Student 3




     If you don't know what is  "the Whole Earth Catalog" don't feel bad, you're one more person who haven't heard from this book and it's content. Let me explain, The Whole Earth Catalog was first published by Stewart Brand between 1968 until 1972. This book had from covert the first photo of the Earth from outer space(Image 1); on this book you could found almost everything, it had reviews of books, articles, products, etc. and the contact information so that if you needed or desired to buy one of those things you could contact them directly. On this book or catalog you could find a great variety of topics, from simple topic like "How to grow plants" (agriculture) or "How to navigate using the stars" (astronomy) to more complex topics like "How build ancient machinery" (engineering), and even random topics like "How to stop a trip from drugs" (some kind of medicine). This book for the people of that age was like the Internet for us nowadays, something where you could look at trying to solve a question you have and getting the answer by buying the article or product that talks about the topic you where doing research on. Steve Jobs said "It was sort like Google in paperback form..." this is proof that the author accomplished his goal which was the idea of a book on which anyone could find information about anything and the contact information so that they could bought the book, article, or object of their interest. The WEC it is a total reflection of Steward Brands personality, he loved to read and learn how things work but didn't like professors and traditional scholars,  on the WEC most of the products sell on this book were articles, magazines, books or in some kind of written form. Andrew G. Kirk wrote on his book "Brand became the leading voice of his generation for self-education and a renaissance of amateur research, craft, and design."[1] and it is pretty obvious that he was trying to make or at least give the opportunity to some people in the society to be that way, to let society know that you did not have to go to school to be good at something you like, that you could learn by your own with the right resources and by practicing your abilities. I believe that is the main purpose of the WEC, make society better by giving them the tools and information they need to learn about whatever they like or interest them.



Image 1. Cover of The Whole Earth Catalog.


      During the time I was looking at the WEC I saw a very interesting book called  “Simple Working Models of Historic Machines” the reason why I say "very interesting" is because since I was a kid I found machinery interesting, that is one of the reasons I am becoming an Engineer. I used to disassemble things and try to assemble them again, even today when something breaks in my house I try to fix it myself before getting help from some other people, or when I see and interesting machine I always try to figure out how the mechanism is assemble so that it can do what it does. This book talks about a machine called the “Chinese South-pointing Chariot” (Image 2) a mechanism that was built to point South at all times, regardless of the direction you were walking to. The “Chinese South-pointing Chariot” is basically an old version of a modern compass but it only tells you where is the South, which is enough information to know in what direction are you traveling. Scientist know of its existence since 200 CE so it does have a long history, I don't think you can find it nowadays in a store since compass has being made so accessible and gives more information than the Chinese South-pointing Chariot, but you may find it in some old storage or on a antique shop.  The mechanism works thanks to a very clever way to assemble gears of different sizes in a specific position, in the picture below the gears are represented by circles. 

Image 2. The Chinese South-pointing Chariot


     A lot of people including me think that the Whole Earth Catalog was on the 1970's and 80's what a browser it is to us nowadays, the only way for people to read about an specific topic was to go to a library and try to find a book that talked about what they wanted to know, or go to a bookstore and try to find a book, magazine or article about their topic they were interesting in, and if they found something they didn't have any kind of information about the person who write the book. After the first WEC people didn't have the need to do all that extra work to find what they needed, they would only have to open the Whole Earth Catalog find their topic of interest and call the person who was selling the article or book they needed. Can you know see the similarities with the internet browser nowadays?...  When we want to know something we go on the internet, open google or yahoo and type the topic were are interested in and a lot of information appears on the screen about that topic and also contact information of places were they got even more information about that topic. And the last and most amazing similarity between the WEC and the internet browsers nowadays is the type of information you can find in both of them, on the WEC as well as in the browsers there is no band on topics, you could look and find information of almost anything as I said previously. 

We humans have lost most of that instinct of curiosity of how things work, and why things behave as they do... That's what I like more from the past generations, young people back in the 1970's and 80's if they had the WEC and so something that catch their attention they would read it and learn it but nowadays kids on the internet are more interesting in social media, and entertainment than knowledge. Even us as adults we have this amazing database where we can look for anything we want and learn about so much important stuff but rather than that we prefer to waist our time in social media, and in knowing the latest new in society than in science. I think that we can change that any time we would want to, since the minds of the children's are always looking for interesting stuff, they would find the video of how something is built of how something works the same amount than a music video or an episode of any children's show. I'm not saying that be part of social networking is bad because it has many good things, I'm just saying that we could do be using part of that time to gain some knowledge that one day might help us in the future and maybe save our life.




[1] Countercultural Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism. Andrew G. Kirk. Print. Page 32. 




The links below are web pages with great information that help me understand more the history behind the WEC and the relationships with personal computer.



Jose Christian Morris Huerta 

SID: 1131185416