NPR: 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. She's covered politics, arts, media, religion, entrepreneurship, and most recently she became the Arts & Technology Correspondent for the NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

Sydell considers it incredibly exciting to be reporting on the ways in which technology is changing our culture. She enjoys telling the stories of everyone from high-profile CEOs, to small inventors such as a Berkeley man who developed a revolutionary book-binding machine in his basement that could transform the publishing industry. She sees the beat as an opportunity to help listeners understand how technology is changing the way we create and live.

As a senior technology reporter on Public Radio International's Marketplace, Sydell looked at the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Before coming to San Francisco, Sydell was based in New York City where she worked as a reporter for NPR member station WNYC. There, her reports on race relations, city politics, and arts won numerous awards from The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, The Society of Professional Journalists, and others. She has also produced long-form radio documentaries that focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists. American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored her documentary work.

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.

Among her all-time favorite pieces are her profile of a private eye who found a way to incorporate Buddhist faith into her job by working exclusively on death penalty cases, and the story of a mother's devotion to a son charged with a brutal murder and the bus that carries her and others with incarcerated family members from New York City to a prison upstate.

Sydell has a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law. She lives in San Francisco and laments the fact that she is too busy to have a dog.

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3:23am

Tue May 26, 2015
All Tech Considered

Live Video Apps Like Periscope Make Life Even Less Private

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 3:47 pm

With the Periscope app, owned by Twitter, it's easy for smartphone users to stream their own video live.
Chris Jackson Getty Images

Cameras are ubiquitous — from the ones in our cellphones to the security cams in parking lots and shops. And just when you thought it couldn't get harder to hide, live-streaming video is raising new questions about privacy.

Streaming video cameras aren't new, but new apps have made it super easy to stream from a smartphone. Periscope is popular because it can be streamed on Twitter, which recently purchased the app.

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4:40pm

Fri April 24, 2015
All Tech Considered

At The Heart Of A Watch, Tested By Time

Originally published on Sat April 25, 2015 4:55 pm

The author, modeling her mother's watch.
Laura Sydell NPR

When my mother passed away, I was by her side in a peaceful, sunny room at a hospice in South Florida. The sliding glass doors looked out to a flourishing garden filled with bougainvillea, rosebushes and carefully cultivated grasses. A block of sunlight, alive with swirling dust, hit the edge of my mother's bed where the tops of her small bony feet made a lump under the light cotton covers.

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6:29pm

Mon April 20, 2015
All Tech Considered

At 50 Years Old, The Challenge To Keep Up With Moore's Law

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 9:40 pm

Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore holds up a silicon wafer at Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., in 2005. Moore's prediction 50 years ago, called Moore's Law, has been the basis for the digital revolution.
Paul Sakuma AP

Fifty years ago this week, a chemist in what is now Silicon Valley published a paper that set the groundwork for the digital revolution.

You may never have heard of Moore's law, but it has a lot do with why you will pay about the same price for your next computer, smartphone or tablet, even though it will be faster and have better screen resolution than the last one.

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9:22am

Sun April 12, 2015
All Tech Considered

Once The Cream Of The Crop, Zynga Zigzags To Adapt To Mobile

Originally published on Sun April 12, 2015 11:01 am

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus gives a presentation in 2011.
Jeff Chiu AP

Remember those days of tending rows of virtual soybeans and strawberries on your Facebook page with a game called Farmville? It was a moment, and Zynga, the company that makes the game, cashed in when it went public back in 2011.

Now, Zynga is losing money and its founder is back, to mixed reviews.

When Zynga launched Farmville in 2009, it surprised everyone with its success. It quickly became the most popular game on Facebook.

But people got bored with planting seeds on a desktop. The market had moved to mobile, and Zynga didn't keep up.

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6:07pm

Mon April 6, 2015
All Tech Considered

Artists In Residence Give High-Tech Projects A Human Touch

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 9:39 am

Artists in the residency program at Autodesk are given access to production-quality equipment in workshops, allowing them space to create at-will.
Blake Marvin Courtesy of Autodesk

You may want your kid to major in something practical at college, like engineering, so they can land one of those great jobs at a big tech company. But, you might also urge them to spend time studying the arts. Some tech companies are bringing in artists to help them work out ideas and build cool new things.

