This week in tech, 20 years ago

As a person who covers everyday technology news, I often wonder how it would come to someone in the future, and if someone will read it. I can not answer those questions, but I can do the following: look back at what other people wrote 20 years ago.

Here are five stories, big and small, that science and technology enthusiasts could have reviewed during the week before April 21, 1998.

Christian Valor was the perfect theme for a 1998 profile Forbes . Under the title "Se7en," he had tracked down dozens of people who exchanged child pornography online, erased their hard drives and spread crime online. "I can find a pedophile and throw the trash to his machine in 60 minutes," he boasted. The turn? Apparently, he faked almost everything.

After Forbes and many other media covered Valor, Wired made it admit that "it was not even really hacking", beyond the remote deleting some computer files. Valor claimed that the media had pushed him to tell sensational stories, and Wired linked the incident with a greater credulity about online sex, such as Time the infamous "cyberporn" story discredited , which the author reviewed in a fascinating detail 20 years later.

Last year, some people were outraged by a deaf fundraiser, where CEOs put on virtual reality headsets to "take a look" at life on the streets. But the idea of ​​virtually experiencing homelessness is pretty trite. The Virtual Laboratory of Human Interaction at Stanford University launched a simulation called Becoming a Homeless and a variety of games without VR also addressed the issue.

A 1998 article BBC presents a very early example in Virtual Homelessness, a web game of the British charity Centrepoint. (Although you can not play now, you can check an archived landing page.) But the Centrepoint quotes suggest that the game was more of a "scared" initiative than an empathy generator. "We want to provide young people with the information they need about what might happen if they leave home, so they can make an informed decision," a spokesperson said.

Comdex 1998 was the great opportunity of Bill Gates to sell users in Windows 98, the operating system that was about to replace Windows 95. But when an employee showed his incredible compatibility of plug-and-play devices by connecting a scanner , his computer showed the infamous Blue Screen of Death and it went out. "That should be the reason why we still do not ship Windows 98," Gates told the audience.

The Los Angeles Times noted that Gates had legal and technical problems during Comdex. He intended to show a final version of Windows 98, but Microsoft was delaying the launch while facing an antitrust lawsuit from the Department of Justice over Internet Explorer. The company later managed to overcome that complaint, but it was a Pyrrhic victory: the Justice Department and 20 state attorneys filed a major lawsuit almost immediately afterwards, kicking off Microsoft's famous antitrust lawsuit.

Domain name occupants exasperated companies in the 1990s, buying web addresses with famous names to rescue domains or attract visitors to pornographic sites. A law related to 1995 marks was designed to prohibit cybersquatting, and the courts began to apply it in the coming years, raising questions that CNET covers in this 1998 summary. Did the courts simply prevent extortion? by buyers of shady domains or gave companies absolute monopoly on common words and names?

Congress passed a more detailed anti-cybersquatting law in 1999. But the practice has not gone away, and it's even played a role in recent elections. In fact, President Donald Trump earned money from cybersquatters (he got $ 32,000 from a creator of parody sites) and benefited from cybersquatting, after someone configured JebBush.com to redirect to Trump's own site.

I like to find "whimsical news" the "strange stories" in the media files, but they are often scarce in details and impossible to obtain properly. An example: "Japanese Pepsi drinkers could win a trip to space in 2001", which I found in a site called Space Future . Here is the full text, reproduced verbatim:

Reuters and Wired Magazine report that Pepsi's Japanese distributor, Suntory Ltd., plans to offer its customers the opportunity to fly in space as part of a promotional campaign . Five winners will receive the opportunity to fly into space in 2001 through Zegrahm Space Voyages, a US space travel agency. UU Due to legal restrictions, winners will be required to pay 15 percent of the cost of $ 100,000 space flights. The original story came from the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun.

Wired has only a little more detail, confusingly offered under the headline "Online DVD Rentals". I have not found the Reuters article, and my odds of unearthing the original piece Yomiuri Shimbun are virtually non-existent.

I guess this contest never went anywhere. Zegrahm Space Voyages was acquired by Space Adventures in 1999, and Space Adventures has mediated only a handful of space tourism businesses, beginning with Dennis Tito's $ 20 million flight in 2001. The entire field of private space flight has grown slowly and cautiously, although Elon Musk wants to accelerate it through SpaceX.

However, for an interesting context surrounding this Pepsi raffle, you can take a look at an article Baltimore Sun from 1997 about Zegrahm's ambitious plans. And who knows, maybe some Pepsi-loving Japanese space fan signed up for a zero-gravity plane flight in the next millennium.