When I arrived from Mexico and war-torn Central America to cover Silicon Valley I was impressed, and more than slightly skeptical, to find millionaires with some kind of social bent. Money, of course, matters more than revolution around here, but it is not always the whole picture. This is not easy to understand for a foreigner (and much less to explain as a correspondent is supposed to do).
That maybe why I enjoyed so much reading John Markoff’s What the Dormouse said, How the 60’s counterculture shaped the Personal Computer Industry (Viking).
San Francisco, California, 10.jul.05
An easy read, the book traces small and meaningful moments in the life of some of the key actors of the PC revolution. This includes the first Stewart Brand’s LSD trip as well as Doug Englebart Brooks Hall Auditorium conference on December 9th 1968. “In many wasy it is still the most remarkable computer-technology demonstration of all time” writes Markoff.
What the Dormouse said weaves the networks of interactions between peace activists who wanted to change the world through protest, hippies who sought to augment the human mind through LSD, and engineers.
It sheds a fascinating light on at least two of the key confrontations that matter so much today:
· People who want computers to substitute humans vs. those who want them to augment the human mind as in Artificial Intelligence vs. Engelbart’s “Augmentation Framework.”
· “The hacker’s ethos of sharing information” vs. “the defenders of information as private property” as in Bill Gates vs. the Homebrew Computer Club.
I liked Markoff’s book because it gives historic legitimacy to those who advocate a more democratic, and open use of IT.
Wikipedia on Homebrew Computer Club http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homebrew_computer_club
(see also Stewart Brand’s 1995 article We owe it all to the hippies http://members.aye.net/~hippie/hippie/special_.htm)
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