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7:50pm

Fri March 27, 2015
Law

After Resuming Deliberations, Jury Rules In Favor Of Kleiner Perkins

Originally published on Mon March 30, 2015 11:20 am

The jury said that the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers did not retaliate against former partner Ellen Pao by terminating her. The case has spurred conversation about gender discrimination in the tech world.

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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4:38pm

Mon March 9, 2015
Technology

Apple Reveals Details Behind Highly Anticipated Smart Watch

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 8:07 pm

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

8:10am

Sun March 8, 2015
All Tech Considered

Developers Continue Push To Make Virtual Reality Mainstream

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 12:09 am

MindMaze Software Engineer Nicolas Bourdaud demonstrates a virtual reality system at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Josh Edelson AFP/Getty Images

I had a lot of experiences this past week: I shot birds out of the sky with my eyes, my fingers were on fire, I flew on top of a drone over the arctic and looked into the jaws of a dragon.

I did all this without leaving San Francisco, at the 2015 Game Developers Conference, where the people who make the video games we love to play come to the city by the thousands to check out the latest hardware and software for making games.

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4:59pm

Thu February 12, 2015
Digital Life

Facebook Offers New Options For Digital Life After Death

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 6:26 pm

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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5:16pm

Mon February 9, 2015
All Tech Considered

Shake, Rattle And Toll: Berkeley's Bells Play Sounds Of Earth

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 8:04 am

In a project called "Natural Frequencies," the bells in the Campanile on the University of California, Berkeley campus were recently programmed to play a score composed in real time by the seismic shifts taking place along the Hayward fault.
Eric Risberg AP

5:41pm

Wed February 4, 2015
Technology

FCC Proposal Would Regulate Internet Like A Public Utility

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 9:40 am

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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5:16pm

Thu January 29, 2015
All Tech Considered

Pro-ISIS Messages Create Dilemma For Social Media Companies

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 11:46 am

Zarine Khan (right) and Shafi Khan, parents of Mohammed Hamzah Khan, speak to reporters in Chicago Oct. 9 after a federal hearing for their 19-year-old son, accused of trying to join Islamic State militants in Syria.
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

According to law enforcement officials, ISIS and other terrorist organizations are increasingly adept at using social media to recruit from abroad. Last year alone, the FBI reports, around 20 American citizens were detained trying to travel to Syria to join militants fighting for the so-called Islamic State.

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3:59am

Tue January 6, 2015
The Record

With Downloads In Decline, Can iTunes Adapt?

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 12:44 pm

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs stands in front of a projection of iTunes at a presentation in 2004.
Ian Waldie Getty Images

Apple's innovative iTunes music service is still the market leader in music downloads, but after more than a decade of growth, sales of music tracks on iTunes have been declining. Last year saw the largest drop in sales — 14 percent. The drop is attributed to the increasing popularity of streaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. These services give fans access to millions of tracks from any Internet-connected device for a monthly fee or in return for listening to commercials.

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7:26pm

Mon December 15, 2014
All Tech Considered

Hustle Behind The Wheel: What It's Like To Be An Uber Driver

Originally published on Mon December 22, 2014 3:03 pm

Ride-hailing services like Uber have changed ground transportation for both passengers and drivers. As Uber rapidly grows, it becomes more difficult for its drivers to keep up with the hustle.
David Ramos Getty Images

The popular ride-hailing service Uber is valued at a staggering $40 billion — even though it's besieged by lawsuits, bad PR and outright bans in some cities.

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5:18am

Fri December 12, 2014
All Tech Considered

Please Touch! Cooper Hewitt Creates A Museum For The Internet Age

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 2:00 pm

Interactive touch screens at the newly redesigned Cooper Hewitt museum let visitors sort through the catalog and create their own designs.
Cooper Hewitt

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City collects the beautiful and practical — vintage Eames chairs, Jimi Hendrix posters, Victorian bird cages.

