When I arrived from Mexico and war-torn Central America to cover Silicon Valley I was impressed, and more than slightlyskeptical, to find millionaires with some kind of social bent. Money, ofcourse, matters more than revolution around here, but it is not always thewhole picture. This is not easy to understand for a foreigner (and much less toexplain as a correspondent is supposed to do).
That maybe why Ienjoyed so much reading John Markoff’s What the Dormouse said, How the 60’scounterculture shaped the Personal Computer Industry (Viking).
San Francisco, California, 10.jul.05
An easy read, the booktraces small and meaningful moments in the life of some of the key actors ofthe PC revolution. This includes the first Stewart Brand’s LSD trip as well asDoug Englebart Brooks Hall Auditorium conference on December 9th1968. “In many wasy it is still the most remarkable computer-technologydemonstration of all time” writes Markoff.
What the Dormouse saidweaves the networks of interactions between peace activists who wanted tochange the world through protest, hippies who sought to augment the human mindthrough LSD, and engineers.
It sheds a fascinatinglight on at least two of the key confrontations that matter so much today:
· People whowant computers to substitute humans vs. those who want them to augment thehuman mind as in Artificial Intelligence vs. Engelbart’s “AugmentationFramework.”
· “Thehacker’s ethos of sharing information” vs. “the defenders of information asprivate property” as in Bill Gates vs. the Homebrew Computer Club.
I liked Markoff’s bookbecause it gives historic legitimacy to those who advocate a more democratic,and open use of IT.
Wikipedia on HomebrewComputer Club http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homebrew_computer_club
(see also StewartBrand’s 1995 article We owe it all to the hippies http://members.aye.net/~hippie/hippie/special_.htm)
Review in the