Hal Plotkin's

I wrote the Tech BEAT column for the San Francisco Chronicle's website, SFgate.com, from August 1998 until December 2002. During that time I was fortunate to work with SFgate.com's incredibly smart editor, Amy Moon. Amy's keen insights and suggestions often helped me sharpen my ideas and arguments. I will always be grateful for her skillful touch.

My wonderful wife, the award-winning Bay Area journalist Loren Stein, also deserves mention here and my gratitude -- not only for marrying me -- but also for her diligent editing, wise feedback, great suggestions and high expectations. Both Amy and Loren made important behind-the-scenes contributions to my SFgate.com essays. Words cannot express my gratitude.

Guide to Comparison Shopping Websites  


Tear Down the Walls
August 31, 1998
College in the Digital Age.

The Open Source Revolution
August 3, 1998
Mr. Gates, Meet Mr. Torvalds.

New Age Voting
September 23, 1998
How Technology Might Revolutionize Voting.

Why It’s Not Clicking for Asia
October 8, 1998
More Economic Turmoil in the Far East?

Closing the Digital Divide
October 19, 1998
Is the Dream of Racial Equality Stuck in an Infinite Loop?

Poof! Instant LAN
November 10, 1998
You’re Already Wired.

Free Money Here!
November 23, 1998
Online Help Finding Venture Capital that You Might Not Want to Use.

The Socket Wars
December 7, 1998
How Intel Corp. is Giving R&D a Bad Name.

Time for a Silver Bullet
December 22, 1998
How to Make Tech Companies Do the Right Thing.


Net Unemployment
January 4, 1999
Will the Internet Put You Out of Work?

Speed Kills
January 18, 1999
How PacBell’s New DSL Service Trips up the Competition.

Online Government
February 1, 1999
Bringing the Public Sector Up to Speed.

Biotech Rules Part I
February 16, 1999
Pssst…Anyone Wanna Buy a Cure for Cancer?

Biotech Rules Part II
March 2, 1999
Science, Serendipity and the Web.

Power to the People
March 15, 1999
The Return of Cold Fusion.

Killing the Rainmakers
March 29, 1999
The Dying Art of High-Tech Public Relations.

Love Bytes
April 12, 1999
Will the Net Flatten Maslow’s Pyramid?

Oh, Holy Net
April 28, 1999
Does the Hand of God Know HTML?

The War Against Cold Fusion
May 17, 1999
What’s Really Behind it?

Must-See TV
May 25, 1999
Get Paid to Watch.

Tech Stocks
June 9, 1999
Has the Boom Gone Bust?

We’re Flying Blind
June 22, 1999
It’s Time for Some New Economic Metrics.

Wanna Make a Bet?
July 6, 1999
How the Internet Might Improve Your Odds.

Killing Uncle Sam
July 20, 1999
The Tax Man Meets His Match Online.

Running Lame
August 4, 1999
Most Presidential Candidates Stumble Online.

Beta This
August 17, 1999
Cleaning Up the Software Industry’s Bug-Infested Mess.

Masters of Our Domain
August 31, 1999
RealNames Means Just What it Says.

The Kids are Not Alright
September 15, 1999
Why Johnny Can’t Compute.

I’m Rooting for Bill Gates, Sort of…
September 30, 1999
Why Breaking Up Microsoft Solves Nothing.

Open Sesame
October 14, 1999
How Collabnet Takes Open Source to the Next Level.

Big Idiot on Campus
October 28, 1999
U.C. Should Broadcast Class Lectures Online.

Going Once, Going Twice, Gone!
November 11, 1999
How eBay is Shooting Itself in the Foot.

Reader’s Beat
November 24, 1999
SFgate Readers Respond to Past Columns.

Click Here to Buy
December 8, 1999
Online Shopping Tips from Someone Who Hates to Shop.

Our Wacky Patent System
December 23, 1999
And its Perilous, Toothless Reform.










Open-Source TV
January 5, 2000
Why Broadcasters Should Get on the Open Source Bandwagon Pronto.

Fixing Microsoft
February 3, 2000
A Three-Step Plan to Make Bill Gates Play Fair.

Deposit This
February 23, 2000
On the Internet, Your Bank is Not Your Friend.

Patently False
March 17, 2000
Time for Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos to Get Serious.

April 6, 2000
How Free Music Will Change the Planet.

Highway Robbery
May 10, 2000
Electronic Toll Collection System Won’t Fix Traffic Woes.

Digital Food
May 26, 2000
How Online Groceries Could Set the Stage for a Revolution in the Aisles.

Talking Computers
June 7, 2000
Microsoft's Long Range Plan to Fight the Feds.

Coming Up with the Next Big Thing
June 28, 2000
The Race for New Wireless Applications.