The museum, which is housed in the Andrew Carnegie mansion, is reopening after an extensive $81 million, three-year renovation — and the redesign has turned this historic building into one of the most technologically advanced museums in the country.

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6:01pm

Mon December 1, 2014
All Tech Considered

Did You Hear? Going Viral No Longer Just For Videos, Memes

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 12:57 pm

The idea of a blog entry or a video going viral on the Internet is a feature of modern life — from the cute cat video to the articles about a politician's gaffe.

But, much to our disappointment here at NPR, rarely does a clip of audio go viral. Recently there have been a few exceptions, though it's unclear whether that's a fluke or a new age of viral audio.

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5:13am

Wed November 26, 2014
Music News

Pandora's New Deal: Different Pay, Different Play

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 12:18 pm

David Lowery, of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, says he's wary of the way Pandora pays for music.
Cooper Neill Getty Images

The Internet radio service Pandora made its name by creating personalized stations using tools such as "like" and "dislike" buttons for listeners. But a deal between Pandora and a group of record labels has raised concerns that the company is favoring certain songs over others because it's paying the musicians behind those songs a smaller royalty.

When Pandora emerged a decade ago, its big selling point over traditional radio was that it created a station just for you, as the company's Eric Bieschke told NPR last year.

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4:31pm

Fri November 14, 2014
All Tech Considered

Victims Of Online Threats Say Perpetrators Aren't Being Caught

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 6:34 pm

Rebecca Watson says she has been disappointed by the police response to online threats against her.
Adam Isaak

It is illegal to threaten someone online. But in recent weeks there have been a number of high-profile threats against women — among the targets were several feminist video game critics and an actress who starred in a video about street harassment of women.

But many victims of online threats say they are frustrated because the perpetrators are never caught.

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5:46pm

Mon October 27, 2014
All Tech Considered

I've Got The Ingredients. What Should I Cook? Ask IBM's Watson

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 1:31 pm

Chef Watson generates recipes for the user based on the ingredients the person has on hand, what type of food he would like to cook and a person's dietary restrictions.
Courtesy of IBM

IBM's Watson computer has amused and surprised humans by winning at Jeopardy! Now, one of the world's smartest machines is taking on chefs.

Well, not exactly. Watson is being used by chefs to come up with new and exciting recipes in a feat that could turn out to be useful for people with dietary restrictions and for managing food shortages.

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3:21am

Fri October 17, 2014
All Tech Considered

Silicon Valley Companies Add New Benefit For Women: Egg-Freezing

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 1:10 pm

A technician opens a vessel containing women's frozen egg cells in April 2011 in Amsterdam.
AFP/Getty Images

In the Silicon Valley arms race to lure the top talent with the best benefits, Facebook and Apple are adding egg freezing for female employees. The two companies may be the first to pay for the procedure for women who choose it to delay childbearing.

The addition of egg-freezing to the benefits plan comes as tech companies face mounting pressure to hire more women. And it's a perk that some women may find attractive.

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6:17am

Sat October 11, 2014
All Tech Considered

Twitter Is Suing The U.S. Over Free Speech (Its Own)

Originally published on Tue October 14, 2014 11:28 am

Twitter is suing the federal government over First Amendment rights. The tech company says the government stopped it from releasing extra detail about government requests for user information.
iStockphoto

Twitter filed a lawsuit against the federal government this week over First Amendment rights, marking the latest round in a battle between tech companies and the government over how much they can reveal about government requests for their user information.

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3:28am

Mon October 6, 2014
All Tech Considered

The Forgotten Female Programmers Who Created Modern Tech

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 12:35 pm

Jean Jennings (left) and Frances Bilas set up the ENIAC in 1946. Bilas is arranging the program settings on the Master Programmer.
Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

If your image of a computer programmer is a young man, there's a good reason: It's true. Recently, many big tech companies revealed how few of their female employees worked in programming and technical jobs. Google had some of the highest rates: 17 percent of its technical staff is female.

It wasn't always this way. Decades ago, it was women who pioneered computer programming — but too often, that's a part of history that even the smartest people don't know.

