The Internet stock bubble wasn't just about goggle-eyed day traderstrying to get rich on the Nasdaq and goateed twenty-five-year-olds playing wannabe Bill Gates. It was also about an America that believed it had discovered the secret of eternal prosperity: it said something about all of us, and what we thought about ourselves, as the twenty-first century dawned. John Cassidy's Dot.con brings this tumultuous episode to life. Moving from the Cold War Pentagon to Silicon Valley to Wall Street and into the homes of millions of Americans, Cassidy tells the story of the great boom and bust in an authoritative and entertaining narrative. Featuring all the iconic figures of the Internet era -- Marc Andreessen, Jeff Bezos, Steve Case, Alan Greenspan, and many others -- and with a new Afterword on the aftermath of the bust, Dot.con is a panoramic and stirring account of human greed and gullibility.
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May 13, 2003
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Excerpt from Dot.con by John Cassidy
One of the strange things about history is how certain periods from long ago can seem recent, while some events that just happened, relatively speaking, can appear ancient. As these words are being written, President George W. Bush has declared war on terrorism, and American warplanes are heading for Central Asia. Suddenly the Cold War, with its attendant undercurrent of fear, feels a lot closer, while the carefree 1990s seem like a distant age. It is too early to judge the ultimate historic significance of the terrorist attacks that were carried out on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, but one thing is clear: they changed America's view of itself. The belief in U.S. military and economic invulnerability, which grew stronger by the year during the 1990s, until it was taken for granted by many, has been violently undermined. In the wake of the attacks, America's attention has shifted from the secondary human concerns that dominated during the 1990s boom (saving for old age, getting rich) to the primary matters of human survival (staying safe, providing a livelihood for one's family).
Already, it is hard to fathom that just a couple of years ago many intelligent Americans believed that the marriage of computers and communications networks had ushered in a new era of permanent peace and prosperity. Depending on which Wall Street or Silicon Valley guru you listened to, the Internet was the most revolutionary development since the electric dynamo, the printing press, or the wheel. The most striking manifestation of this thinking was the extraordinary prices that people were willing to pay to invest in Internet companies. In nearly every sector of the economy, entrepreneurs, many barely out of college, were rushing to establish online firms and issue stock on the Nasdaq, which was heading upward at a vertiginous rate. Names like Marc Andreessen, Jerry Yang, and Jeff Bezos were being uttered with awe.