From TED Talks to Snoo, 15 Histories of the Future

Get inside the heads of our editors: Here’s a crash course in the history of the WIRED world.

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We may take the #hashtag for granted today, but it didn’t emerge fully formed from Biz Stone’s head. The Large Hadron Collider hasn’t collapsed (or collapsed the space-time continuum), but that wasn’t a given when scientists first turned the thing on. Nobody thought the sweaty geeks who sent their supposedly self-driving cars into concrete barriers instead of across the Mojave Desert would soon threaten to upend the way we move through the world.

Oh, and remember the Microsoft trial?

When we started planning our 25th birthday party more than a year ago, we knew that not all readers (okay, not even most readers) would have been following us since day one, and they certainly wouldn’t recall every story we’ve told. So we pulled together a series of oral histories—essays and first-person accounts of how some of the best (and the worst) parts of our world came to be. From a poignant essay about the space station to a cheerful defense of Google Glass, they’ll give you an overview of the world from a WIRED perspective. —The Editors

Funny or Die at 10, An Oral History
“The idea was to get the best and brightest from Silicon Valley together with the best and brightest from Hollywood and see what they could do. But it was a very confrontational time between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, because of the copyright problems with YouTube and other sites.” —Mark Kvamme, partner, Sequoia Capital

The Ted Talk, An Oral History

“There’s an invisible grammar to how we shoot the talks. If the speaker is making a point and they open their arm to the left, we’ll do a cut that marries with their motion. If they’re talking about something intimate, we’re up close. If they’re making a sweeping gesture about the world, we pull back.” —June Cohen, former executive producer of TED Media

The Hashtag, An Oral History

“It added another dimension to Twitter. You could be linked via hashtag to people you didn’t follow or who didn’t follow you. You could make new discoveries. The denser the network became, the better the network became.” —Biz Stone, Twitter cofounder

The Large Hadron Collider, An Oral History

“As CERN prepared to turn on the machine for the first time, conspiracy theorists thought it was going to open a black hole. Little did they know, the multibillion-dollar science project almost didn’t work.” —Emma Grey Ellis, writer

Drivers Not Wanted, An Oral History of the Darpa Grand Challenge

“None of what is happening in self-driving today would have happened without the original challenge—it created a new community. They were all newcomers, and the innovation doesn’t come from the core of the field itself but from the outside. The experts are usually the lowest performers, because they’re totally bound in their way of thinking.” —Sebastian Thrun, former head of Google’s self-­driving project

Sand Hill Road, An Oral History

“VC has its share of alpha males, but I actually think the tech culture of 2017 is more bro-like than it was in the ’90s. The industry was smaller then. A Babson College study showed that the number of female investing partners dipped from 10 percent to 6 percent between 1999 and 2014.” —Theresia Gouw, cofounder, Aspect Ventures

The Rise, Rise, and Rise of Podcasts

“Podcasting was born of a revolutionary spirit, the latest in a long line of technologies developed to democratize communication: blogging, social media, the internet itself. But all things worth a damn grow up, and all things worth a dime eventually get complicated. And things with podcasts could get very complicated indeed.” —Nicholas Quah, founder and publisher of Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts

Just Google It, a Short History of the Newfound Verb

“And thus for insiders, ‘to Google’ started as an intransitive verb; a pastime without an object; search for search’s sake; a Sunday drive through cyberspace. But by 2002 we layfolk had gotten our mitts on it and knew what Google was really for—forensics, stalking, the transitive stuff.” —Virginia Heffernan, writer

Page Not Found, A Brief History of the 404 Error

“Tumblr takes a cheeky approach: ‘There’s nothing here … Unless you were looking for this error page, in which case: Congrats! You totally found it.’ Pixar’s 404 page reads, ‘Awww … Don’t Cry. It’s just a 404 Error!’ next to an illustration of the Sadness character from Inside Out. —Anna Wiener, writer

The Single Best Thing We Did, Why The ISS Matters

“Less than a century after the Model T was state of the art, we manufactured a kind of galleon in space and have sent men and women from 10 countries to live in it, along with a host of short-term visitors, without recess or mutiny or fatality, for nearly 20 years.” —Chris Jones, writer

United States v. Microsoft Corp, A Trial For The Ages

“From Gates it was a short jump to Steve Jobs, infamous distorter of reality fields; Jeff Bezos, slayer of publishing’s ‘sickly gazelles’; and so many other dark lords with world-warping visions.” —Antonio García Martínez, writer

Internet Flicks, BitTorent and the Streaming Revolution

“It’s easy to draw a straight line between BitTorrent’s decentralization of file-sharing and today’s blockchain-based cryptocurrencies—different technologies trying to spread control so wide that no single entity can break the system. Meanwhile, BitTorrent and its fellow pirate ships still loom as quality-control phantoms, hovering over the entertainment world and reminding those in charge what’ll happen if they stop doing right by viewers.” —David Pierce, writer

All Glassholes Are Revolutionaries

“Google pulled the product in January 2015, but anyone who’s seen a movie can tell you that cyborgs are hard to kill. Technology that at first seems irrelevant often becomes unavoidable—or inevitable. Sure, Glass became a gossip-tinged metonym for tech bro narcissism. But before you toss Glass into the drawer with your CueCat and your PalmPilot, let’s talk about the wristwatch.” —Adam Rogers, writer

What the Web Is Made Of, the 4Chan Story

“What’s less appreciated, however, is that 4chan has also given birth to good—or something like it. Consider Anonymous, the hacking collective that picks as its targets groups like Nazis and Scientologists. Also: Remember lolcats? Have you been Rickrolled? 4chan and 4chan. The site traffics heavily in exploitables—funny images begging for manipulation. Give that Pikachu a face!” —Emma Grey Ellis, writer

What’s Snoo? A Brief History of Reddit’s Tiny Alien

“As Reddit expanded and its user base splintered into tribes (sub­reddits), Snoo proved a fitting role model. “Snoo came to symbolize Reddit and a Reddit user,” cofounder Alexis Ohanian says, in that the icon happened to be particularly moldable. It’s a happy accident that Ohanian’s hurried sketch left Snoo colorless and genderless, a form onto which everyone could map themselves.” —Arielle Pardes, writer

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