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Modulating our Frequency…

From the Editor In Chief
January 1, 1998

Just like a radio station, a magazine has a frequency. In our case, the frequency has been somewhat unusual: eight times per year. If you think about it, few other magazines publish on this schedule. We all know weeklies, (Time), monthlies (The Atlantic), quarterlies (Paris Review), and bimonthlies (Civilization). What is much less familiar is a magazine that comes out every six weeks and three days. And so, as of the issue you’re holding, MIT’s Technology Review is going to get in step with the rest of the publishing world. We are now a bimonthly publication, coming out regular as clockwork six times a year.

We realize that this change means we’re going to be giving you two fewer issues per year. And, as demanding consumers, you will expect to receive added value to compensate for the reduction in frequency. You’ll be getting it-in spades. As of the May/June issue, just two issues from now, Technology Review will be completely reinvented and relaunched as what is in essence a new publication. First of all, we’ll have an entirely new graphic design that is cleaner, more contemporary, and more compelling than anything we’ve done yet. The new design is being carried out by the award-winning Art Director of Civilization magazine, David Herbick.

Along with our new Herbick design will go a shift in editorial focus. Although I don’t want to give everything away yet, the new conceptual center of Technology Review will be innovation: the process by which humanity constantly upgrades its tools and techniques. This process is happening all over our society. In fact, in my view innovation is one of the distinguishing features of the society we live in-just as philosophy distinguished the ancient Greeks and artistic humanism the Italians of the Renaissance. Our society is a society of innovation, and the new Technology Review will analyze, interpret, and evaluate that process for our readers in every single issue.

Although innovation can be seen in almost every area of technology, it is happening particularly quickly in certain areas. Three that spring to mind are information technology, biotechnology, and materials science. (Indeed, Michael Dertouzos, director of the MIT Laboratory of Computer Science, refers to these three pacesetters as the “Three Queens.”) In each of these fields, basic research is bleeding over with surprising speed into the commercial sector. Concepts that were the stuff of fundamental research a year ago are emerging as promising new ventures today; in six months they will be products. And as this process moves forward, lots of old boundary lines get crossed and then obliterated. Basic researchers, for example, become entrepreneurs. Corporate managers find themselves running cutting-edge research labs. Venture capitalists read Nature as intensely as they do the Wall Street Journal. Policymakers begin to think about undoing regulations rather than creating them.

The new Technology Review will go behind the scenes into all these areas where traditional boundary lines are disappearing as innovation proceeds. With the help of the very best professional writers in science and technology we will be bringing you vital information about how today’s basic research becomes tomorrow’s startup companies, about what corporate R&D strategies are really working-and which aren’t, about who the innovators are (in universities and in companies), and what our society needs to do to keep the process of innovation moving ahead with accelerating speed. Our stories will focus strongly on the people who make all this happen, not just on the remarkable new technologies they create. Technology is, after all, one of the defining activities of our species, and the new Technology Review will be very interested in technology as an expression of our humanity.

One of the things that makes this new editorial focus appropriate for Technology Review is that MIT has never been a place where learning and practice were conceived of as separate functions. From its inception, “the Tech” has been a place where concept and application were seen as inextricably intertwined. One result of that philosophy has been that MIT is a hotbed of high-tech entrepreneurship. A recent study by Bank-Boston revealed that MIT alumni, alumnae, faculty, and students have founded 4,000 companies in the United States. In 1994, these companies employed 1.1 million people and generated $232 billion in worldwide sales. And while MIT has always been a fertile ground for startups, research universities in general are today a more critical part of the national innovation system than they have ever been.

Our revitalized magazine will there-fore resonate with the mission of MIT. But it won’t be a magazine solely about events in Cambridge. Far from it. As before, Technology Review will be a magazine with national reach and scope.

We’re confident that our new editorial focus, presented in a striking new graphic package, will more than make up for the change in frequency. But, to make sure you’re satisfied, we will also be sharply improving our World Wide Web site over the year to come. All in all, I think that the next year will be an exciting and (dare I say it?) “innovative” one both for us on Vassar Street in Cambridge, Mass., and for our readers around the United States and around the world.

As you see these changes making their way into our pages, please let us know how you think we’re doing-what we’re doing well and what we can do better. Our own process of growth and development depends on our being in tune with you. Staying on your frequency, as it were.

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