Little Man Big Mind
July 31, 2000
New Media Pioneer Gary Brickman's Remarkable Life.

Fast and Easy
August 31, 2000
New Browserless Search Tools Allow One-Click Searching.

Burn Your Cubicle
September 21, 2000
Virtual Teams are the Future of Work.

Faster than Light Travel
October 18, 2000
Would it Be Worth Trying to Spin A Baton in Space Faster Than Light?

Technical Correction
November 21, 2000
The “Numbers Guy” and Wall Street.

Machine Error
December 21, 2000
The Case for Paper Ballots.









Where’s the Competition?
January 25, 2001
How the California Legislature Helped Create the Energy Crisis.

ReplayTV vs. TiVo
February 27, 2001
How One Little Button Could Wipe Out Commercial Television.

Buying the Grid
March 13, 2001
Why Governor Davis’ Plan to Buy the Electricity Grid Puts Taxpayers on the Wrong Side of Future Technologies.

Timing the Tech Stock Recovery
April 4, 2001
Why Investors Should Trust Themselves, Not the Analysts.

Desktop Linux
April 19, 2001
Eazel, Inc. Coulda Changed the World But Went Broke Trying.

Free Higher Education
May 10, 2001
MIT’s OpenCourseWare Plan fires the First Real Shot.

Cisco’s Slide
June 5, 2001
We weren’t ready.

The Next Frontier
June 21, 2001
Proposal For a Ten-Year Crash Program to Build a Working Nanovehicle.

The New Napster
July 10, 2001
The Music Industry Has Met its Match in the Open-Source Gnucleus File Sharing Program.

Slap the PUC
July 31, 2001
Why this May be the Last Chance to Save Independent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from Extinction.

Kick 'Em When They're Down
August 23, 2001
Silicon Valley's Usual CEO Excuses Don't Tell the Real Story.

No Silver Bullets
September 18, 2001
Giving Up Privacy for Security Will Leave Us With Neither.

Energy Independence Now
October 4, 2001
We Need A New Energy Revolution.

War Boom
October 23, 2001
More Pentagon spending could actually hurt Silicon Valley.

The End Of Hewlett-Packard As We Knew It?
November 19, 2001
Revered company is between a rock and a hard place.

The "Last Mile" Problem
December 6, 2001
ADCOs could finally bust open the local phone market.

The Westly Factor
December 17, 2001
Why a usually obscure state election might matter most for tech firms.

Playing the Biotech Boom
December 31, 2001
Why Picking Biotech Stocks is Not a Game for Novices.


Political Weapons
January 17, 2002
The Missile Defense Shield Will Help Neutralize the Tech Sector.

Search Me
January 28, 2002
Doom ahead for search engines that charge listing fees.

All Hail Creative Commons
February 11, 2002
Stanford professor and author Lawrence Lessig plans a legal insurrection

Vexing Options
February 25, 2002
Accounting scandal fallout could mean positive changes for workers and investors

Cold Fusion Rides Again
March 25, 2002
Science magazine publishes more evidence of tabletop nuclear reactions.

Sharing The Airwaves
April 11, 2002
Spread spectrum technology could bring a new dawn for broadcasting.

Shooting Blanks
April 22, 2002
The growing digital rights movement needs to put some political heads on stakes -- fast.

Hollywood's Way Out
May 6, 2002
New distribution platform is solution for copyright theft.

Ocean Rescue
May 22, 2002
Planktos Foundation hopes to reduce global warming by fertilizing the seas.

Nanotechnology's First Fruits
June 6, 2002
Products nearing market promise to lead the budding industry from hype to reality.

Fuel Cell Hold-Up
June 20, 2002
Government's go-slow approach promises to keep the technology on the shelf.

Taxing Workers
July 3, 2002
Cutting capital gains taxes could hurt Silicon Valley in the long run.

The Disintermediation Blues
July 18, 2002
On the sad state of online car- and mortgage-buying services.

Not a Moment Too Soon
July 30, 2002
DigiPortal's innovative new ChoiceMail program means the end of spam.

Take The Medicine
August 15, 2002
By not expensing stock options now, tech firms are just prolonging the pain.

Open-Source Government
August 29, 2002
Free-software guru Bruce Perens has a new information-technology solution.

Berman-Coble Goes Too Far
September 12, 2002
Legalizing hacking of P2P networks hurts start-ups, not thieves.

Free Mickey
September 26, 2002
Stanford Law Professor seeks to overturn the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act.

Silicon Valley Fights Back
October 9, 2002
Hollywood has a worthy adversary in South Bay Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.

Picture This
October 24, 2002
Government Web sites are for the people not incumbent office-holders.

Tech Futures
November 7, 2002
Where workers and investors will find opportunities in the years ahead.