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‘Technically Literate’: CNET Rolls Into Fiction

19 March 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

CBS Interactive has announced that CNET, its site for consumer technology news and reviews, has launched Technically Literate, a series of original, illustrated works of short fiction, each with a perspective on technology.

The stories will be appearing monthly exclusively at CNET.com. Readers will also have the option to send the stories directly from CNET to their Kindles, IOS or Android devices.

Technically Literate will debut with works from four authors:

  • Michelle Richmond is the author of four novels, including the New York Times bestseller The Year of Fog. She kicks off the series with The Last Taco Truck in Silicon Valley, a satirical look at the place in which startup and hipster cultures collide. Readers can follow Richmond’s story on Twitter on the hashtag#franconeedsataco.
  • Novelist and journalist Cristina Garcia is author of four novels. Her first book Dreaming in Cuban was a finalist for the National Book Award. Garcia’s original work for Technically Literateis Cuba’s King of Batteries. Set in 1943, the story involves a German submarine, a kidnapping and—that driving force of technology—the battery.
  • Novelist Anthony Marra is the New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, long-listed for the National Book Award, and a finalist for this year’s National book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Marra’s original story for Technically Literate is Ansley, a modern-day tale of secret identity.
  • Nayomi Munaweera is the author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors, winner of the Commonwealth Regional Prize for Asia and short-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

. . . .

Reporting for The New York Times, Alexandra Alter writes:

“The fiction series grew out of an effort to attract new audiences to CNET, which has more than 33 million monthly visitors.

“When the site was introduced about 20 years ago, technology was still a niche subject.

“Now, technology saturates practically every facet of daily life and takes center stage in movies, television and fiction, including in the HBO show Silicon Valley and recent novels by Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen and Joshua Cohen.”

“We hope it will help us expand our brand,” Guglielmo tells Alter. “If you don’t experiment, you stay in place, and that’s kind of counter to the culture here.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives


4 Comments to “‘Technically Literate’: CNET Rolls Into Fiction”

  1. So it’s back to the future at CNET, huh? Taking a page from Hugo Gernsback…


    As discussed a while back, hard sf stories don’t usually age well and the more accurate they are, especially in IT tech, the quicker they become anachronistic. Exceptions exist (like THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE) but IT moves too fast and in unpredictable directions to be safe fiction fodder.

    Quite a while back COMPUTERWORLD did a special issue on UNIX (the original, ATT version; GNU and Linux were nowhere on the horizon) and featured a story where all computers everywhere ran UNIX and only UNIX. Ostensibly because interoperability was *so* important it would obliterate all other contenders. It was laughable even at the time.

    Hopefully the CNET stories won’t already be dated by the time they see light. 🙂

    (But those descriptions…)

    • Felix, Back in the short period I did free-lance programming, a client asked my opinion about porting his software package to OS/2. At that time, his package was designed to run on a 16-bit DOS platform.

      I told him that IMO his best bet was to rewrite his software in C independent of the hardware platform and write various bases to interface his package with different hardware. I said I did not see that many clients would scrap their 16-bit machines and make a new capital outlay to host a new 32-bit operating system.

      He frowned at me and said, “We think OS/2 is the coming thing, and that’s what we’re going with.” At that point I knew he did not want my opinion. We wanted post hoc approval of a course of action he had decided to take. I smiled and left; it was the end of that day. I finished my task for the company. My contract was not renewed.

      Some years later, I encountered the owner’s wife. During my short time there before, I learned that she was the business brains in the outfit. I asked her how the business was going. “Good, good,” she said and nodded. I asked if the software was still written in FORTRAN. “No, we translated it to C.” On DOS? “No, we have multiple operating system and hardware interface packages now.”


      Nothing costs so much as being right at the wrong time.

      • Yeah, buying the OS/2 hype cost a lot of people dearly. Businesses died by betting against Windows. Long list.

        Still, in that time period (remember the early 90’s DRAM cartel?) going the platform-independent C route was an expensive gamble.

        Our organization (30 person group) waited a couple years to start moving our codes and it ended up taking over a decade and millions of $$ to move from mainframe and DOS Fortran to maintained C++ transportable code. And it was only possible because of the work carried out with the vintage code on a series of ever cheaper workstations. Three generations of hardware. One fell swoop? In any direction? Not. Doable.

        Timing is everything.

        • Later, when I became a ‘systems analyst’, I read a report that collected the results of various software management studies. Bottom line, using known algorithms, you could spec out Ada, C, C++, IBM assembly, and even COBOL and predict the lines of code necessary for a project within ten percent. Which, of course, means that you could bid a job with confidence. But FORTRAN was unmanageable. The best algorithm was off by a factor of 2.5.

          But everybody knows FORTRAN. It was the first programming language I was taught. I actually used it in business, too. Didn’t hate it, but didn’t like it, either. C is a thousand times better than FORTRAN.

          FYI (you probably know this) the secret to maintainable code is rigorous commenting standards: flowerbox header at the top with all the gozinus-gozoutus, callsus-wecalls, and variables used (global and local) described; flowerbox trailer at the end that says ‘This is the end of XXX’. How rigorous? You don’t do it, you’re fired.

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