Stewart Brand

Founder, Whole Earth Catalog; co-creator of The WELL and Global Business Network

You might say that the creation of Apple Computer was a situation of right seed, right soil. In 1975, Steve Jobs and his buddy Steve Wozniak were messing around with computer components in an exceptionally fertile venue that was just coming to be known as Silicon Valley. The Steves were employed at companies such as Atari and Hewlett-Packard and hanging out with other computer hobbyists at the Homebrew Computer Club meetings, showing off each new design hack and feature of a tiny computer they eventually named Apple. I was nearby, early in that period, running a publication called the Whole Earth Catalog.

High-tech innovation was the norm among amateurs as well as professionals in the Midpeninsula region because a Stanford electrical engineer named Frederick Terman in the 1950s and ’60s established Stanford Industrial Park and attracted world-class engineering talent to the university and the companies. By 1975 bleeding-edge ideas in computers and networking were boiling out of three superb research centers in the neighborhood—Xerox PARC, Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and Stanford Research Institute.

In the mid-’70s the counterculture was still in full flower, with drugs and wide-ranging creativity galore in the area, following patterns set by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters (I was a fringe member), the Midpeninsula Free University, and the euphemistically named International Foundation for Advanced Study, which conducted LSD research. Young computer hackers like Jobs and Wozniak identified with our generation, but they had found something even more psychedelic than LSD—computers you could disappear into, fueled by the constant acceleration of Moore’s Law. Drugs were static by comparison.

Across the bay, radicals in Berkeley were still demanding “Power to the People!” Computer hobbyists like Steve and Steve demanded nothing. With personal computers, they knew they were creating the real thing: giving power to people.

Photographer: AP Photo
 
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