As a person who covers day-to-day technology news, I often wonder how my writing might come off to someone in the future — and whether anyone will even be reading it. I can’t answer those questions, but I can do the next best thing: look back at what other people were writing 20 years ago.
Here are five stories — big and small — that science and tech enthusiasts might have checked out during the week before April 21st, 1998.
Christian Valor was the perfect subject for a 1998 Forbes profile. Under the handle “Se7en,” he’d tracked down dozens of people who traded child pornography online, wiped their hard drives, and spread word of their crime online. “I can find a pedophile and trash his machine all within 60 minutes,” he bragged. The twist? He apparently faked almost all of it.
After Forbes and many other outlets covered Valor, Wired got him to admit that he “wasn’t even really hacking,” beyond remotely deleting a few computer files. Valor claimed the media had pushed him to tell sensational stories, and Wired tied the incident to a larger credulousness around online sex — like Time’s infamous debunked “cyberporn” story, which the author revisited in fascinating detail 20 years later.
Last year, some people were outraged by a tone-deaf fundraiser where CEOs strapped on virtual reality headsets to “get a glimpse” of living on the streets. But the idea of virtually experiencing homelessness is pretty well-trodden. Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab released a simulation called Becoming Homeless, and a variety of non-VR games have tackled the topic…