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Encyclopedia > Whole Earth Catalog
Fall 1969 cover

The Whole Earth Catalog was a sizeable catalog published twice a year from 1968 to 1972, and occasionally thereafter, until 1998. Its purposes were to provide education and "access to tools" in order that the reader could "find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested." According to Apple Computer entrepreneur Steve Jobs, the Catalog was a conceptual forerunner of a Web search engine. Download high resolution version (1264x1740, 177 KB)Fall 1969 cover, Whole Earth Catalog. ... 1968 (MCMLXVIII) was a leap year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1968 calendar). ... 1972 (MCMLXXII) was a leap year starting on Saturday. ... 1998 (MCMXCVIII) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated the International Year of the Ocean. ... Steven Paul Jobs (born February 24, 1955) is currently the CEO of Apple Computer and is a leading figure in both the computer and entertainment industries. ... The World Wide Web (WWW or simply the Web) is a global, read-write information space. ... A search engine or search service is a program designed to help find information stored on a computer system such as the World Wide Web, inside a corporate or proprietary network or a personal computer. ...


The Catalog's development and marketing were driven by an energetic group of founders, primarily Stewart Brand (whose family was also involved with the project). Its outsize pages measured 11x14 inches (28x36 cm). Later editions were more than an inch thick. Its earliest editions were published by the Portola Institute, headed by Richard Raymond. In 1972, the catalog won the National Book Award. Stewart Brand speaking September 5, 2004 Stewart Brand (born December 14, 1938 in Rockford, Illinois) is an author, editor, and creator of The Whole Earth Catalog and CoEvolution Quarterly. ... The National Book Award is one of the most important literary prizes in the United States, presented annually for the best books by living U.S. citizens published in the U.S. The awards have been presented since 1950 in at least one category, and are presently awarded in each...


Brand's publishing efforts were suffused with an awareness of the importance of ecology (as a field of study and an influence) to the emerging human awareness and to the future of humankind. Ernst Haeckel coined the term oekologie in 1866. ...


The Catalogs disseminated many of the ideas now associated with the 1960s and 1970s, particularly those of the counterculture and environmental movements. Later editions, plus descendant publications edited by Brand, circulated many innovative ideas during the 1970s-1990s. The outrageously crowded Woodstock festival epitomized the popular antiwar movement of the 60s. ... The 1970s decade refers to the years from 1970 to 1979, inclusive. ... In sociology, counterculture is a term used to describe a cultural group whose values and norms are at odds with those of the social mainstream, the cultural equivalent of political opposition. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into environmentalist. ... The 1970s decade refers to the years from 1970 to 1979, inclusive. ... See also 1990s, the band The 1990s decade refers to the years from 1990 to 1999, inclusive, sometimes informally including popular culture from 2000 and 2001. ...

Contents


Introduction

From the opening page of the 1969 Catalog:

FUNCTION

The WHOLE EARTH CATALOG functions as an evaluation and access device. With it, the user should know better what is worth getting and where and how to do the getting.


An item is listed in the CATALOG if it is deemed:

  1. Useful as a tool,
  2. Relevant to independent education,
  3. High quality or low cost,
  4. Easily available by mail.

CATALOG listings are continually revised according to the experience and suggestions of CATALOG users and staff.

PURPOSE

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.

The title derived from a previous project of Stewart Brand's: In 1966, Brand had initiated a public campaign to have NASA release the then-rumored satellite image of the sphere of the Earth as seen from space. He thought the image of our planet might be a powerful symbol, evoking adaptive strategies from people. NASA logo Listen to this article · (info) This audio file was created from an article revision dated 2005-09-01, and does not reflect subsequent edits to the article. ... Earth (often referred to as The Earth) is the third planet in the solar system in terms of distance from the Sun, and the fifth in order of size. ...


Toward the end of the 1960s, Stanford-educated Brand — a biologist with strong artistic and social interests — believed that there was a groundswell of commitment to thoroughly renovating American industrial society along ecologically and socially-just lines (whatever these might prove to be). So, using the most basic of typesetting and page-layout tools, he and cohorts created issue number one of The Whole Earth Catalog. Production values gradually improved with successive editions.


J. Baldwin was a young designer and instructor of design at a couple of colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area. Baldwin recalled, in the film Ecological Design (1994): "Stewart Brand came to me because he had heard that I read catalogues. He said, 'I want to make this thing called a Whole Earth Catalog so that anyone on Earth can pick up a telephone and find out the complete information on anything. ...That’s my goal.'" In this sense, the Catalog’s initial concept can be viewed as a forerunner of the Internet, as an information sourcing tool. James Tennant Baldwin (whose books and articles have been published under the names J. Baldwin, Jay Baldwin, and James T. Baldwin) is an American industrial designer and writer born in 1934. ...


Steve Jobs compared The Whole Earth Catalog to Google in his June 2005 Stanford University Commencement Speech [1]. "When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation.... It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions."


