Originally published January 29, 1997
About a year ago, I was hired away from my job at a national magazine to become the book editor for a startup online journal called Salon.
I was, at the time, a fairly committed techno-peasant. Content with my 10-year-old word processor and skeptical about the joys of email, I scorned as weenies those who droned on at dinner parties about hyperlinks or modem speed.
Actually, I still scorn a lot of those people. Manhattan is thick with “New Media” types these days, goateed young networkers who, 10 years ago, would have gone into advertising or junk bonds. But what I quickly found out about the online world is that it is also full of serious, literate people who believe — as Leon Wieseltier puts it in this week’s New Republic— that the computer, “like all technology, will lend efficiency to our ends, but it will make the devising of those ends no easier.” In other words, ideas and language still matter.
It took me a few months to adjust to the subtleties of email conversation, although I am now an addict. It took much longer, however, to adjust to the idea that I was working for a magazine that didn’t exist on paper, that merely flickered like a billboard out in the electronic ether.