The Windows 3.1 Bible - because faith was required


Scan originally appeared in Wired 01.02, May 1993.

"Everything you ever wanted to know about Windows... but was just too busy to ask". At 1.154 pages, this baby sure looks like a time-saver!

I remember when these types of books started to appear. For a 90's Microsoft-boy like me they marked the transition from when you knew what your computer was doing, roughly at least, to simply having no idea (reading that Bible might have helped, of course). Multiple processes competing for CPU-time and the sheer complexity of the OS was just overwhelming. I surrendered and stopped worrying about why the harddisk-light was blinking frantically, even when I was staring at a blank page in Notepad.

PS: Try out this Windows 3.1 online emulator for a bit of nerd-fun.

Happy Easter (Island) from Sony


Scan originally appeared in Wired 01.06, December 1993.

Not much to say - I like this one! And Happy Easter to all :-)

Jim Cramer makes another mistake in 1997


Scan originally appeared in Wired 05.11, November 1997.

James J. Cramer - The 'J' is for Wrong

In my earlier take on why bubbles happen, I forgot an important factor: Snake-oil salesmen.

For the sake of Jim Cramer, we should be glad that he's comfortable making mistakes - he must be one comfortable guy, I guess. Like when, in February 1999, he didn't see the Nasdaq would crash 10 days later, and encouraged everyone to stick to 10 tech-stock, which by 2009 were all dead, swallowed or trading at a fraction of the 1999-price. Or last year, when he didn't see the credit-crunch coming and subsequently got grilled by Jon Stewart (If you have any alcohol left in your moral compass, you'll find that interview tragic, not funny...). Or a few days ago when he completely misjudged the impact of the health care reform.

Personally, I think it's cool to have the guts to put yourself out there. Make your triumphs and mistakes in public - I even admire that. God knows, I make my own fair share of mistakes. I also think it's admirable to have a mission statement of making financial mumbo-jumbo accessible to everybody in an entertaining way.

What I have a major problem with is the encouragement that we should all be playing the stock-market like a Stradivarius when our skills only allow us to push the sound-effect button saying "Muhh".

The internet IS a series of tubes


Scan originally appeared in Wired 03.11, November 1995.

From back when two dedicated 2mbit lines were enough to support an entire video-on-demand business concept.

This ad is a nice reminder that the much-mocked former Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was only partially wrong when he famously said that the Internet is a series of tubes. There is a wonderful physicality of the Internet: Your g-mails are not floating around up in a cloud, they are firmly grounded on a field in Oklahoma. And for data to cross the ocean, it needs a tube - or submarine cable, if you want to be specific - from one coast to another. They weigh 10kg per meter (7 lb/ft), and the oceanic network looks something like this:

The longest one is 39.000km (pretty much a trip around the world) going from Germany to South Korea, with 39 landing points on its way.

The combined capacity of all trans-Atlantic cables is nearly 40T bits per second (Tbps), and even though it sounds like a lot, it's another reason why flat-rate Internet subscriptions might go up in price over the next years: These cables are reaching capacity, and it doesn't look like the current business-models support the investments needed.

New Scientist
The Guardian
PC World

Marching band eaten by a pack of ravenous wolves


Scan originally appeared in Wired 03.02, February 1995.

You may wonder what the headline has to do with an ad for Internet Shopping Network. Let me make the connection right away:

Amused, but still confused? Alright, from the top then:

Internet Shopping Network launched in 1995 as an online shopping portal for hardware and software. It was backed by Home Shopping Network, the nice guys and gals normally selling you stake-knives that can cut through shoes and other useful stuff.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, old-school retailer Fry’s Electronics pretty much had no idea what was going on. Interwebs, you say? Never heard of it.

ISN turned out to be way early to the game. After a modest success Home Shopping Network left the online space in 1998 and sold the 160.000 customers it had managed to scrape together to dotcom bad-boy Cyberian Outpost.

These guys had big plans, what with their Nasdaq shortname “COOL”, and ads like these:

And of course the one with the ravenous wolves. An ad that turned out to be ironic when considering Outpost’s own destiny. When the market crashed, their stock-price joined the race to the bottom. Fry’s Electronics had quietly watched these multiple failures from the sidelines and decided it was time to make their move. The wolves were unleashed, and Outposts assets and customer-base were acquired in 2001 at a bargain-price.

That’s what you do when you’re the incumbent. You wait for the right time to unleash the wolves. Let the newcomers make the mistakes, innovate, fight each other and fail. When the market is down, you buy the one with the most promise. People complaining about Microsoft’s lack of innovation need to remember this. It may be sexy to innovate, but if you have money in the bank, in-house innovation isn't necessarily better than buying your way in.