Thursday, June 09, 2005

What the Dormouse Said

An extraordinary event at the PARC last night. The SDForum Distinguished Speaker Series went out with a bang as John Markoff spoke about his new book "What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry". The truly remarkable thing about the night was the audience, as many of the people featured in the book were in the room.

Sandy Rockowitz introduced several audience members. The names I recall are Doug Engelbart, Bob Taylor, Butler Lampson and Adele Goldberg. Sandy did not introduce everyone and I did not catch all their names, so this is a partial list of a partial list, but it gives a glimpse of who was in the room.

John Markoff presented his thesis. The conventional story of Personal Computers is a story about Xerox PARC and the two Steves. The real story goes back much further to the 1960s and involved Doug Engelbart, John McCarthy, LSD, and only later Stewart Brand, the Homebrew Computer Club, and Stanford institutions like Kepplers bookstore around which the grateful Dead also formed.

At the meeting several people denied their personal involvement with drugs. I have not read the book so I do not know whether drugs really played a part or whether they are there promote book sales. I will let you know my opinion when I have finished it.

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