James Fallows is National Correspondent for The Atlantic.His books include Free Flight: Inventing the Future of Travel, Blind into Baghdad: America’s War in Iraq, and China Airborne.

He’s Got Mail

The story of technology is largely the story of people who guess wrong about which problems will be easy to solve and which will be hard. For example, less than a decade before the Wright Brothers’ flight, Lord Kelvin announced that “heavier than air flying machines are impossible.” The Scientific …

Internet Illusions

Until March 28 of this year, the investment world acted as if the coming of the Internet really had changed the basic rules of finance. Early that month, the Nasdaq average, which is heavily influenced by technology and Internet stocks, had passed 5,100, double its level of six months earlier.

Billion-Dollar Babies

The phenomenon that Michael Lewis and Charles Ferguson both seek to describe in their books is the dramatic accumulation of wealth driven by the Internet. Technological and business innovations are the occasion for it, and Ferguson in particular, who tells us how he started and sold his own high-tech company, …

Hurry Up Please It’s Time

The Year 2000 computer problem originated in the 1950s and 1960s, when programmers decided to use two rather than four digits to represent a year. The date of Apollo 11’s launch to the moon, for instance, was registered in NASA programs as 07/16/69, rather than 07/16/1969. It was obvious to …

Fear of Flying

Just before dawn on Wednesday, October 13, 1998, a small single-engine plane took off from Montgomery County Airpark, twenty miles northwest of Washington, D.C. The plane was a Cessna 172 “Skyhawk”—an old-fashioned-looking craft, with its Spirit of St. Louis-style high-wing design. The Skyhawk is the most widely used training airplane …

Caught in the Web

The most effective aspect of Bill Gates’s new book is its cover. A wonderful photograph, taken by Annie Leibovitz, shows a friendly-looking and casually dressed Gates standing on an isolated highway somewhere in the West. With his crew-neck sweater and penny loafers, with his warm expression and relaxed pose, Gates …

The Republican Promise

How did we come to this pass, with a president who has no immediate hope of enacting his program and a congressional leadership elected on a plainly unenforceable “contract?” In Washington there are two main hypotheses. One casts Bill Clinton as the villain, now being punished for his own excesses and inattention. The other presents him as the victim of the very forces that helped elect him in 1992.

The Computer Wars

The “computer revolution” of the last twenty years or so is often discussed as if it were a single huge phenomenon. But it has involved many separate technical and business trends moving in different directions at different speeds. The technical change that has had the biggest impact on daily life …

What Can Save the Economy?

For a well-known writer, Lester Thurow has a peculiar prose style. His book is not exactly a heartening example of the pride in American craftsmanship he is trying to revive. Early in his book, Thurow refers to Gianni De Michelis, Italy’s foreign minister, as “the rotating head of the EEC.” …

The Romance with Mexico

In Southern California during the 1960s, twirling the AM radio dial could be an adventure. In addition to the mainstream stations, like KNX and KFI, broadcasting at the normal “clear-channel” power of 50,000 watts, every now and then you would hit a station so powerful that it could make the …

Is Japan the Enemy?

It is easy to imagine the dilemma the publisher faced when deciding whether to call its new book The Coming War With Japan. The authors are not widely known. George Friedman is a professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Meredith LeBard, originally from Australia, teaches writing at a community …

The Great Japanese Misunderstanding

Pat Choate writes that his book is not really about Japan—despite its subtitle, despite the big red hinomaru circle of the Japanese flag that dominates its cover, despite the debate that Choate has provoked in Washington about whether Japanese interests have too much influence over American politics. (The two books …

Wake Up, America!

Economists don’t like to talk about the effects of culture or of ethics on economic development, since these are such subjective and imprecise matters. But most people, including economists off-duty, assume that there is a connection between the kinds of everyday behavior a society encourages and its stability and prosperity.

The Real Japan

Karel van Wolferen’s The Enigma of Japanese Power is the subject of much controversy and has been generally vilified in Japan, even though it has not been officially published there, is written in a language most Japanese cannot read, and does much to explain the roots of the political crisis …

Rich Kids

The class imagery of the presidential campaign is important but peculiar. George Bush has only recently looked as if he might escape from the image of the invisible “Poppy” from Skull and Bones, lampooned so wittily in Doonesbury. Bush’s image is odd not simply because of his well-known war record …

Rx from RN

At age seventy-five, Richard Nixon still seems to be evading an important truth about himself: the reason he remains such a fascinating figure is not that Americans are looking to him for foreign policy advice. There are plenty of policy experts, but there is only one Nixon. Nixon is engrossing …

The Americans in Space

The central message of Walter McDougall’s long, long history of the space age concerns the danger of seeing space exploration primarily as a symbol for something else. Yes, space will always be symbolic in the grandest sense: in attempting to understand it, we demonstrate man’s “questing spirit,” our demand to …

The New Celebrities of Washington

By any reasonable reckoning of the consequence, Washington’s debate over aid to the contras has been unnaturally shrill. What was at stake, after all, was $100 million in assistance, about one-eighth as much money as the Pentagon spends every day, year round. Obviously money is not the only measure of …

A Parable of Automation

The machine-tool industry occupies a place of rare importance in the literature of economics. In part that is so because of the things the industry makes. From the machine shops of a nation come the dies that are used to stamp or form nearly every mass-production item, from automobile fenders …

The Reagan Variety Show

Near the end of his second year in office, John Kennedy proposed a dramatic reduction in federal income-tax rates. The maximum rate, applied to income above $200,000, would fall from 91 percent to 70 percent, and down through the rest of the income distribution, rates would be cut by an …

Reagan: The Fruits of Success

In the Cabinet Room of the West Wing of the White House, where tall leather chairs, one slightly taller than the rest, surround an oval table, each president hangs portraits of three predecessors, implying similarities the incumbent finds appropriate or flattering. Lincoln and Jefferson are traditional choices; but in place …