Whole Earth Catalog

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The Whole Earth Catalog was a countercultural publication by Stewart Brand that was popular in the late 60s and early 70s. Brand started the Catalog after going around the country in his van selling useful items to budding communes. The introduction of the first 1969 article explains the purpose of the catalog quite well:

We are as gods and might as well get good at it. So far, remotely done power and glory—as via government, big business, formal education, church—has succeeded to the point where gross defects obscure actual gains. In response to this dilemma and to these gains a realm of intimate, personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG.[1]

At the core of the catalog was the idea that technology could connect us and help us be better people. The catalog has an eclectic mix of technologies, books, guides, and poems. Steve Jobs called the Whole Earth Catalog "Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along."[2]

The poem "All watched over by machines of loving grace", printed in the first Whole Earth Catalog, captures the ideals of the publication quite well:

I like to think (and the sooner the better!) of a cybernetic meadow where mammals and computers live together in mutually programming harmony like pure water touching clear sky.

I like to think

           (right now, pleasel)

of a cybernetic forest filled with pines and electronics where deer stroll peacefully past computers as if they were flowers with spinning blossoms

I like to think

           (it has to be!)

of a cybernetic ecology where we are free of our labors and joined back to nature, returned to our mammal brothers and sisters, and all watched over by machines of loving grace.

  1. Brand, Stewart. Whole Earth Catalog. 1968
  2. Commencement address by Steve Jobs, delivered on June 12, 2005