Laura Sydell

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.

Sydell's work focuses on the ways in which technology is transforming our culture and how we live. For example, she reported on robotic orchestras and independent musicians who find the Internet is a better friend than a record label as well as ways technology is changing human relationships.

Sydell has traveled through India and China to look at the impact of technology on developing nations. In China, she reported how American television programs like Lost broke past China's censors and found a devoted following among the emerging Chinese middle class. She found in India that cell phones are the computer of the masses.

Sydell teamed up with Alex Bloomberg of NPR's Planet Money team and reported on the impact of patent trolls on business and innovations particular to the tech world. The results were a series of pieces that appeared on This American Life and All Things Considered. The hour long program on This American Life "When Patents Attack! - Part 1," was honored with a Gerald Loeb Award and accolades from Investigative Reporters and Editors. A transcript of the entire show was included in The Best Business Writing of 2011 published by Columbia University Press.

Before joining NPR in 2003, Sydell served as a senior technology reporter for American Public Media's Marketplace, where her reporting focused on the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Sydell is a proud native of New Jersey and prior to making a pilgrimage to California and taking up yoga she worked as a reporter for NPR Member Station WNYC in New York. Her reporting on race relations, city politics, and arts was honored with numerous awards from organizations such as The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, and The Society of Professional Journalists.

American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored Sydell for her long-form radio documentary work focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists.

After finishing a one-year fellowship with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, Sydell came to San Francisco as a teaching fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley.

Sydell graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and earned a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law.

Elizabeth Holmes fit into the Silicon Valley success mold. A young Stanford dropout who left school to pursue her entrepreneurial vision, she founded Theranos and said she would disrupt the world of medicine with easy and inexpensive blood tests.

Prince's sister says that when the musician died suddenly last week, he left no known will. On Tuesday, she asked a Minnesota court to appoint a special administrator to oversee the estate, which may be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But no matter who the heirs turn out to be, they will be facing some tough choices.

Prince always had an aura of mystery. His death at 57 has only added to the puzzle.

Yahoo goes on sale Monday. At least some of you reading this are thinking, "Yahoo? Are they still around?"

Yes, this company founded in 1994, is ancient by Internet standards, but, according to the measurement company comScore, Yahoo sites are the third-most trafficked on the Internet. Among its properties are Yahoo Finance, News, Search, Mail, Tumblr and Flickr.

Updated at 11:52 a.m. ET with a response from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Inventors and entrepreneurs have logged years of complaining about the patent system, and there are some good reasons. In 2015, patent litigation rose 13 percent from the previous year according to a study by Unified Patents, and two-thirds of those suits were brought by nonpracticing entities, or so-called "patent trolls."

The Justice Department has asked a federal court to vacate its order that Apple write software to help the FBI access data in the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone. The department tells the court in a filing that it has found a way to access data in the locked phone.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Tributes are pouring out across the Internet for Andy Grove. The former CEO of Intel died on Monday. His personal story is woven into the history of Silicon Valley. NPR's Laura Sydell reports on what he left behind.

President Obama was in Austin, Texas on Friday to make peace with techies. He addressed attendees at the annual tech conference South by Southwest Interactive and asked for help getting Americans more civically engaged. But he also spoke for the first time at length about issues in the stand off between the Justice Department and Apple over a terrorist's iPhone.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Apple CEO Tim Cook put himself and his company front and center in a national debate on digital privacy, when he decided Apple would not comply with a federal court order to help unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

When a federal judge ordered Apple earlier this week to unlock a phone used by one of the assailants in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., she cited a law from 1789. It could make you wonder if the nation's legal system is having a hard time keeping up with the fast pace of technological change. So, I asked a few legal experts if our old laws can apply to this particular situation.

Every time we turn around, there's a new technology that seems to make everything faster, cheaper and easier. Yet consumers seem to be increasingly interested in some very slow and old technologies — like woodcarving, weaving and other handmade items.

Ironically, it's a modern technology — the Internet — that's making it easy for lovers of artisan goods to find goods and craftsmakers.

When the first Mac computer came out in 1984, it cost nearly $2,500 and had a floppy drive for storage. In 2016, a spate of computers with a price as low as $5 and a lot more storage are hitting the market, and they may be opening up a new era of experimentation.

Recently, I got a look at one of these low-cost computers — the $9 CHIP, which has 4 gigabytes of storage.

Robots were popular on the big screen this holiday season. The newly released film Star Wars: The Force Awakens brought us more of C-3PO, R2-D2 — those sweet and capable robots that have enchanted us for decades — and the debut of BB-8.

