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Retro WIRED: Martha Stewart talks computers (1998)

Retro WIRED is a continuing retrospective of WIRED Magazine, 1996-2000.

By the mid-2000s, we’d realized we preferred to hide our game consoles. The 360’s faceplate, for instance, could be made to match the furniture, while the Wii was a slim, discreet box. The PS3 irked consumers: it was big and bold, all black gloss and chrome shine, totally undisguisable.

In the post-yuppie 1990s, though, we brashly displayed our technology. Ikea TV stands, with their frosted glass doors, deliberately paraded every component and console within, concealing only the wiring. Surround-sound speakers were mounted in the corners of the room or perched on willowy spires.

"I don't want my refrigerator talking to me period. I don't want it telling me that I am low on meatballs. I do have a brain."

In Wired 6.08 (August 1998), Kevin Kelly—then Wired Magazine’s executive editor—tried to find the politest way to ask Martha Stewart whether she were actually ashamed of her computer. Stewart, herself an unlikely computer whiz, insisted that computers needn’t be ugly.

Are you of the school that says flaunt your computer equipment, or hide it?

[Martha Stewart] Oh, absolutely put it out in the open. Or hide it in the most effective way possible. My office at home is an office in a closet.

So you hide it?

Well, no, it is always out, except when I am having a dinner party—then I roll the shelves back in and close the door without disturbing anything. I want real practicality and real simplicity. So, invisible, appropriate, and simple, simple, simple.

What’s the appropriate color to go with computer beige?

Why are you thinking only of beige? I have a beautiful new black computer with all black components. And, I have a very beautiful new silver one. I think computers certainly could be more appealing aesthetically and fit into rooms nicer.

Any thoughts on smart houses?

I am restoring a house now that was a 1962 Bunshaft modern. I’ve gutted it and am now installing silence.

Also in this issue of Wired Magazine:

  • A review of Interplay’s The Ultimate RPG Archives

    Those of you used to modern games—thin on depth, thick on bells and whistles—will be either pleased or distressed by this anthology, depending on your tastes. You will also be introduced to the joys of boot disks and the alphabet soup of EMS, EMM, XMS, IRQ, et cetera.

    [...] ...My recommendations: The Bard’s Tale Trilogy for major-league munchkin hack&slashing, Dragon Wars or Wasteland as an example of the best 8-bit games, and Ultima Underworld I to see a program doing most of what Quake does, eight years earlier.

  • “The Y2K Solution”

    the y2k solution: run for your life!!

    “Throughout history, prophets and visionaries have spent their lives preparing for the end of the world,” writes Kevin Poulsen. “But this time veteran software programmers are blazing the millennial trail. The geeks have read the future, not in the Book of Revelation, but in a few million lines of computer code.”

4 responses to “Retro WIRED: Martha Stewart talks computers (1998)” »

  1. Jon Conley says:

    What a silly article, written during silly times.

    I recall, during the Y2K scare, many of my friends and neighbors supplying their homes with enough supplies to last the oncoming nuclear winter. In fact, I remember on the eve of Year Zero, my best friend’s family mocked me for not preparing, but told me I’d be welcome to some bottles of water and canned beans, when society inevitably collapses in the morning.

    They were also certain that Jesus Christ would return to Earth the next morning, and that I – a non-believer – would be cast into the unquenchable hellfire of lake Erie. I was told that it wasn’t too late to change my mind.

    How nice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKv563gbJbE
    Oh, and the Macintosh conspiracy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWCQk5YR_qw

    And so, I spent the day laughing at these people, and at all of the chaos ensuing in the streets; as people unloaded their wholesale payloads into their bunkers, desperately keeping track of the time; counting down every second as if it were their last.

    For when the sun set that night, to rise upon tomorrow, America would be only that of ash and brimstone. The ball drop would bring an end to the Age of Man. Judgment Day was upon us. Dick Clark was one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

    At least, that was the supported theory.

    ‘Y2K-Compliant’. What a term for the books. Some day, they’ll make a terrible film about this whole ordeal. Then, we’ll be sorry.

  2. Kevin Poulsen says:

    It’s funny how many people think the Y2K bug was a hoax, for no other reason than because it was fixed in time—at a cost of $300 billion.

    • Jenn Frank says:

      I think the Y2K bug is frankly more interesting now than before—if you mention it among friends, they frown and go, “Yeah… what ever happened with that?” Its resolution seems, publicly anyway, mysteriously abrupt and pat.

      I graduated high school in 2000, and I spent the first half of my senior year (or rather, the latter half of 1999) breathlessly waiting to see what would happen. So for my own part, I didn’t so much feel the Y2K thingie was a hoax as it was a letdown. You know those children who are sort of excited about the coming tornadoes, who secretly hope the trees fall down in the front yard?

  3. Jon Conley says:

    I agree, Jenn. And I share that curiosity (especially with tornadoes, as a kid). I actually remember jokingly celebrating the fictional births of Sentient AI like SkyNet and HAL 9000, in 1997. With my mother, of all people, reminding me of the latter.

    “You know, HAL 9000 became operational today, in Urbana, Illinois.”

    That was actually the first time I saw the film (January 12, 1997); as my mother found it to be unacceptable that I hadn’t yet read the book or seen the film, and immediately took me to the video store. I can’t tell you how big of a smile that memory brings to my face, still…

    With Y2K, It all actually reminds me a lot of the Cold War era scares. If anything, it’s humorous to me; the way the news treats subjects. They are (unsurprisingly) out of touch. It’s almost like having a conversation with your parents (or grandparents) about computers or games.

    Really, what amazes me the most, is the fact that so many people actually believed the end of the world was rapidly approaching. The assumption was that Russia’s nuclear stockpiles were not ‘Y2K Compliant’; which would, of course, cause all of the nukes to immediately launch and decimate America. Practically everybody I know was stocking their war bunker up until New Years, expecting to have to kill their neighbors when they come poking around for supplies. Ridiculous.

    I think a lot of the scare was the assumption that anything electric would fail (home appliances and all). I remember hearing people that were worried about their refrigerators being ‘Y2K Compliant’. And in that regard, it certainly was a hoax.

    I’m not an expert on the subject, but I believe the Y2K bug was grossly exaggerated. We weren’t nuked, society didn’t collapse, and the world was still around in the morning. And I don’t think we were really ever at risk for such cataclysmic disasters.

    It would be interesting to have a professionally produced radio show or video program, documenting the truths against the myths.

    Just for the sake of humor, I hereby proclaim that the Sega Dreamcast failed – not because of the impending launch of the PS2 – but rather, because it launched amidst the Y2K scare!

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