OHI project interviewed Steven Levy on 16th September 2019 in Manhattan.
Our interview with Steven Levy was at Manhattan’s landmark building, the 1 World Trade Center, where WIRED’s parent company, Conde Nast, is located. Conde Nast issued loads of famous magazines such as Vogue (known as the Bible for fashion), GQ (the top men’s fashion magazine), Conde Nast Traveler (known as the Bible for travel) and so on. Our interview was delayed for half an hour as Levy misremembered the floor of his office due to his long-time absence for booking writing and vacation. Fortunately, we finally met.
This is not the first time that we met. Two years ago, Steven Levy and I had a very great talk at the café in Manhattan through the introduction of Kai-Fu Lee. I decided to interview him for our Oral history of the Internet project since then. Steven Levy has rich experiences in reporting science and technology, the focus of our interview is undoubtedly his 38-year science and technology journalist career.
Steven Levy, regarded as one of the top historians in the digital age, is the editor-at-large for WIRED. He has been working for WIRED since its first issue, before WIRED, he was the senior editor for Newsweek.
In 1974, He obtained the Master of literature at Pennsylvania State University and he realized that he was not made for professor, so he started his career as a journalist since 1975. In the beginning, there was no specific subject, he just wrote for all kinds of newspapers and magazines.
Until 1981, Steven Levy discovered the field of science and technology, a field that combines his interest and works perfectly. Since then, he put his focus on there. Around 1983, he was preparing to interview Steve Jobs for an in-depth report on Mactonish. However, Jobs said he would not accept the interview if it was not a cover story. After several times of negotiations and persuasions, Jobs finally agreed to do the interview. When Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, this report was re-published in memory of him. In addition, he also interviewed Bill Gates, Zuckerberg and other Internet pioneers.
His most famous masterpiece is Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (1984), the first book introducing hacker culture and became one of the most classic books in the hacker world. We are very interested in the creative process of this book, and he told us he interviewed most critical hackers at that time and focused on Richard Stallman in the last chapter of this book, named “the last hacker”. Steven Levy thought Stallman is a real hacker who represents the true hacker culture. When the book was published in 1985, the free software concept hasn`t formed, GUN hasn`t initiated and Linux has not even appeared. After 35 years of publication, still there is no book can match it. It has been translated into various mainstream languages and still has a wide market. Levy told us that many people think his first book is also his best book.
Moreover, he made an in-depth report on digital currency 25 years ago, also he has written several books about companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Facebook, which were groundbreaking.
Speaking of family life, Steven Levy has a wife who won the Pulitzer Prize; however, their son is not interested in writing at all. He hasn’t even read any of their books.
Steven Levy has been serving as a technology reporter for nearly 40 years and witnessed almost the entire development and evolution of the modern IT industry. Steven Levy is 68 years old, at which age most of his contemporary counterparts have retired, he decided to keep working through his life. Besides, his new book about Facebook will be published in January next year, and we hope this new book may go well beyond the Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Best wishes to his new book.
The interview ended quickly and we are looking forward to communicating with him next time.
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