Penn & Teller talk magic and technology … today and back in 1999

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Penn, left, and Teller

USA Today has a great interview with Penn & Teller this morning where the maestros of magic discuss the impact that technology has had on their craft.

And it prompted me dig up an interview of sorts that I did with Teller – yes, the silent one – at a trade show back in 1999, where we almost talked about the technology of that long-ago time.

From that USA Today story:

"There's no doubt the Internet has made magicians better technically," booms Jillette, 59, in town Tuesday with his partner to be honored at Sketchfest, the annual comedy festival.

He explains that in magic's early days, secrets were passed down through mentors. "Now, the entry level price is an Internet connection and a deck of cards," he says. "You can teach yourself this stuff (through online tutorials), so what we're seeing in terms of close up and slight of hands is breathtaking."

It’s a worthwhile read … Teller chimes in as well.

Which brings us back to the Networld+Interop ’99 conference in Atlanta, where Penn & Teller performed three booth shows for a company called SkyCache. I sat in the front row for one show – not 10 feet from the makeshift stage -- with the primary objective of trying to spot something – anything – that would allow me to understand how they did what they do.

I failed.

But since I was there on assignment for Network World, I figured I might as well talk to Penn and/or Teller about technology. Here’s part of what I wrote in my ‘Net Buzz column for our dearly departed print edition on Sept. 20, 1999:

After their last show of the day, Penn was busy signing autographs so I took the opportunity to interview Teller, even though the little guy is not known for his loquaciousness or network knowledge.

Buzz: “So what’s your take on all this convergence hoopla?”

Teller: (Crosses arms, looks exasperated, elbows Penn in the ribs.)

Buzz: “I take that to mean you’re skeptical. What about VPNs: Ready for prime time?”

Teller: (Arches eyebrow, coughs up a string of sewing needles, plunges five-inch carving knife into the back of Penn’s hand … Penn goes on signing.)

Buzz: “Thanks for your time.”

At least I tried.

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