In the Spring of 1994, I met the dozen people who were going to help me create a new publication for a new medium.We were feeling pretty elite, the people picked by Wired magazine, which fancied itself the font of digital coolness, to design and launch HotWired, their commercial webzine. As Executive Editor, I thought I was the guy in charge. In the Spring of 94, the team of html jockeys, PhotoShop wizards, audio specialists, network administrators, database architecdts, user interface designers, webmasters, art directors and editors was just beginning to get acquainted.
We all went out to dinner at a Thai restaurant. We were all grinning like fools because we were going to be paid to do something we'd have paid to do. We got to strut around multimedia gulch in our Wiredware, the chosen ones of the digital elite. At the Thai dinner, I was seated next to a slim fellow of nineteen, with blond hair past his shoulders. He was one of the interns who had been chosen from scores of applicants because he had such a cool web page. Justin Hall. Swarthmore sophomore. Creator of the notorious Justin's Links from the Underground, the site that always seems to be up on cool pages, dirty pictures, and net.controversy. He was taking a semester off college to grab a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"And what brings you to HotWired?" I asked. I am not a master at breaking the ice.I immediately decided to like him. Either the guy was such a brazen suckup as to be a genius of the genre, or he was a wiseass who was laying on the irony, or he just said the first thing that came into his mind. In any case, I went for the straightforward audacity of it. He sure blew my icebreaker to oblivion.
"The opportunity to work with you," said Justin, with a straight face, looking me right in the eye.
It turns out that Justin is by nature at the opposite end of the suck-up spectrum. His righteous talent for tweaking authority sometimes overcomes his better judgement. But hell, if you are ever going to let your talent for tweaking authority overcome your better judgement, it's when you are nineteen.
It didn't take me more than a few minutes of working with Justin to realize that his computer skills were far beyond mine. It wasn't just programming. He was a master of PhotoShop, Unix, html, audio formats, all the tools we needed to use to do the job. I would sit down to prepare an image or compose a Web page, and it would take Justin about thirty seconds to get impatient and sweep me aside and take my chair. After my fumbling around, he played the computer and network like Heifetz with a violin. Definitely a virtuoso.
Gary Wolf, who succeeded me as Executive Editor at Hotwired, was there one night when Justin was exercising his virtuosity, and captured the wonder of it in a short email essay that I saved to this day, a year later.
Justin's my guru, and I am his. He's going to show us a view of the world that only a twenty year old iconoclastic smartass virtuoso of the digital arts can show us.
Reports from the Justin Dimension.