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Spinning Steel Into Gold

How the steel guitar established itself as an American instrument, and why there are few people who mastering it today:

When I ask about young players, many guitarists just shrug. In the last ten years, many of the greatest pedal steel players have passed away: Jeff Newman, Tom Brumley, Hal Rugg, John Hughey. These days, Dan Dugmore, Russ Pahl, Mike Johnson, and Paul Franklin are the main session players in Nashville. In a place where you can find a lead guitarist on almost every corner, and which has experienced a musical renaissance of sorts in the last decade, it’s surprising that all four still remain the go-to steel players in town, despite the generation gap. There just isn’t a new wave of young players coming up who can replace the quality of the old guard.

PUBLISHED: April 15, 2014
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6291 words)

Chat Wars

Sabotage, bureaucracy, and emoticons: Inside the late ’90s chat wars between Microsoft and AOL, from the perspective of a former Microsoft programmer:

The messenger war was a rush. Coming in each morning to see whether the client still worked with AOL was thrilling. I’d look through reams of protocol messages to figure out what had changed, fix the client, and try to get an update out the same day. I felt that I was in an Olympic showdown with some unnamed developers over at AOL. I had no idea who my adversaries were, but I had been challenged and I wanted to win.

AOL tried different tactics. At one point they seemed to be identifying the Microsoft client because it wasn’t downloading a huge chunk of advertising that the AOL client downloaded. So I changed our client to download it all (and then throw it away). They put in mysterious messages that didn’t seem to affect their client but broke ours because we weren’t expecting them. One day, I came in to see this embedded in a message from the AOL server: “HI. –MARK.” It was a little communication from engineer to engineer, underneath the corporate, media, and PR worlds that were arguing over us. I felt some solidarity with him even though we were on opposing sides.

PUBLISHED: April 19, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6582 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our favorite stories of the week.
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2014