How does the future make you feel?

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Media / Quotes

Lots of little gems in John Seabrook’s 1994 New Yorker profile of Bill Gates, but this note stuck with me particularly.

For years after the telephone was invented, in 1876, people thought it was a device that would transmit news, drama, and music: the idea that the telephone was a way to talk to other people took about twenty years to sink in here, and about thirty years in Europe. Similarly, today one hears about shopping, banking, and renting movies on the information highway. These are all possible ways of making money, of course, but the point of the information highway, it seems to me, is that it offers a new way of talking to other people.

The story itself is an interesting case in how you write about something new. The article still stands up, more or less, but so many of the ideas that are revelatory to Seabrook at this specific moment in history—email, the internet, even computers and software—became so normal so soon after. How can you capture that sense of novelty and not look foolish when tomorrow comes to call?

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