The magazine broke a lot of rules in typography and design, Battelle says (too many, complain some readers, of the battling typefaces), utilizing fluorescent inks and an unusual type format. The result is a glossy, techno-trendy package that has received both praise for its creativity and grumbling from readers sometimes forced to pick through two stories juxtaposed like the teeth of two combs.
But they find lots to read. While other computer magazines focus on technical bits and bytes, Wired offers in-depth reporting, fiction and profiles of the "digerati." Its busy pages are packed with insider updates, reviews and gossipy features, such as "Jargon Watch" (" Dittoheads : People who are in perfect alignment on an issue, an idea or a belief system.") and gossipy "Netsurf" bulletins from life on the Internet.
Wired has featured novelist William Gibson (who first defined \o7 cyberpunk\f7 ) viewing Singapore as "Disneyland with a death penalty," technology guru Michael Schrage's examination of the future of advertising, and "Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton's proclamation of mass media as the new dinosaur.
The magazine's December cover story, an in-depth look at video game giant Sega's plan to dominate the world of interactive entertainment, spotlighted Sonic the Hedgehog as Wired's Man of the Year. And January's first anniversary issue was highlighted by "Microserfs," Douglas Coupland's much talked about fictional diary that chronicles the routine of computer nerds at the Microsoft empire.
The magazine examines both the dark side of the wired world (how the government is playing Big Brother with your driver's license) and its brighter aspects (the real revolution in health care will be technological).
And its April issue caused a stir in Canada this week with an article discussing how Canadians are getting around a media ban on a sensitive murder trial by reading about it on the Internet. Concerned that the article itself broke the ban, a number of Canadian distributors removed it from the newsstands. Charging "free speech violation," Rossetto issued a press release announcing that the banned story is available on the Internet.
He is editor-publisher and Metcalfe is president of Wired, but, he says, "we sort of slop over into each other's territory in hopefully synergistic ways."
Their office, in San Francisco's "multimedia gulch" south of Market Street, is an open loft one visitor described as "a mix between journalism and nerd heaven" with its sophisticated desktop equipment and absence of paper.
"We do all our work with authors electronically," says Executive Editor Kevin Kelly, former editor of the Whole Earth Review. Like Battelle, Kelly had been eyeing the world of digital technology as the next frontier when the Wired project came along.
"I knew there was an intellectual niche, and our circulation explosion from nothing to more than 100,000 in a year confirmed there is an unsatisfied hunger for this kind of information," Kelly says.
Wired's pioneering extends to electronic communications. With its own presence on the Internet, the magazine offers electronic texts of back issues, accepts subscriptions by electronic mail (\o7 firstname.lastname@example.org\f7 ) and encourages feedback from readers.
Readers also find it easy to interact with authors, Kelly says. "We were the first magazine I (know of) to list the on-line addresses of people who write in and also all our authors."
Steven Levy--author of such books as "Hackers" and writer of the second issue cover story, "Crypto-Rebels"--says he got a huge amount of E-mail feedback.
"I even heard from people who wanted to ask something about one of my books or articles for earlier magazines but just hadn't written to the publisher," he says. "You're much more likely to write to someone's E-mail. I'm still getting queries about that article, because it's available electronically."
He likes to write for Wired because the magazine, he thinks, is "really onto something. Like Rolling Stone in 1968, they're a little ahead of the culture in general."
Ad Week magazine concurred and named Wired its "Start-up of the Year" winner: "Wired got there first, got there smarter, and is going places faster and more engagingly than anyone else."
Staying ahead of the culture can be exhausting. "I'm here eight hours a day, which is part-time," Kelly says. "There were people sleeping here for a while."
The original staff of 12 has grown to 40 full-time workers and a handful of additional consultants and free-lancers, programmers, writers and editors.
"We're still short staffed," Rossetto says. "There is nobody scheduling what's happening with the media right now and yesterday we had five different companies parading through our offices--everybody from Oprah to Australian Television."
Metcalfe and Rossetto, a couple in personal life as well as business partners, live across the Bay in the Oakland Hills with a "bunch of laptops." They try to juggle their time between running a magazine and keeping tabs on the communications revolution.
"I spend about 18 hours a day awake, trying to run this stuff down and also run a business," Rossetto says. "I spend time on-line talking to all our editors and contributors. I read magazines and newspapers. I could literally go to conferences all the time--I'm trying to do the ones that seem the most valuable."
And how does the spokesman for the Wired revolution envision life in another decade?
"I have a hard time predicting what's going to happen in a year," Rossetto confesses. "The challenge of this era is to keep on top of it. My sense is that everything is only going to get more complicated."