I worked for Wired magazine in 1997 in San Francisco, just before it was dubbed the "Rolling Stone of the digital age." Even though I would never describe myself as a tech geek, I felt I was working on the cutting edge of a vital new culture. The magazine, with its electric colors and often unreadable font, brought me into an exciting world of electronic democracy, eccentric scientists and technologists inventing the future, and cutting-edge gadgets like MP3s, which had just been invented by a Stanford undergrad. I joined an e-mail secret society of Wired eccentrics, who I'm still talking online with ten years later. I wish I could say the same about the magazine, which I only picked up again recently for this review.

Wired is now owned by Conde Nast -- and that company's influence is seen in both bad and good ways. The magazine has gotten mainstream and less colorful, while becoming predictably fashion- and celebrity-focused. However, it's now a lot easier to read, graphics-wise. It also now features Banana Republic ads. There are still old features like the Tired Wired list, but they are much less witty now, and there is still the Fetish section, which reviews new-wave gadgets, but it's not that interesting anymore, since there are currently a million shopping magazines that do the same thing. Since the culture that Wired was boosting in the '90s is everywhere now, the magazine is no longer cutting-edge.

The September issue features a very boring interview with "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart about the future of television. His answer: "I'm surprised people don't have cables coming out of their asses because that's going to be the new thing." Another feature, about digital artist Steven Sacks, begins with a lead that the original editors would have laughed into the trash bin: "In a conference room in one of the largest fashion companies in South Korea, Steven Sacks, wearing an Etro suit and a Burberry tie -- trademark furls of blond hair spilling from either side of his head -- is trying to explain the nuances of the art business." The one feature that I can say is still a good Wired story is about a group of exiled black Indians who are using new DNA testing to win back their land and be accepted back into their tribe.

At its best, the magazine told engaging stories like this one about how technology is revolutionizing culture. It turned geeks into rock stars. Now Wired is just another geeky magazine about science and technology --- and cool stuff you can buy.

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