This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield Hall 218
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
Clifford Stoll to Speak
At UW-Eau Claire
phone (715) 836-4741
fax (715) 836-2900

MAILED: Feb. 16, 2000

EAU CLAIRE — The Forum will present iconoclastic computer security expert Clifford Stoll Wednesday, March 1, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
A veteran programmer who is one of the Internet's fiercest critics as well as one of its pioneers, Stoll will begin his lecture, titled "Second Thoughts on the Information Highway," at 7:30 p.m. in Schofield Auditorium.
As one who loves computers as much as he disdains the inflated promises made on their behalf, Stoll has been called a P.J. O'Rourke of the computer age — barbed, opinionated and essential. In his Forum presentation the self-made social critic will focus his droll wit on the bogus claims and hidden costs in cyberspace, the fallibility of computers, and computer security. Stoll's presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session and a reception.
An MSNBC commentator, lecturer and a Berkeley astronomer, Stoll is author of The New York Times bestseller "The Cuckoo's Egg" (1989) and "Silicon Snake Oil" (1995) — books that established him as a gadfly of the computer industry. His new book, "High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian," was published in November.
"A brilliant skeptic assails high-tech boosterism," Kirkus Reviews summarized. The American Library Association's Booklist praised "Stoll's feisty, conversational, commonsensical and highly amusing commentaries on the technological juggernaut conjured by the cant phrase 'information highway.'"
Stoll punctures the exaggerated benefits of the computerized classroom, "free" software, and "help desks" that help no one. He asks why hardware has such a limited life span and why computers have to look so ugly. He questions the relentless drumbeat for "computer literacy" by educators and the high-tech industry since computers are most commonly used for word processing and games.
"So how long does it take to learn word processing?" Stoll writes. "A day? Maybe three? Of course using a computer requires learning to type. Oops, I mean acquiring keyboarding proficiency. Still, this is hardly rocket science."
"He unequivocally says that computers don't belong in classrooms because they stifle human nature, thwart human development and waste human resources — most notably, money that ought to be spent on teachers, librarians and books," wrote Booklist. "His strongest indictment of computers, not just in the classroom but throughout society, is that they, like television, constitute an isolating, disintegrative force that weakens human communities from families to national electorates."
Stoll came to the public policy stage somewhat by accident. An astronomer at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's Keck Observatory from 1985 to 1988, he was transferred to the computing center when his grant money ran out. Attempting to resolve an irritating 75-cent accounting error that was thought to be a glitch in the software, Stoll discovered that an unauthorized user had briefly logged on to the computing system and used up 75 cents worth of time. Stoll found that this hacker was roaming through supposedly secure systems, many of them related to military technology, and copying data.
When he presented his findings, the FBI dismissed the long-haired, casually-dressed Stoll as a joker. As he continued to trace the hacker, his employers eventually asked Stoll to stop the supposedly trivial project. Stoll continued his hunt on his own time and finally convinced federal authorities that the intruder presented a viable national security threat.
Stoll and a half-dozen national agencies methodically stalked the hacker through computer networks all over the world. The trail ultimately led to Hanover, West Germany, where he discovered a spy ring that had sold computer secrets to the KGB. When the ring was finally broken in March 1989, Stoll found himself on the front page of The New York Times and other newspapers across the country.
A rather unlikely American hero, Stoll related the story in "The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage," an entertaining thriller that spent 16 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List in 1990. A documentary about Stoll's spy-catching adventure titled "The KGB, CIA, Computer and Me" aired on PBS-TV's "Nova."
In "Silicon Snake Oil" and "High Tech Heretic," Stoll expresses his second thoughts about the role of networks in our culture — questioning our infatuation with the Internet, the overselling of the information highway and the overpromotion of computers in education.
"When a computer expert has second thoughts about the information highway, we should slow down and listen," wrote Booklist.
Admission is $7 for the public; $5 for those age 62 and over and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff; or $3 for those age 17 and under and UW-Eau Claire students. Tickets are available at the University Service Center in Davies Center and will be sold at the door.
Patrons also may charge their tickets to MasterCard or Visa when they order by phone. Call the University Service Center, (715) 836-3727 — or, outside the immediate Eau Claire area, call toll-free (800) 949-UWEC. A $3 handling fee will be added to all telephone charge orders.
During the presentation, free parking is available on campus in the Hibbard and Phillips parking lots.
The Forum is made possible by student funds allocated by the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate.

UWEC [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 218
(715) 836-4741

Updated: Feb. 16, 2000