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Whole Earth Catalog (Other Items)

Page history last edited by Katherine Pandora 4 years, 9 months ago

The Last Whole Earth Catalog, August 1972. Pgs. # 322, 325.


The first item I chose was the desktop calculator, for just $4700 the HP wang 700 can be yours. Now days this seems ridiculous, this thing is the size of a microwave, and my phone can do what this does without paying $4700. Back when this thing came out those were plus sides, its only the size of a microwave! This can compute complex strains of numbers for only $4700! This was a huge convenience that we now see as a relic. 


The next item up for grabs is the Koss esp. 9 electrostatic headphones, they come with an energizing source that is a small box with some switches on it. These are pretty much the first noise canceling headphones. These headphones end distortion, and deliver crystal clear sound for only $150. I stopped on this because now days headphones are still ridiculous in price, noise cancelling headphones now cost around $300. They are much smaller, and easier to use now days, I thought however we could have reduced the price after 40 years!


Technology has advanced so much that these things used only as a convenience back then are an essential part of our everyday lives now. Steps forward allow me to compute longs strains of numbers in 2 seconds with my phone, or go on a jog listening to some tunes. Without these old relics some of our necessities would not have come to pass.


- Matt


'Dream House'


Title of volume :  whole earth software catalog 2.0

Year published: 1986


I picked the section (software) Learning, I then  considered these items further :

-          ‘ dream House’-p181

-          ‘wall street’ –p182

-          ‘T.Rex’-p179

-          ‘Trains’-p180


I would like to point out that when reading through the learning section of the World Earth Catalog I noticed that several of the options to learn had to do with several games ( I Understand it being technology since Im basing my findings from the WESC- but I found it interesting that games were the main form of learning and not another form of technology interface) .

 It’s interesting to think that back then a lot of learning seems to be focused on technological interaction through gaming rather than traditional learning methods using textbooks etc.

  I think both me ( someone from 2013) and someone from 1970 would have stopped to read these items because they all ( except the T.Rex one) have to do with day to day things –

I will focus mainly on ‘dream house’ as for me this game stood out the most. When I was  reading about this game I was intrigued at how much like some of the games I once played in my childhood.

I think one of the main reasons this is an attractive game to us both then and now is because when we are young we want to grow up and live the way adults do – and in this game we were virtually ‘playing God’ and building our dream home and future life… on a game.

There is a big fascination- I think – of wanting to control our futures to some extent –for example people always plan their futures In the sense of their dream career, dream place to live etc. this is why I think this game is seen as very attractive to us.


From the dream house game the words that I would say are key phrases are:

  •  ‘reaches the heart of learning software’
  •  ‘ creating master builders’
  • ‘play a little god’
  • ‘encourages creativity and problem solving’
  • ‘rich stimulation of real life’’
  • ‘detailed images , depth and complexity challenge children for hours’


I think these key phrases add to the idea of what these games were meant for back then – Learning purposes ! , the idea that by purchasing and playing these games you are allowing yourself/ your child to develop their learning.


I would say that now a days a game that would replace this one is that of sims – which is quite a popular game in modern times – as there have been  a few different editions , althrough I think the main difference now would be that Sims is thought of as recreational whereas the game ‘ dream house’ is thought of as a ‘ learning game’

  it  seems that this game is no longer  available anymore , I think this is because more advanced games  with the same themes  have been developed over time such as that of ‘The Sims’

 I think the main reason this game was invented was for learning purposes – well that’s what is claimed to be the point in the WEC , however when I was researching this game on reviews and blogs it seems that although the purpose may have been for learning it was mainly used for recreational purposes.

 When comparing this game from the WEC and Wikipedia, it’s interesting to see that the Wikipedia article does not mention anything to do with learning or self-development with the game as the WEC does , but instead a brief description of what the game entails , it’s almost as through the WEC is trying  to sell the game to us – whereas Wikipedia is just giving a somewhat unbiased description.






WEC article ( as seen in the book ): http://www.wholeearth.com/issue/1280/book-review/283/dream.house



Wikipedia  article :  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_House_(video_game)


Reviews on the game : http://www.lemon64.com/?mainurl=http%3A//www.lemon64.com/games/details.php%3FID%3D778



Image of Dream house : http://www.gb64.com/game.php?id=2343




- Aimée Perera




Learning Software

In the 1986 Whole Earth Catalog, there is a sub-catalog that focused on software. The first section on software beyond any absolute basics was gaming. I think it is a testament to the dominant ideas in the people who did the selections and editing for the Whole Earth Catalog. The use of the computer for play as much as work was heavily stressed, and there is the idea that playing is even more important than working. Play features in the educational “learning” section as well.


I thought it was fascinating to see how many of the items in “learning” were play-oriented or were straight up video games with an educational bend. Learning is traditionally seen as working by a great number of people, but the people who designed software and who compiled the Whole Earth Catalog saw it as a fantastic opportunity to use games as a way to hold the interest of the users, typically kids but not necessarily, and to explain things that are potentially dry and complex otherwise.


There were two items in particular I thought demanded attention. One of them was a simulation game where the player controlled a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I was interested in it because it was a simulation that used the game as a means to explore the complexity of multiple life factors and allow the learner to study the needs and effects themselves in an engaging manner that saved the subject from being dry and boring. It might have even made learning about dinosaurs and other things that were deemed “irrelevant” fun. Although this simulation was simple, it reminded me of the early SimCity games, which also are known to have an educational impact. The newer games bring in more complexity and variables, with the newest even including a “world market” that fluctuated which changed the prices of imports and exports for the players and affected their budgets. No matter how realistic the simulation game is, it is able to be a very useful means of learning.


