Stephen Hawking and me

I only met Stephen Hawking twice, both times in the same day. Hawking, who died a few hours ago, was one of the great physicists of any era. He wrote books, was the subject of a major movie about his early life, and of course survived longer than any other amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) sufferer, passing away at 76 while Lou Gehrig didn’t even make it to 40. We’re about to be awash in Hawking tributes, so I want to share with you my short experience of the man and maybe give more depth to his character than we might take away from the evening news.

Several years ago I was booked […]

We win, you lose: How shareholder value screwed the middle class

The American Dream changed somehow in the 1970s when real wages for most of us began to stagnate when corrected for inflation and worker age. My best financial year ever was 2000 — 18 years ago — when was yours? This wasn’t a matter of productivity, either: workers were more productive every year, we just stopped being rewarded for it. There are many explanations of how this sad fact came to be and I am sure it’s a problem with several causes. But this column concerns one factor that generally isn’t touched-on by labor economists — Wall Street greed.

Lawyers arguing in court present legal theories—their ideas of how the world and the law intersect, and […]

Remembering Bob Taylor

2013_robert_taylorBob Taylor, who far more than Al Gore had a claim to being the Father of the Internet, died from complications of Parkinson’s Disease last Thursday at 85. Though I knew him for 30 years, I can’t say I knew Bob well but we always got along and I think he liked me. Certainly I respected him for being that rarity — a non-technical person who could inspire and lead technical teams. He was in a way a kinder, gentler Steve Jobs.

Bob’s career seemed to have three phases — DARPA, XEROX, and DEC — and three technical eras — mainframes, local area network (workgroup) computing, and the Internet.

At DARPA […]

Remember Pirates of Silicon Valley? I sure do.

piratesIt’s funny how a career can turn on a dime. Mine certainly did back in the late 90s when Hollywood flirted with me for a moment. My book Accidental Empires, which was the basis of my PBS series Triumph of the Nerds, was optioned for a feature film by Lionsgate Films, a script was written and casting was about to begin. Then along came Pirates of Silicon Valley (ironically you can find both rental and pirated versions of the film at the same time on Youtube). The TV movie for TNT was considered such an overlap of my work that the Lionsgate project died overnight.

I have to give credit to the writer and director of […]

Fifteen years after 9-11 threats have evolved, too

Fifteen years after 9-11 it’s interesting to reflect on how much our lives have — and haven’t — changed as a result of that attack. One very obvious change for all of us since 9-11 is how much more connected we are to the world and to each other than we were back then. Politico has a great post quoting many of the people flying on Air Force One that day with President George W. Bush as his administration reacted to the unfolding events. Reading the story one thing that struck me was the lack of immediate information about the attacks available to the airborne White House. They had televisions with rabbit ear antennas and […]