Totally Wiredby Andrew Smith
From award-winning journalist Andrew Smith, the never before told story of the late 1990s dot-com bubble, its tumultuous crash, and the rise and fall of the visionary pioneer at its epicenter.
One morning in February 2001, internet entrepreneur Josh Harris woke to certain knowledge that he was about to lose everything. The man Time magazine called “The Warhol of the Web” was now reduced to the role of helpless spectator as his personal fortune dwindled from 85 million dollars, to 50 million, to nothing, all in the space of a week.
Harris had been New York’s first net millionaire, a maverick genius so preternaturally adapted to the fluid virtualities of the new online world that he saw it with a clarity almost no one else did. He founded the city’s first dotcom, Pseudo.com, and paved the way for a cadre of net-savvy twentysomethings to follow, riding a wave of tech euphoria to unimagined wealth and fame for five years, before losing it all in the great dotcom crash of 2000, in which Web 1.0 was wiped from the face of the earth. Long before then, however, Harris’s view of where the web would take us had darkened, and he began a series of lurid social experiments aimed at illustrating his worst fear: that the internet would soon alter the very fabric of society—cognitive, social, political, and otherwise.
In Totally Wired, award-winning author and journalist Andrew Smith seeks to unravel the opaque and mysterious episodes of the twentieth century dotcom craze, in which the seeds of our current reality were sown. Drawing on in-depth interviews with Harris and the former pioneers who worked alongside him in downtown Manhattan’s “Silicon Alley,” the narrative moves from a compound in the wild south of Ethiopia, through New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, London and Salt Lake City, Utah; from the dawn of the web to the present, taking in the rise of retro-truth, troll society, the unexpected origins of the net itself, as our world has grown uncannily to resemble the one Harris predicted—and had urged us to evade.
“A brilliant exploration of madness and genius in the early days of the web”—Guardian
“Dark and compelling. The counter culture tremor from which the social media earthquake erupted”—Daily Mail
“The Social Network meets Hammer of the Gods via Warhol’s Factory”—Independent
“Effervescent and vivid…this is a book whose time has come.”—Sunday Times
“Fascinating…a slice of life never to be repeated…the first incarnation of the internet of the 1990s.”—Observer
“Moondust is an inspired idea, immaculately executed: witty, affectionate, completely captivating.” —WORD magazine
“Highly entertaining…[Smith’s] superb book is a fitting tribute to a unique band of 20th-century heroes.” —GQ
“[A] fascinating book… [Smith’s] humour is underpinned by a sense of extreme danger.” —Mail on Sunday, Book of the Week
“A rich mix of cultural history, reportage and personal reflection.” —Evening Standard
“Forget flower power, the Beatles and Beach Boys…what made the 1960s an unforgettable decade was the conquest of space.” —Guardian, Best Books of the Season
“A crisply dramatic account.” —Sunday Telegraph
“An extraordinary book…as profoundly as any work of philosophy.” —Uncut
“Splendid!” —Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey
“Fascinating…We know what happened inside the Apollo, but what went on inside the astronauts’ minds? Extremely thought-provoking.” —J. G. Ballard, author of Empire of the Sun and Memories of the Space Age
The city seems to roll on forever, a bruised carapace of concrete and dust and patchwork shanty settlements. At times the road south is more theoretical than real, three-quarter collapsed into craters that would swallow a four-by-four whole, around which lorries and buses creep like lines of ants. Our Land Cruiser crashes through potholes with the ballistic rattle of machine-gunfire, as—
Eucalypts jut from hills
People swarm everywhere.
Our descent reminds me that Addis Ababa is a mile high. Last night I was light-headed and couldn’t work out why.
I can hardly remember how I got here: after making contact with Harris, everything moved so fast. Harris advised me not to call, citing a “mysterious buzz” on his line. The internet scarcely works in Ethiopia, he added, but emails could be sent slowly and painfully between one and three in the morning. He was in the deep south on the shores of Lake Awassa, not far from the lawless Somali border – eight bone-splitting hours’ drive from Addis with no alternative means of travel. Asked why he was there, he told me he was editing a film on game fishing, which answered my question not at all.
My hope that he might find himself somewhere more accessible in the near future was quickly dashed. “i’m pretty much strapped in here…” he wrote “off the grid you might say LOL…”
The only way I could be sure of ever meeting or even speaking to Josh Harris, who had a history of disappearance and unpredictability, would be to travel to Ethiopia.