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3:34am

Tue September 9, 2014
All Tech Considered

Size Matters: Why Apple Is Expected To Unveil A Bigger iPhone

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 11:04 am

The Samsung Galaxy Mega (from left), Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone 5 are shown. Apple is expected to announce larger models of its smartphone on Tuesday.
Richard Drew AP

You may have noticed that after years of getting smaller, smartphones are getting bigger. It's a trend that's mostly been led by Samsung. Apple's late CEO, Steve Jobs, famously knocked the idea that people wanted larger phones. But on Tuesday, Apple is expected to announce bigger iPhones and is relenting to the reality that we're talking less on our phones and using them more like a mini computer.

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4:36pm

Thu September 4, 2014
All Tech Considered

In E-Book Price War, Amazon's Long-Term Strategy Requires Short-Term Risks

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 1:10 pm

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wants to sell all e-books for $9.99, while the publisher Hachette wants to vary the prices.
iStockphoto

Since May, Amazon and the publisher Hachette have been locked in a battle over the pricing of e-books. For customers it's meant that they can't pre-order books from authors such as J.K. Rowling and James Patterson. And it's upset many authors because it's made their work less available. But Amazon is willing to upset some customers and authors as it pursues a long-term strategy for books.

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4:46am

Mon August 25, 2014
All Tech Considered

As Ferguson Unraveled, The World Found A New Way Of Watching

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 3:42 pm

When protests over the shooting of Michael Brown turned violent in Ferguson, Mo., livestreaming videos showed Americans what they couldn't see on TV.
Screen Grab From KARG Argus Radio Video

In Ferguson, Mo., on Monday, Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old shot by a police officer, will be buried. Beyond watching on traditional media outlets, many members of the public may be able to see the event live over the Internet.

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2:00am

Wed August 20, 2014
Business

Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer Steps Down From Company's Board

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 11:52 am

Steve Ballmer, the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is stepping down from Microsoft's board. Ballmer, who recently resigned as Microsoft's CEO, is the largest individual shareholder of the company.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, 58, has resigned from the company's board citing other time consuming commitments including his new ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Tuesday's announcement closes a chapter in Ballmer's 34 years with the software giant. He remains the largest individual shareholder in the company.

Ballmer spent $2 billion of his roughly $20 billion fortune on the Clippers purchase, which a judge confirmed last week.

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5:21pm

Mon August 18, 2014
All Tech Considered

How Long Do CDs Last? It Depends, But Definitely Not Forever

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 8:27 am

Many institutions have their archives stored on CDs — but the discs aren't as stable as once thought. There is no average life span for a CD, says preservationist Michele Youket, "because there is no average disc."
Sarah Tilotta NPR

Back in the 1990s, historical societies, museums and symphonies across the country began transferring all kinds of information onto what was thought to be a very durable medium: the compact disc.

Now, preservationists are worried that a lot of key information stored on CDs — from sound recordings to public records — is going to disappear. Some of those little silver discs are degrading, and researchers at the Library of Congress are trying to figure out why.

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4:39pm

Wed August 13, 2014
Race

In Hashtag Protest, 'Black Twitter' Shows Its Strength

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 9:14 pm

Following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, many young African-Americans posted pictures of themselves on Twitter under the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. They were protesting the damaging ways in which young black men like Brown are often portrayed in the media. The response demonstrated the scope of what's informally known as Black Twitter, a virtual community of African-American Twitter users.

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5:00pm

Mon August 11, 2014
All Tech Considered

A Good IT Person Needs To Be Half Technologist, Half Psychologist

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 1:37 pm

iStockphoto

5:14pm

Mon August 4, 2014
All Tech Considered

In Tech Marketing Jobs, Women's Successes Are Rarely Recognized

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 6:04 pm

Brooke Hammerling, the founder of Brew Media Relations, says she created her own firm because she got sick of a mix of dismissive tech guys and sexism inside some companies.
Christof Stache dpa/Landov

It's no secret that there aren't a lot of women in Silicon Valley and the tech industry in general. There is one exception — marketing and public relations. Though these women aren't the people writing the code or building the chip, their role in the success of many tech companies is often crucial and overlooked.

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