Whole Earth Catalog 1968 ➶
We are gods and might as well get used to it. So far, remotely done power and glory—as via government, big business, formal education, church—has succeeded to the point where gross obscure actual gains. In response to this dilemma and to these gains a realm of intimate, personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG.
Alan Kay on the Whole Earth Catalogue as an early version of the internet for crosspollination of ideas:
But Kay had also found the Whole Earth Catalog. He first saw a copy in 1969, in Utah. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the right idea,’” he explained in 2004. “The same way it should be easier to do your own composting, you should have the ability to deal with complicated ideas by making models of them on the computer.” For Kay, and for others at Xerox PARC, the Catalog embodied a do-it-yourself attitude, a vision of technology as a source of individual and collective transformation, and a media format—all of which could be applied to the computers on which they were working. As Kay explained, he had already begun to think of the computer as a “language machine where content was the description of things.” When he saw the Catalog, it offered him a vision of how an information system might organize that content. He and others at PARC saw the Catalog as an information tool and, hence, as an analogue to the computer; at the same time, they saw it as a hyperlinked information system. In that sense, remembered Kay, “we thought of the Whole Earth Catalog as a print version of what the Internet was going to be.” Kay and his colleagues in the Systems Science Laboratory paid particular attention to the Catalog’s design. In the Last Whole Earth Catalog of 1971, for example, they came upon Divine Right’s Trip, a novel by Gurney Norman that Stewart Brand had decided to print one page at a time on each page of the Catalog. This was “one of the best user interface ideas we had ever seen,” Kay recalled. Most users of information systems tend to browse in areas they are already interested in, said Kay. Brand had found a way to lead users through the system and expose them to its full range of offerings.
✶ Tuesday, 7 November 2023
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