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Thursday, February 18, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Cyberpunk - In Print -- Hacker Generation Gets Plugged Into New Magazine

They long for the perfect Virtual Reality Pin-Up Babe. They crave raves, adore Advil and scan Virgil in electronic libraries without walls. They flirt with gigabyte drives and networking devices.

And rumors of brain cancer from cellular phones? Please, scoff arrogant computer hackers.

Rolling Stone, free love and the Age of Aquarius pale in comparison to this New Woodstock of Digital Revolution.

Just ask hi-fi prophets Louis Rossetto, 43, and Jane Metcalfe, 31, creators of the bi-monthly Wired magazine ($4.95 per issue, $20 for a one-year subscription), which made its debut last month and promptly sold out in several major cities, including New York and L.A. One Seattle newsstand owner claimed cyberpunks gobbled up Wired within five minutes.

Which proves that today's generation of hardcore hackers, multimedia junkies, cyberpunks and cellular freaks are poised to take over the world. Along with a surprisingly large number of mainstream "normal" folks who don't work at Microsoft but are equally at home with voice mail, word processors and electronic mail.

"Computers used to be esoteric, and now they're a part of our lifestyle and the way we live," said Rossetto. "There's a digital revolution happening with profound changes. Digital computers used to be. . . little chapels of technology. Now, your whole house can be wired to computers."

Wired is no ordinary computer magazine. Rossetto and Metcalfe designed Wired to be a mainstream technological/cultural/political/hip mindstyle forum with all the cleverness of an MTV ad and the anarchic rebellion of an early Rolling Stone issue. No dry computer trade journal jargon to scare away the mainstream computer-illiterate-but-curious public here.

Wired mixes cutting-edge technology with art, literature and today's hot topics: an interview with feminist professor/icon Camille Paglia; how "morphing" works (that freaky computerized special effect where people's faces melt, like in Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video); electronic libraries; the Pentagon's new war-training program based on simulators and virtual-reality software; and Japan's burgeoning obsessive youth culture of technophiles who "live and breathe information" like it's 1984. Then there's the Fetish section spotlighting the latest electronic and computer toys and gadgets, like the $1,195 hand-held Sony Pyxis GPS (Global Positioning System) that can tell your exact longitude, latitude and altitude anywhere in the world.

So why is Wired done in the traditional, burdensome PAPER route? Why not FAX the rag? Or retrieve it via Internet? Rossetto still believes papyrus has its uses, even in today's digitized society. "Paper will always have a future, because print is interactive. It's a high quality product that you can carry around."

Rossetto isn't too surprised by the popular response to Wired. "Look at today's icons of business," he said. "Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Look at the Terminator and Aladdin movies. We're infused with techno pop music. Every field is invaded by technology. Technology is important to art. We can't live without technology."

But don't label Rossetto a possessed techie bent on turning life into one long "Star Trek" episode. He understands the technophobes, the ones scared of technology and the computer explosion. "It's a correct fear," he said. "Technology can be dehumanizing. But if you think about it, all of life is a virtual reality. People create these virtual realities. For example, buildings are artificial to caves."

"When I was first exposed to the computer, there was a lot of fear and loathing," agreed Metcalfe. "Now it's a natural part of our lives. `Interface' has become part of our vocabulary."

And if you don't watch out, so will Wired.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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