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.

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2:58am

Fri September 13, 2013
Business

Twitter Files For Initial Public Offering

Twitter announced via Tweet Thursday that it's launching its long awaited initial public offering. It will be the most high profile IPO since Facebook went public last year. But Twitter hopes to avoid the mishaps that's marred Facebook's stock market debut.

3:18am

Thu September 12, 2013
All Tech Considered

Long Before Most, Intel Chased The Smart Watch

The Microma watch was the first watch with a liquid crystal display, but the limited technology of the time prevented Intel from achieving much else with it.
Courtesy of Intel

In the past couple of weeks, several major companies — Samsung, Sony, Qualcomm — have announced they will release smart watches this fall. As the name suggests, the gadgets do more than keep time.

The latest spate of computerized watches promise to do everything from working as a phone to taking photos and fielding emails. Smart watches have actually been around for a long time, but they've never really taken off as a product.

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10:28pm

Tue September 10, 2013
The Record

What Does A Song That Costs $5 Sound Like?

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 10:04 am

Cookie Marenco records musicians on a small remote recording console live at the California Audio Show in August. She'll demonstrate the quality of DSD to the audience by playing back her recording. How close will it sound to the live performance? Very close, according to people present.
Cindy Carpien

Last week, Sony Corporation announced a new line of high-end audio components that promise to deliver a better online audio experience. The announcement comes amid growing evidence that music fans are tired of the crappy sound they hear on their portable music players. Case in point is the success of Cookie Marenco's business of selling super high-definition music downloads.

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2:57pm

Mon September 9, 2013
Law

Basic Internet Economics At Stake In Net Neutrality Suit

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 3:20 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

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3:24pm

Fri August 30, 2013
All Tech Considered

Taking The Battle Against Patent Trolls To The Public

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 5:01 pm

A group of technology and retail groups is beginning a national ad campaign targeting so-called patent trolls.
The Internet Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation and Food Marketing Institute

Patent trolls — a term known more among geeks than the general public — are about to be the target of a national ad campaign. Beginning Friday, a group of retail trade organizations is launching a radio and print campaign in 17 states.

They want to raise awareness of a problem they say is draining resources from business and raising prices for consumers.

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2:43pm

Tue August 20, 2013
All Tech Considered

How Vine Settled On 6 Seconds

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 6:53 pm

About a year since launching, Vine says it has more than 40 million registered users.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

Six seconds isn't a lot of time. If you were to read this sentence out loud, by the time you finished, six seconds would be up. But the brevity of Vine, the app that lets users make and share six-second video clips, has attracted 40 million registered users since its January 2013 launch.

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4:58pm

Mon August 19, 2013
All Tech Considered

Combining The Nation's Digitized Libraries, All In One Place

The San Francisco Public Library has been digitizing its historical document collections for years, including the scrapbooks of famed homicide detective Theodore Kytka. The SFPL is among scores of libraries and archives adding their digital collections to the DPLA.
Via San Francisco Public Library

Part of a series, Keys To The Whole World: American Public Libraries

Buried in the archives of America's public and academic libraries are historical treasures — old papers, photos and records — that flesh out a detailed picture of our past.

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3:25am

Wed August 7, 2013
All Tech Considered

Amazon Enters Art World; Galleries Say They Aren't Worried

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 9:35 am

Amazon said its new art marketplace will provide access to more than 40,000 works of art from at least 150 galleries and dealers.
Amazon.com

Local record and book shops have been disappearing as the market for music and literature moves online. In the past few years, there's been a growth in sites that sell fine art on the Internet. On Tuesday, Amazon joined that market. But in this case, many brick and mortar galleries aren't seeing the Internet as a threat.

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4:37pm

Mon August 5, 2013
All Tech Considered

Trade Case Puts Apple In Washington's Sights

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 5:08 pm

The U.S. Trade Representative has overturned a ban on the import of the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.
David Paul Morris Getty Images

Apple has been notoriously disinterested in Washington politics. But two decisions coming from the Obama administration in the past few days indicate that Washington is increasingly interested in Apple.

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1:04am

Mon July 15, 2013
All Tech Considered

How Hackers Tapped Into My Cellphone For Less Than $300

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 6:57 am

It's easier — and cheaper — than you'd expect to hack a cellphone, say a team of white hat hackers.
iStockPhoto.com

In the wake of the National Security Agency cyber-spying revelations, you may be worrying about the government keeping track of your digital life. But, for less than $300, a group of ordinary hackers found a way to tap right into Verizon cellphones.

This is a group of good-guy, or "white hat", hackers. They hacked the phones to warn wireless carriers that the phones have a security flaw.

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2:01am

Thu July 4, 2013
Remembrances

Douglas Engelbart Dies At 88, Invented Computer Mouse

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 7:48 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And a remembrance, now. The, a computer visionary best known for inventing the mouse has died. As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, the mouse was just one small piece of what Douglas Engelbart contributed to the development of personal computers.

