“Why WIRED? Because the Digital Revolution is whipping through our lives like a Bengali typhoon—while the mainstream media is still groping for the snooze button.”
So began the founding manifesto of this magazine. It’s an awesome document: 216 words of vim, bold font, and attitude. And thanks to the accidental SEO-juju of a factual error (typhoons in Bengal are actually called cyclones), its most famous phrase would forever refer Google searchers to the manifesto. In any event, it made you want to read the darn thing.
According to the manifesto, the magazine was birthed into being because the rest of the press was too busy with malarkey to “discuss the meaning or context of social changes so profound their only parallel is probably the discovery of fire.”
The year was 1993, and a lot of things hadn’t been touched by the fire of information technology. A magazine was still a thing you could use to swat a fly—or, in those days of abundant print advertising, kill a rattlesnake. Email was rare, the web was in its infancy, and America had just elected a president who could use his phone only for making phone calls.
Jony Ive was a young designer at Apple, working on the second version of the Newton. Mark Zuckerberg was at home in Dobbs Ferry learning Atari Basic from his dad. Sheryl Sandberg was a recent Harvard graduate studying leprosy for the World Bank. Sundar Pichai was just immigrating to the United States.
“None of us would be here without the work and brilliance of past editors: Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, Katrina Heron, Chris Anderson, and Scott Dadich.”
— Nicholas Thompson, Editor in Chief
As the years passed, WIRED has done its best to live up to the ideals of the founding manifesto, particularly its timeless invocation to “tell us something we’ve never heard before, in a way we’ve never seen before. If it challenges our assumptions, so much the better.” The magazine has covered the story of tech as its heroes have climbed the status hierarchy from court jesters and outcasts to kings and queens. And it has dealt with the complexity of being a media organization optimistically covering the forces destroying media. Those fat magazines have become thinner, but WIRED’s words and images now spread in a million ways, from phones and tablets to voice assistants, social platforms, and whatever-the-hell-else comes next.
And so, for our 25th, we’ve decided to create a birthday issue. We picked 25 icons we think are most responsible for the changes of the past quarter-century. And we’ve asked each to nominate someone or something they think will change the next 25. With each pairing, we’ve tried to create some kind of conversation between the two, or between one of them and you, the reader. We’ve also revived some long-lost story formats from the magazine’s past (Tired/Wired, is that you?) and commissioned five essays to evoke the big themes that defined each half-decade along the way.
“This assignment was pure serendipity. I was talking to David Karpf about another idea last spring when he mentioned, offhand, that he was planning to read the entire WIRED archive for an academic project.“
— John Gravois, Senior Editor
The indefatigable Sarah Fallon, an editor at WIRED since 2005, led the creation of this issue. Photographer Michelle Groskopf zipped around the country snapping portraits of our icons; founding creative directors John Plunkett and Barbara Kuhr designed the cover. And political scientist David Karpf somehow survived reading every single volume of the magazine to write a history of the future as portrayed in these pages, from 1993 to 2018. Our hope is that in 2043, you’ll go back through the choices we made in this issue and see some that make sense and some that, in retrospect, seem insane. That’s the way it’s always been with WIRED.
“So why now? Why WIRED? Because in the age of information overload, the ultimate luxury is meaning and context. Or put another way, if you’re looking for the soul of our new society in wild metamorphosis, our advice is simple. Get WIRED.”