At this year's big consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, known as CES, there were more robots on display than ever. Some even looked like the Star Wars characters.

The most promising by appearance was Pepper. It has humanoid features — eyes, arms, a mouth. Pepper can even be a little self-conscious.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today is implementation day of a different sort in California. A new fair pay law takes effect. It is meant to go beyond any other law in this country to ensure pay equity between men and women. Here's NPR's Laura Sydell.

You have probably been hearing a lot about virtual reality in the past couple of years; this coming year you finally may get to try it. Several major consumer headsets are hitting the market, allowing users to experience everything from travel, games, news and shopping.

But it's not clear whether that will be enough to entice consumers to spend a few hundred bucks on a VR headset.

Brian Blau thinks it will be enough. The analyst at Gartner, a tech market-research firm, has watched dozens of people don a virtual reality headset for the first time.

Spotify, the groundbreaking streaming music service, is facing a class-action lawsuit alleging that it violates the copyrights of thousands of independent musicians.

If the songwriters prevail it could cost Spotify tens of millions of dollars in unpaid royalties. And according to experts in the music industry, this may be only the beginning, because other streaming services reportedly commit the same violations.

Being older than 65, single and looking for romance has never been easy, and for women, who outnumber single men, it's especially challenging. The Internet is making it easier for older women, who didn't grow up with the Web, to get outside their social circles for dating and romance, but it can make them more vulnerable to deception.

Kimberly Bodfish, who's single and 65+, has discovered what many people already know about dating online: People are a little generous about themselves in their profiles.

You've probably seen Square's white plastic reader — it's a small square that plugs in to a smart phone or tablet. Customers swipe their card and the money is put into the merchant's Square account. It's really easy for small and new businesses to get an account.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Updated at 6:02 p.m. ET with analysts' comments and additional details

The rumor that YouTube would once and for all put some of its endless content behind the paywall has perpetuated for quite a while, and finally the plan is the real deal.

Google, YouTube's parent, on Wednesday revealed the new subscription service, ambiguously called "Red," which will give people a way to watch videos without those buzzkill commercials — for $9.99 a month.

Most Democratic voters have probably never heard of Lawrence Lessig. He's running on one issue — campaign finance reform — and he didn't make it into last week's Democratic debate.

Football's popularity has made it among the most lucrative business franchises. So it should come as no surprise that the NFL and other organizations holding the broadcasting rights to games felt very strongly about Deadspin and SB Nation, popular sports publications, attracting readers by posting highlights on Twitter.

What came next were complaints of copyright violations. Then came Twitter's suspension of the accounts. Now comes the question: Do GIFs of sports highlights qualify as fair use?

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It's time for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

The pronunciation of words by computers has gotten a lot better — at least in the movies. One of the latest futurist films — Ex Machina — has actress Alicia Vikander as the voice of the humanoid robot Ava.

Meanwhile, in the real world, computer voices such as those used for Siri, Cortana and Google Now don't seem to be able to say some words correctly.

When Apple recently updated its TV box the redesign included a remote that also functions as a game controller. Apple isn't trying to compete with powerful consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox or Sony's PlayStation. But, Apple is competing with Google and Amazon to attract a much bigger but different gaming audience.

Apple's latest press event wasn't really filled with surprises: Though the rumor mill always has churned before Apple events since the death of Steve Jobs, the rumors have gotten more accurate, so it wasn't a surprise that Apple upgraded its iPhones, iPads and Apple TV.

Here are a few impressions of the new offerings:

Apple TV

Of the products announced Wednesday, this was the most interesting, and, just maybe, the most revolutionary.

There's a battle brewing between Facebook and the people who make professional videos on YouTube. Facebook has made video a priority over the past year and many of the most popular videos turn out to have originated on YouTube.

A lot of YouTube stars say Facebook is taking money right out of their pockets — and many of them are talking about big money.

The iconic image of the American farmer is the man or woman who works the land, milks cows and is self-reliant enough to fix the tractor. But like a lot of mechanical items, tractors are increasingly run by computer software. Now, farmers are hitting up against an obscure provision of copyright law that makes it illegal to repair machinery run by software.

Take Dave Alford. He fits that image of the iconic farmer.

Iran has the potential to be a boom market for American tech companies. The majority of the population is under 30 and well educated, and over half the country has access to the Internet.

Many businesses have to wait until more sanctions are lifted, but certain tech companies can already go into Iran legally because the U.S. has lifted sanctions on various communication technology. They just aren't sure they want to.

Twitter has started taking down jokes for copyright infringement. The removals were first spotted by @PlagiarismBad, which traced the takedown notices to Olga Lexell, a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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