Peoples Computer Company At Stanford

Thanks to our new (2014) arrangement with Stanford University Libraries Special Collections, you can now see the first issues of the People’s Computer Company (PCC) newsletter. (Here’s a partial index.) People learned how and why to use computers through such newsletters.

It is easy to stereotype the era as a time when every computer user thought computers were panaceas. PCC didn’t hide the fact that it saw big topics ahead.

Computers are mostly
used against people instead of for people
used to control people instead of to free them
time to change all that –
we need a . . .

Welcome to 1972. Much of the debate about computers and their influence on education, life, and society was carried out in handwritten, handdrawn newsletters published by passionate people. They were urgently trying to affect change.

Welcome to 2014. Most of those newsletters, notes, brochures, and pamphlets were printed for the moment, which means they weren’t archival. Forty year old mimeographs and xeroxes are fading. We are urgently trying to save those records.

Thanks to people like our founder, Liza Loop, who stored thousands of documents and to professors like Fred Turner and Henry Lowood, who teach about such subjects we are making those early discussions available for the inquisitive and the academic.

Stanford Libraries has generously begun scanning and archiving Liza’s collection. The results are online. How else can you learn that it wasn’t all about soldering hardware or debugging software?

is a newspaper . . .
about having fun with computers
and learning how to use computers
and how to buy a minicomputer for yourself or your school
and books . . . and films . . . and tools for the future.”

We expect everything to be computer-generated. Desktop publishing has become so ubiquitous that it isn’t even mentioned now. Anyone can use templates to create professional looking publications. Software packages proudly proclaim their ease and creative options. Take a look at a few pages of PCC. Handwritten notes meant no font restrictions. Handdrawn graphics meant expressive and unique art. Cut and paste meant scissors and glue which also meant anything could be printed at any angle. And dragons. They made sure there were always dragons.

We’ve mentioned People’s Computer Company before. It was founded by several pioneers, several of whom are described on our wiki, and two that were also described here on this blog. (Bob Albrecht, Leroy Finkel)

If a description sufficed, then there’d be no need for anything more than these posts. You’ve got to see this for yourself. And, if you can, thank and support the people doing this work.


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