"An Uncluttered Life", Ctd


A reader writes:

The one thing Harry Reasoner got right in his diatribe against hippies was the work ethic that blossomed in San Francisco in the sixties, the tendency to "approach work the way the rest of us do sport." That attitude, about which Reasoner was so dismissive, shaped the cultures of technology and philanthropy and even influenced investing in Silicon Valley and beyond.

John Markoff chronicled the connection between computing and the "counterculture" in his 2005 book, What The Dormouse Said. Markhoff revealed what everyone in the Valley has always known, that the counterculture was not limited to runaway kids dancing and screwing in the park. The researchers at SRI and other research facilities in the area were getting high and fighting the status quo. They sent their kids to the famous Peninsula School in Menlo Park by day and went back in the evening for meetings of the HomeBrew club where they discussed how the computer would be a tool for personal and communal transformation.

Many of those HomeBrew guys went on to build world changing technologies and launch successful companies (I know - I live with one).

They marched against the war, read Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalogue, joined The Well and donated money to land trusts that have preserved significant open spaces along the coast and in the Bay Area hills. Their idealism is still embedded in the way programmers and user interface engineers think and produce.

While the smug Reasoner was lamenting, "when one thinks of the problems of our day that the cry for attack, imagination and youthful energy this seems like the greatest waste of all..." the seeds of digital connectivity were being planted and things we take for granted, like graphical interface and the computer mouse, were being developed. Sure some people burned out like Jerry Garcia but most of those kids in the park didn't. They followed Stewart Brand, Steve Jobs and Don Knuth, men who are very different from one another but who share connections to the counterculture. They, more than the Grateful Dead, shaped our world. Just as the MSM misses much of what is significant today, settling instead for name-calling and breast-beating, Reasoner missed the real story.

(Photo: A souvenir shop is seen as the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival approaches August 13, 2009 in Woodstock, New York. On August 15-17 in 1969 an estimated 400,000 music fans gathered on Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, N.Y. for the most celebrated music festival ever. While the original Woodstock concert was held in Bethel, the festival was conceived and originally planned for the town of Woodstock, which was and remains an artistic community. By Mario Tama/Getty Images)