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‘WarGames’ and Cybersecurity’s Debt to a Hollywood Hack

After finishing his synopsis, Reagan turned to Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and asked: “Could something like this really happen?” Could someone break into our most sensitive computers? General Vessey said he would look into it. One week later, the general returned to the White House with his answer. “WarGames,” it turned out, wasn’t far-fetched. “Mr. president,” he said, “the problem is…

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Facebook Instant Articles Are on Their Way

Tons of large new media operations produce cool and slick videos on Facebook, and the viewership numbers are skyrocketing! Also skyrocketing: Low-quality rips of poorly compressed videos originally upload to Instagram (themselves stolen from Vine). The freebooting world of Facebook  is largely untamed, and one might assume, decently profitable as well. It’s not hard to imagine the same going for Instant Articles as well. For a small set of successful…

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The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens

That feeling when you hit a million followers, make more money than your mom, push a diet pill scheme, lose your blog, and turn 16. | When I began reporting on the world of Tumblr teens, I first wanted to explain the absurdist comedy of Pizza and dozens of other Tumblrs like hers. But I soon discovered a secret world hidden in plain sight, one in which teenagers, through wit and…

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Museum of Endangered Sounds

Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who…

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When Robert Pinsky Wrote a Video Game

[F]or a brief time in the mid-nineteen-eighties major literary publishers, including Simon & Schuster and Random House, opened software divisions, and major bookstores stocked works of “interactive fiction.” Popular writers, including Douglas Adams and Thomas M. Disch, turned their capable hands to the burgeoning form. It was in the midst of this excited moment that the future three-term U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky wrote a video game called “Mindwheel,” which,…

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Challenger Disaster: 30 Years

I was a high school senior, watching on the TV in the library. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, which included five NASA astronauts and two Payload Specialists. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape…