Thursday, September 25, 2008

Whole Earth Catalog

Back in the early seventies when I was barely making ends meet while attending college, I would hang out at the school's book store reading the Whole Earth Catalog. I couldn't afford to buy it but with daily visits to the store everyday between classes, I was able to read most of it.

I bought every iteration of it after that and when they started a magazine, first Co-Evolution Quarterly and then The Whole Earth Review, I was a faithful subscriber. They had the best recommendations for books and tools. I found the book that enabled me to fix my Volkswagon on the side of the road when it broke down. I believe, it was there that I had my first glimpse into computers and how I could better access them and the capabilities they promised. What I lacked in advice from a savvy father or handy uncle, I got from those publications.

I have often thought the web is like a big Whole Earth Catalogue, but not as well edited. Turns out that Kevin Kelly, editor and chief of the WEC, has also had thoughts along this line.

"The opportunity of the catalog's 400 pages of how-to-do it information attracted not only millions of readers but thousands of Makers of the world, the proto-alpha geeks, the true fans, the nerds, the DIYers, the avid know-it-alls, and the tens of thousands wannabe bloggers who had no where else to inform the world of their passions and knowledge. So they wrote Whole Earth in that intense conversational style, looking the reader right in the eye and holding nothing back: "Here's the straight dope, kid."
I wonder if this is why the Whole Earth Review finally folded? The web was able to do what the magazine could do, only faster. Kelly says the web "does it better" but I sure do miss hauling my magazines and books around, dreaming of the tools or books I wanted to own.

(via boing boing or read the whole article on Kelly's site)
[Image: "Whole Earth Catalogue"; Captured from Wikipedia:]

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