Content

The catalog divided itself into seven broad sections:

  • Understanding Whole Systems,
  • Shelter and Land Use,
  • Industry and Craft,
  • Communications,
  • Community,
  • Nomadics, and
  • Learning.

Within each section, the best tools and books the editors could find were collected and listed, along with images, reviews and uses, prices, and suppliers. The reader was in some cases also able to order directly through the Catalog.


The first Catalog and its successors used a broad definition of the term "tools." There were informational tools, such as books, maps, professional journals, courses, classes, and the like. And there were specialized, designed items, such as garden tools, carpenter's and mason's tools, welding equipment, chainsaws, fiberglass materials, tents, hiking shoes, potter's wheels, etc. - even early synthesizers and personal computers.


The Catalog's publication coincided with the great wave of experimentalism, convention-breaking, and "do it yourself" attitude associated with the "counterculture," and tended to appeal not only to the intelligentsia of that social movement, but to "hands-on," creative, and outdoorsy people of many stripes.


With the Catalog opened flat, the reader might find the large page on the left to be full of text and intriguing illustrations from a volume of Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilization in China, showing and explaining an astronomical clock tower or a chain-pump windmill. While on the right-hand page are an excellent review of a beginner’s guide to modern technology (The Way Things Work) and a review of The Engineers’ Illustrated Thesaurus. On another pair of pages, the left-hand reviews books on accounting and on moonlighting jobs, while the one on the right bears an article in which some people tell the story of the community credit union they founded. Another pair depict and discuss different forms of kayaks, inflatable dinghies, and houseboats.


The broad interpretation of the term "tool" coincided with the interpretation given that term by the designer, philosopher, and engineer Buckminster Fuller — though it should be noted that another thinker admired by Brand and some of his cohorts was Lewis Mumford, who had written about words as tools. The Catalog’s earliest editions reflected considerable influence from Fuller — particularly his teachings about "whole systems," "synergetics," and efficiency or reduction of waste. By 1971 Brand and colleagues were already questioning whether Fuller’s sense of direction might be too anthropocentric. The information gathering in fields like ecology and biospherics was persuasive. In the U.S. postage stamp commemorating Buckminster Fuller and his contributions to architecture and science, some of his inventions are visible. ... Lewis Mumford Lewis Mumford (October 19, 1895 – January 26, 1990) was an American historian of technology and science, also noted for his study of cities. ... Systems theory is an interdisciplinary field which studies relationships of systems as a whole. ... Inpired by the Laser theory and founded by Hermann Haken and Arne Wunderlin, Synergetics is an interdisciplinary science explaining the formation and self-organization of patterns and structures in open systems far from thermodynamic equilibrium. ...


By the mid 1970s, a lot of the "Buddhist economics" viewpoint of E.F. Schumacher, as well as the activist interests of the biological-species preservationists, had tempered the overall enthusiasm for Fuller's ideas in the Catalog. Later still, the amiable-architecture ideas of people like Christopher Alexander and the similar community-planning ideas of people like Peter Calthorpe further tempered the engineering-efficiency tone of Fuller's ideas. Ernst Friedrich Fritz Schumacher (1911-1977) was an economist with a professional background as a statistician and economist in Britain. ... A preservationist generally refers to one who wishes to preserve a historic structure from demolition or degradation. ... A professor-emeritus (the University of California, Berkeley) and licensed contractor as well as architect, Christopher Alexander (born October 4, 1936 in Vienna, Austria) is noted for his design of building complexes in California, Japan, and Mexico. ... Peter Calthorpe has been named one of twenty five innovators on the cutting edge by Newsweek magazine for his work redefining the models of urban and suburban growth in America. ...


As an indicator of the general direction of the times, the publication of the Catalog's first edition preceded the first Earth Day by nearly two years. (The idea for Earth Day occurred to Senator Gaylord Nelson, its instigator, "in the summer of 1969 while on a conservation speaking tour out West," where the Sierra Club was active and where young minds had been opened and stimulated by influences like the Catalog.) Earth Day Flag. ... Gaylord Nelson Gaylord Anton Nelson (June 4, 1916 – July 3, 2005) was a Democratic Party American politician from Wisconsin. ... The Sierra Club is an American environmental organization founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist John Muir, who became its first president. ...


Gurney Norman's Appalachian epic "Divine Right's Trip" first appeared in The Last Whole Earth Catalog in 1971. The complete novel was printed in the margins of the Catalog. Set in the 60s, the story chronicles the awakening of the hippie stoner Divine Right as he travels with his patient and introspective VW Bus, Urge. ...


Despite this popular and critical success, particularly among a young generation of hippies and survivalists, the Catalog was not intended to continue publication for long; just long enough for the editors to complete a good overview of the available tools and resources, and for word (and copies of catalogs) to get out to everyone who might need the same.


