Decoder Ring

Who Killed the Segway?

Was it me?

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Episode Notes

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Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode, host Willa Paskin takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.

In 2000, Dan Kois was a junior book agent working on selling a secretive book proposal called IT, a codename for what would eventually be revealed as the Segway personal scooter. This is the story of the invention and development of a potentially revolutionary device, how Dan may or may not have doomed it, how the hype and speculation about the Segway got out of control, and how that speculation helped birth the modern internet.

Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include journalist Steve Kemper, author of Reinventing the Wheel: A Story of Genius, Innovation, and Grand Ambition; Adam Penenberg, author of What It Is; historian Margaret O’Mara; entrepreneurs Greg and James Bottorff; book agent Rafe Sagalyn; screenwriter Nick Bakay; engineer Benge Ambrogi; and publisher Hollis Heimbouch.

Email: decoderring@slate.com

This episode was written by Dan Kois and produced by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch.

June 16, 2021: A headline and the URL on this page originally misspelled Dean Kamen’s last name.

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About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

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