Drugs and Computers

Interesting thesis: namely that the early computer folks were part of the San Francisco 60's gestalt. Sex, Drugs, ethernet, desktop metaphor, etc. Free your mind, and your laptop will follow, or something.

California Dreaming: A True Story of Computers, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll:

John Markoff makes a convincing case that for the ubergeeks in the 1960's, approaching drugs as they might any other potentially helpful tool was only natural.

“What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer” (John Markoff)

Engineers can be so cute. In the early 1960's, Myron Stolaroff, an employee of the tape recorder manufacturer Ampex, decided to prove the value of consuming LSD. So he set up the International Foundation for Advanced Study and went about his project in classic methodical fashion.

Test subjects - almost all engineers - were given a series of doses under constant observation and expected to take careful notes on their own experience. A survey of the first 153 volunteers revealed that “83 percent of those who had taken LSD found that they had lasting benefits from the experience.” (Other results: increase in ability to love, 78 percent; increased self-esteem, 71 percent.)Such precision might seem antithetical to the fuzzy let-it-all-hang-outness of the psychedelic experience. But John Markoff, a senior writer for The New York Times who covers technology, makes a convincing case that for the swarming ubergeeks assembling in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960's, approaching drugs as they might any other potentially helpful tool or device - from a soldering iron to a computer chip - was only natural. The goals were broad in the 60's: the world would be remade, the natural order of things reconfigured, human potential amplified to infinity. Anything that could help was to be cherished, studied and improved.

It is no accident, then, that the same patch of land on the peninsula south of San Francisco that gave birth to the Grateful Dead was also the site of groundbreaking research leading the way to the personal computer. That the two cultural impulses were linked - positively - is a provocative thesis.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on May 7, 2005 8:00 AM.

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