Publication after 1972

After 1972 the catalog was published sporadically. Updated editions of The Last Whole Earth Catalog appeared periodically in the '70s, but only a few fully new catalogs appeared. In 1974 the Whole Earth Epilog was published. In 1980, The Next Whole Earth Catalog (ISBN 0394707761) was published; it was so well received that an updated second edition was published in 1981. There were several editions in the '80s of the Whole Earth Software Catalog.


In 1986, The Essential Whole Earth Catalog (ISBN 0385236417) was published, and in 1989 the WEC was published on CD-ROM using an early version of hypertext. In the late 1980s (or in 1990), there was a WEC dedicated to Communications Tools. A Whole Earth Ecolog was published in 1990, devoted exclusively to environmental topics. Around this time there were special WECs on other topics (e.g., "the fringes of reason").


The last 'full' WEC, entitled The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog (ISBN 0062510592) was published in 1994. A slender, but still 'A3'-sized, 30th Anniversary Celebration WEC was published in 1998 as part of Issue 95 of the Whole Earth magazine (ISSN 07495056); it was comprised half of old material and half of brand-new material. An important aspect of this final WEC was the limitations placed on it by book publishers: Because "Publishers begged [Whole Earth] not to reprint ... their names anywhere near books they no longer carry", all access information was placed at the back of the WEC. This placement hampered a valuable function of the WEC: calling for readers to urge publishers to get seminal works back into print.


An important shift in philosophy in the Catalogs occurred in the early 1970s, when Brand decided that the early stance of emphasizing individualism should be replaced with one favoring community. He had originally written that "a realm of intimate, personal power is developing"; regarding this as important in some respects (to wit, the soon-emerging potentials of personal computing), Brand felt that the over-arching project of humankind had more to do with living within natural systems, and this is something we do in common, interactively.


From 1974 to 2003, the Whole Earth crowd published a magazine, known originally as CoEvolution Quarterly. When the short-lived Whole Earth Software Review failed, it was merged with CoEvolution Quarterly to form the Whole Earth Review (edited at different points by Jay Kinney, Kevin Kelly, and Howard Rheingold), later called Whole Earth Magazine and finally just Whole Earth. The last issue, number 111 (edited by Alex Steffen), was meant to be published in Spring 2003, but funds ran out. The Point Foundation, which owned Whole Earth, closed its doors later that year. CoEvolution Quarterly (later re-named Whole Earth Review) was one of the publishing ventures of the same visionary biologist (with interests in cultures and in art) who launched the Whole Earth Catalog and an early Internet community, still functioning, called the WELL. Stewart Brand is the name of this editor... CoEvolution Quarterly (later re-named Whole Earth Review) was one of the publishing ventures of the same visionary biologist (with interests in cultures and in art) who launched the Whole Earth Catalog and an early Internet community, still functioning, called the WELL. Stewart Brand is the name of this editor... Whole Earth Review is the former name of a magazine once known as CoEvolution Quarterly and now known as Whole Earth. ... Jay Kinney (born 1950) is an American underground cartoonist. ... Kevin Kelly Kevin Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and former publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog. ... Howard Rheingold at the Ars Electronica in 2004 Howard Rheingold (born July 7, 1947 in Phoenix, Arizona) is a leading thinker on the cultural, social and political implications of modern communications media such as the Internet, mobile telephony and virtual communities (a term he is credited with inventing). ... Alex Steffen is a Seattle-based writer, editor and futurist, part of the group of techno-environmentalists influenced by the Whole Earth Catalog and Bruce Sterlings Viridian movement. ...


WEC Spin-offs

Recognising the value of the WEC, and also recognising the limits of its 'developed country' focus, groups in several countries developed 'catalogs' of development tools that were based on their perceptions of topics relevant in their countries. Many of these fine efforts were weakened because political correctness made it difficult to use the 'free thinking' approach that created the WEC. However, one such effort was an excellent developing country adaptation of the WEC. In the late 1970s a version of the WEC (called the "Liklik Buk") was developed and published in Papua New Guinea; by 1982 this had been enlarged, updated, and translated (as "Save Na Mekem") into the Pijin language used throughout Melanesia, and updates of the English "Liklik Buk" were published in 1986 and 2003.


See also


  Results from FactBites:
 
Whole Earth: About (410 words)
Whole Earth is committed to a vision of what's needed to challenge ingrained patterns and stale assumptions.
Published by Point Foundation, Whole Earth is the successor of the Whole Earth Catalog, first published in 1968 by Stewart Brand.
The Catalog found immediate success with the youth movement, selling millions of copies and quickly becoming the unofficial handbook of the counter-culture.
Whole Earth Catalog - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1780 words)
The Whole Earth Catalog was a sizeable catalog published twice a year from 1968 to 1972, and occasionally thereafter, until 1998.
In 1986, The Essential Whole Earth Catalog (ISBN 0385236417) was published, and in 1989 the WEC was published on CD-ROM using an early version of hypertext.
Recognising the value of the WEC, and also recognising the limits of its 'developed country' focus, groups in several countries developed 'catalogs' of development tools that were based on their perceptions of topics relevant in their countries.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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