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2:04am

Thu June 27, 2013
Business

$99 Game Console Ouya Aims To Take Down Barriers To Fans

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 10:37 am

The Ouya game console and controller. Games are sold through something like an app store, allowing customers to sample them before buying.
Courtesy of Ouya

Sony and Microsoft are preparing to launch their latest gaming consoles this fall with price tags from $400 for the PlayStation 4 and $500 for the Xbox One. But this week, a $99 game console went on sale and sold out at Target and Amazon.

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3:30am

Tue June 4, 2013
Business

Apple: Price-Fixing Charges 'Not True'

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 2:29 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Lawyers for Apple will be back in court today, defending the company against government charges that it conspired with publishers to fix eBook prices. All the major publishing houses settled months ago with the Justice Department.

But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, Apple's lawyer told the court the company won't settle because it did nothing wrong.

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3:28pm

Mon May 20, 2013
All Tech Considered

With New Xbox, Microsoft Makes A Bigger Play For Living Room

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 7:00 pm

An Xbox 360 video presentation at the E3 Media and Business Summit in Los Angeles in 2008. Microsoft is scheduled to introduce its newest Xbox on Tuesday.
Ric Francis AP

Microsoft hasn't exactly had a great couple of years.

Its new Windows 8 operating system was held responsible for the drop in PC sales last quarter. Sales of its Windows Phones lag far behind both the iPhone and Google's Android phones.

The light in the darkness for Microsoft has been the Xbox 360, which has been the top-selling game console for over two years — beating out both the Nintendo Wii and Sony's PlayStation. On Tuesday, Microsoft is expected to announce a new version of the Xbox.

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1:33am

Thu May 9, 2013
All Tech Considered

Consumers Facing Subscription Service Overload Will Only Get More Choices

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 2:02 pm

YouTube is expected to announce in the coming days that it will launch paid subscription channels, a first for the online video platform that's been around since 2005. But, with the growing number of subscription services available for entertainment, shopping and news, some consumers say they're reaching digital subscription overload.

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1:25am

Mon April 29, 2013
All Tech Considered

Blazing The Trail For Female Programmers

Originally published on Tue April 30, 2013 3:35 pm

Sarah Allen works with interns Lori Hsu (left) and Fito von Zastrow at the Blazing Cloud offices in San Francisco.
Ramin Rahimian for NPR

This story is part of our series, The Changing Lives of Women.

Sarah Allen has been the only woman on a team of computer programmers a few times in the more than two decades she has worked in the field. Most notably, she led the team — as the lone female programmer — that created Flash video, the dominant technology for streaming video on the Web.

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12:57am

Tue April 9, 2013
Movies

Crowdsourcing Creativity At The Cinema

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 7:00 pm

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is one of five celebrity directors taking part in a Canon-sponsored experiment called Project Imaginat10n. His short film, the inspiration for which was crowdsourced via the Internet and social media, focuses on familial loss and the process of grieving.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

These days, if they can't find a producer to fund their latest film, a lot of artists turn to crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter to raise money for production.

But here's a new twist: a project headed up by director Ron Howard that is crowdsourcing the inspiration.

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3:17pm

Mon April 1, 2013
All Tech Considered

'Bioshock Infinite': A First-Person Shooter, A Tragic Play

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 7:19 pm

BioShock Infinite revolves around an Aristotelian tragedy with tragic heroes, grounded in a floating city set in 1912.
Courtesy of Irrational Games/2K Games

In a first-person shooter video game, your targets range from zombies to soldiers, aliens or any other variation of "enemy." Most people wouldn't call that art. But BioShock Infinite creator Ken Levine says he's aiming to transform the genre.

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2:40am

Wed March 27, 2013
Business

T-Mobile: Adds iPhone Ditches 2-Year Contracts

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 4:05 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Mobile phone carrier T-Mobile is trying to lift itself out of fourth place. At a press conference yesterday, it announced it was adding the iPhone to its line up and ditching two-year contracts.

But NPR's Laura Sydell reports that may not be enough.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: T-Mobile took a lot of digs at the two-year contracts all mobile carriers offer at its Manhattan press conference. It opened with real woman on the street video.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

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12:57am

Thu March 21, 2013
All Tech Considered

On Its 7th Birthday, Is Twitter Still The 'Free Speech Party'?

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 7:23 am

Egyptians use their mobile phones to record celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular revolt that drove Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. Twitter was often used to record happenings during the Arab Spring.
Mohammed Abed AFP/Getty Images

It's hard to believe, but seven years ago no one had ever heard of a tweet. Thursday is the anniversary of the first tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. It wasn't profound. He wrote:

Since then the social media company has been an important communication tool in everything from the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, to its use as a megaphone for celebrities. Over the years, its relationship to its free speech principles has changed.

From Trivial To Global Town Hall

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