Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Life Outside the Mainframe

My essay on Fred Moore and his historical significance, Life Outside the Mainframe, is now online in the August book review issue of the AFSC's Peacework. It's in the context of a review of John Markoff's new book, in which Fred Moore is a central figure, What the Dormouse Said: How the 60's Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry.

Different groups of my friends will be interested in different facets of this story. But here's an excerpt:

On Route 128, where I grew up, the dominant myth is that the computer and the Internet developed out of research funded by the military and the government, motivated by the goals of miniaturization for rocketry, nuclear and space weapons, and satellite surveillance.

For the last 20 years, I've lived on the fringe of Silicon Valley. Here, there's a different creation myth of personal computers and the Internet that idolizes the heroes of entrepreneurial capitalism.

"Both stories are true, but they are both incomplete," says longtime New York Times Silicon valley correspondent John Markoff at the start of his new work of historical correction, What the Dormouse Said: How the 60's Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry.

Myths matter. Are computer networks top-down tools of centralized government and corporate power, or participatory tools for grassroots empowerment, information democracy, and independent citizen journalism?

Markoff admits to having accepted the standard myths. But once he started hearing anecdotes that made him aware of the gaps in his view of high-tech history, he set out to tell the world the missing parts of the story: "One of Silicon Valley's supreme ironies [is] that an itinerant activist who rejected material wealth ... ended up lighting the spark of what became the 'largest legal accumulation of wealth in the 20th century'.... Indeed [Fred] Moore would also become the unrecognized patron saint of the open-source software movement."

You can read the full article here.

[Addendum, 4 November 2005: In connection with the 30th anniversary of the Homebrew Computer Club which Fred helped form, many of the club's newsletters which Fred edited have been posted online, including one with a nice sketch of Fred and other club members. It's immediately apparent that the Homebrew newsletter was turned out with the same typesetting setup, and with many of the same stylistic features, that Fred later used for Resistance News.]

On a related note, the AFSC's San Francisco office is organizing an event on 27 October 2005, Remember The Draft: From Vietnam to Iraq: Honoring Resistance Then and Now: "Honor those who risked their lives and reputations as CO's, draft counselors and resisters during the Vietnam War. Welcome those who are resisting today." The organizers are soliciting names, stories, pictures, film footage, flyers, and artifacts of the anti-war movement "then and now". I'll be suggesting Fred Moore as one of those deserving posthumous honors. [Follow-up:: Several of the talks from that event have been posted online, including one by David Harris.]

I've also posted a new set of leaflets about the military draft , draft registration , draft resistance , conscientious objection, and the medical draft . There are hardly any substantive changes, but I think I've finally fixed most of the voice recognition errors in the earlier versions. If you have suggestions for further changes, please let me know -- or just make them yourself. I've posted all the leaflets in Wordperfect and HTML form, as well as the printable PDF's, for anyone who wants to edit them.

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 22:31 (10:31 PM) | TrackBack (0)

You might enjoy the the speech Markoff gave to Software Forum Distinguished Speakers series:

It made for good listening.

Posted by: Mark Mascolino, 1 September 2005, 11:04 (11:04 AM)

Not only that, but you can still run your vintage 1968 COBOL apps on the same box. And you get all of this without having to increase your datacenter rack space, power and cooling utilization, property taxes, etc.

Sounds like a winner to me!

Posted by: battery, 19 June 2008, 23:44 (11:44 PM)

More on Silicon Valley creation myths, from my San Francisco neighbor Rebecca Solnit:

My thoughts on the issues in Rebecca Soknit's article (with links to more):

"Have travelers lost the class war?":

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 16 February 2014, 08:55 ( 8:55 AM)
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