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September 29, 2012 4:21 am
Totally Wired: On the Trail of the Great Dotcom Swindle, by Andrew Smith, Simon & Schuster, RRP£19.99, 416 pages
The dotcom bubble of the late 1990s was the first flowering of a virtual online world and, as excitement grew, investors at the frontier of the fledgling internet showed themselves ever more susceptible to what Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan had dubbed “irrational exuberance” in 1996.
At the heart of the bubble was an oddball chief executive: Josh Harris. Almost a decade after Pseudo, Harris’s company, ceased to exist, Andrew Smith tracks him down to a compound in Ethiopia. The Kurtz-like figure – mad or visionary? – forms the book’s enigmatic core as Smith explores Harris’s work, which prefigured much of today’s social network, and examines why the dotcom bubble burst.
In his first book, Moondust (2006), Smith interviewed the nine remaining astronauts who had walked on the moon; here he talks to the early internet pioneers to piece together another pivotal moment in human history.
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