

(PS – Thanks for your comments and suggestions. We’re listening!)

From: R.U. Sirius (rusirius)

Date: 1993-01-26 16:58:00

Just saw the tape of jane on cnn, said Wired is a mindstyle magazine.. where have I heard that before? Said Wired means to be the Rolling Stone of the digital age.. where have I heard that before? No problem, tho Appropriation Saves Time! Say hi to Mickey, Mike, Pete and Davy for me!

A little context: R.U. Sirius was the co-founder of MONDO 2000, the magazine that many said inspired Wired. R.U. discussed the reactions from the MONDO staff in this 1995 essay. They used to mock Wired as the Monkees to Mondo’s Beatles — “an unoriginal, corporate, put-together version.” This was discussed in the introductions thread for the forum too, where several other notable people appeared:

Topic: YET ANOTHER INTRODUCTION TOPIC IN ANOTHER CONFERENCE

From: Will Kreth (kreth)

Date: 1993-02-17 16:35:00

You’ve seen them before. It’s as common and natural as leaving a message on

an answering machine. Who you be and what you do?

Hmm?

From: Bruce Sterling (bruces)

Date: 1993-02-19 10:57:00

I am the consummately glamorous WIRED cover boy.

From: John Battelle (jbat)

Date: 1993-02-19 14:13:00

I’m managing editor. I edit. I left PCInfoCorporateComputing World for teh LA Times, which is, for the most part, the very same thing. If you care to, e-mail me at johnb@wired.com. I usually respond.

From: Howard Rheingold (hlr)

Date: 1993-02-19 14:15:00

recovering technophile with occasional flashbacks

From: R.U. Sirius (rusirius)

Date: 1993-02-19 17:27:00

Well, I’m on the WIRED masthead as a contributing writer, tho I must say I boiled over when I say the WIRED ads declaring “Finally, a Magazine for the Digital Age” and witnessed a few direct cops of MONDO 2000 advertising and promo rhetoric, but hey… welcome… wanna talk about it?

From: Kevin Kelly (kk)

Date: 1993-02-20 09:29:00

I’m executive editor of WIRED, whatever that means. (It really means I’m not there much, and that John Battelle does the lion’s work.)

Yeah, Mondo was one of many inspirations. Among other things we appropriated from Mondo was its attitude that appropriation is cool. Seemed only appropriate to appropiate it for all its worth. 🙂

The WELL is another main inspiration. I’d like the mag to learn from this medium, if it can.

From: Mark Frauenfelder (mark)

Date: 1993-02-20 15:19:00

I wrote the Hacker Crackdown review in the first issue of Wired. I’m the editor of bOING-bOING. bb got a good plug in Wired that led to dozens of new subs.

Along with Gareth Branwyn and Peter Sugarman, I had a hand in creating Beyond Cyberpunk! A Do-it-Yourself Guide to the Future, a multimedia database about cyberculture.

From: Jane Metcalfe (wired)

Date: 1993-02-27 20:22:00

Hi, I’m Jane, one of the founders, currently called president, which really just means that I plug holes in our organization.

From: John Perry Barlow (barlow)

Date: 1993-02-28 21:27:00

Didn’t we all get introduced once?

I think I’ll stop there. Happy birthday, WiReD.

3 thoughts on “WIRED and The WELL

  1. I Forgot all about the well. I was 6 at the time, but my parents used to have access.

    I even have a book by R.U. Sirius asking me to vote for him for president.

  2. I was on The Well for a number of years (though not in the early days), and I was also a user of a bunch of other BBSes. The Well really felt like a completely different beast from the other BBSes, and it was always my favorite of all the places I frequented. I used the Well for years after I stopped with other BBSes, and really the only reason I cancelled my account was that I was “wasting” too much time there and I felt like I needed to go cold turkey. I agree it’s a blast to look back through the old postings, especially around historical events.

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