Internet time and doomsday asteroids: this week in tech, 20 years ago

It's hard to remember a time when online media was not organized largely around memetic cultural events. On April 20 of recent years, for example, you can find all kinds of stories related to weeds related to the unofficial holiday of marijuana. That is not the case in 1999: a search of "420" brings very few results.

In contrast, the science and technology news from the end of April included a reorganization of the big company, some strange developments in space and an extremely condemned game. study founded by michael crichton. Here is this week in technology, 20 years ago.

Compaq was the largest manufacturer of personal computers in the world. But in April 1999, it was set to disappoint shareholders with terrible profits. Then, citing a new need to "move at the speed of the Internet", the company overthrew its CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer in a jolt that surprised the tech world.

As then- Forbes reporter Om Malik explained Comcast had been "under tremendous pressure" by the giant Dell and the low-end brand eMachines, even when the PC market had been "hit by the fall in prices and the slowdown in demand". Compaq finally merged with Hewlett-Packard to face competitors like Dell However, the deal has been characterized as one of the worst mergers in history, and led to HP CEO Carly Fiorina, who would run for president In 2016, she was fired a few years later.

Michael Crichton had an illustrious career in multiple media forms: he created the medical drama ER wrote and directed the film Westworld and wrote quite a few bestselling novels. In April 1999, he announced that he would move to video games with a company called Timeline Studios. As explained The New York Times Crichton had co-written an adventure game called Amazon in the 1980s, but left the field until technology improved:

The Timeline Funders say who think that today's most powerful personal computers and new 3-D software tools finally make it possible to create film-quality images, detail and movement in computer games. That transformation can be accelerated with the arrival next year of the Sony Playstation II, which, according to Crichton, could eclipse the PC as a gaming platform.

& # 39; & # 39; Most computer games give a large empty environment to enter and kill people, "said Crichton, 56. & # 39; & # 39; Even suspense techniques are "hit the hour," do this before it explodes. "

This was a pretty condescending description of the videogame world, and Timeline Studios eventually produced just one title, which was properly an adaptation of Crichton's novel Timeline . Old man Murray co-founder Eric Wolpaw gave him a half-star in five, noting that "progressing in the game is a slightly more challenging version of click on the & # 39; Next & # 39; of the installation program. "[19659009] Earlier this week, Pepsi abandoned some very strange plans to issue energy drink ads from space with the help of a Russian satellite, and the world breathed a sigh of relief. "with" Swatch "," a start-up of a Russian satellite "with" the Russian Space Agency ", and" energy drink "with" a completely new system to measure the passage of time ", and you have one of the most rare technological news from April 1999.

As Wired explained, the Swiss watch company had designed a satellite to announce its newly created "Swatch Internet Time", which replaced the standard hours and minutes with units called "beats." "The new satellite" Beatnik "was going to hijack the frequencies destined for noncommercial broadcasting, enraging amateur radio operators. However, before the launch, Swatch announced that it had donated the batteries to Russia's MIR space station, which was supposed to help solve a technical problem at the station.

An expert said he was not sure if this happened. But Swatch got good publicity, radio operators maintained their airspace, and at least some people thought that Internet Time was a good idea.

The next step of Earth with an asteroid is scheduled for 2027 when an asteroid called 1999 AN10 Pass within approximately 240,000 miles of Earth. As Science reported on April 20, 1999, the original discovery of the asteroid caused some consternation, thanks to a very remote possibility of a future collision with Earth. "A new & # 39; end-of-the-world asteroid is generating a lot of excitement and some anger," Govert Schilling wrote.

The source of the agitation, called 1999 AN10, was discovered on January 13 by an automatic search camera in Socorro, New Mexico, operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United States Air Force. Andrea Milani, from the University of Pisa in Italy and his colleagues, who analyzed its orbit, concluded that the asteroid will pass very close to Earth in August 2027, and there is an extremely remote possibility that Earth's gravity will alter its orbit in such a way 12 years later, in 2039.

Milani decided not to call the press, but published a pre-printed document on 1999 AN10 on her website on April 6, where Pronto was found by Benny Peiser, the moderator of a mailing list about "neocatastrophism". Peiser concluded that Milani and her colleagues were trying to hide something. "Instead of informing the interested public about their potentially explosive findings, the authors have hidden their results on a dark web page," he wrote in a statement published on April 13. The next day, the story made headlines in newspapers and Internet news services.

Milani's colleagues thought he had appropriately avoided exaggerating the threat, especially compared to the previous announcement of 1997 XF11, an asteroid that caused a brief panic after astronomers briefly suggested it might be close to a possible collision course with the Earth

Kevin Mitnick is one of the most famous and prolific hackers in the world, and his exploits have been described in several books and articles. But Adam Penenberg's defense of Mitnick, which came a month after Mitnick agreed to an agreement with the government, offers an interesting look at the state of the law on cybercrime and the cultural perception of piracy:

Mitnick's crimes were curiously innocuous. It entered into corporate computers, but no evidence indicates that it destroyed data. Or he sold anything he copied. Yes, he stole software, but in doing so he left it behind. This world of bits is strange, in which you can take something and leave it in the hands of its rightful owner. Theft laws designed for payroll bags and motorized vehicles simply do not apply to a hacker.

The crime of Kevin Mitnick was to take a look at the expensive computer security systems used by large corporations.

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