The second item was software that used the computer as a means to practice drills for reading musical notation. This bit of software has still not seen obsolescence today, as similar ideas are used by multitudes of music students. Some of whom are using it as a supplement to traditional learning and some of whom use it as a primary means of maintaining what they know. The modern game equivalents might have a slight bit more entertainment, but basically they function alike. This item also seemed to have appeal not only to younger learners but could be of great use to older learners who need more time and energy to learn to read music.


I was not sure if this fit into "idea" items or "other" items so I put it into other. Since it is software that didn't quite focus on ideas as much as basic learning.



Dome vs. Zome

The Whole Earth Catalogue, to me, seems like a reference book for the educated to become further educated, as well as for the curious to gain knowledge and this is seen by the wide variety of ‘links’ in the catalogue.  There are references to the industry, to geology and science, to film and even astrology. One of the pages that struck me had an article on the difference between a zome and a geodesic dome. Both of these words caught my attention and so I wanted to know more about it. The article had a book called zome primer by Steve Baer. The word zome was coined by Steve Durkee in 1968 by combining the words dome and zonohedron (a polygon with point symmetry.)  After Baer finished university he clung to the ides of structures using polyhedrons. He constructed building of unusual geometries in New Mexico and borrowed the term ‘Zome’ from Durkee to name them. Ironically the Zometool plastic construction set evolved out of this original concept which used to be a popular activity for children.



Zomes are used mainly for mathematics though, but can also be used in science as well as engineering.

A Geodesic dome is similar in construction to a zome but it is more closely associated with constructions while the zome is used for educational modelling.  A geodesic dome is a light weight dome constructed of interlocking polygons. This concept of a dome as a house was invented by Buckminster Fuller.  In chemistry there are molecules called Buckyballs and they are in fact named after Buckminster Fuller due to their geodesic shape. Geodesic domes do not need many materials and they are very durable.  Such designs have been constructed in Antarctica and they have stood strong against winds greater than 300 kilometres per hour. They are also utilized as temporary, inexpensive and strong shelters. Most of the durability is due to the triangles which are paired with the dome. They are strong due to their fixed angles. This design is also utilized for greenhouses as they allow light in from every angle when made from glass. This structure is also used in jungle gyms when constructing the monkey bars. 



All in all this is just one minute piece of what the Whole Earth Catalogue has to offer. It gave a general idea to catch the reader’s attention, and if it did they could do further research on the topics by referring to the books or links provided or by going off on their own tangent, just as I have just done.




Technology and Change


The (updated) Whole Earth Catalog of 1974 fits very well in the 70's.  Most of the section of learning focuses on psychedelic drugs and meditation.  The industry section focuses tools for measuring, chemistry, lab companies, and change.  The 70's were a time of "free love" and experimentation.  This WEC edition captures societies interests during that time; which focused on change, love for the earth, and mind altering.  


I was intrigued by the section on industry with a focus on engineering.  It is interesting to see that some of the ideas and tools haven't changed too much over the years.  


The book that caught my eye was "Technology and Change" by Donald Schon (published 1967).  I thought it was going to be about how technology had changed over the years, but it focused more on how people deal with that change.  "Schon’s central argument was that ‘change’ was a fundamental feature of modern life and that it is necessary to develop social systems that could learn and adapt.(1)"  The future is all about change.  There is always going to be a new invention or idea, society just needs to be open to change for these to further our innovations.  

“Schön makes the case that society still hangs on to an understanding that is basically Parmenidian*, even though such a view do not fit with the radical and constantly ongoing  technological development that defines our society (and did already in 1967). To cope with such an environment, innovation becomes a core activity and road ahead. Schön writes something that could be written today "Creativity, for the scientist, engineer and marketing man, and generalship in innovation for the manager, now rank with such traditional corporate virtues as loyalty, steadfastness and financial shrewdness. Increasingly, performance in the corporation has to do, in one way or another, with invention and innovation".  (3)”




Still available:




(1)  http://infed.org/mobi/donald-schon-learning-reflection-change/


(2)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Schön


(3)  http://transground.blogspot.com/2011/11/book-note-donald-schon-technology-and.html


 (4)  http://vectorstudy.com/management-gurus/donald-schon


*Man’s senses cannot be trusted because they can lead to falsehoods


Kelsey Chofey



Picture Perfect



In The (Updated) Last Whole Earth Catalog published in 1974 under Communications, I found a section on photography, which shocked me when I saw how small it was. Cameras are one of the greatest documentation tools in history. Instant gratification. The development of cameras have changed greatly from a box with a tiny pinhole to a device with mirrors that bounces light onto the surface of a sensor that records real life images right there and then. But let's back up to the mid-1900's. Edwin Land invented the first self-developing film camera in 1948, it was called Polaroid Land Camera. The camera has carried it's popularity all the way to the present day of today. Film photography is in fact a dying art. The production of film has slowed down greatly, and Polaroid as a company stopped producing, in 2008, their every-so-popular 3.5x4.2 inch format Polaroid film that we all recognize and possibly have used at one point or another. Somehow, this dying art is still hanging in there. After the production stop of Polaroid film, another company called The Impossible Project picked up the production of the film, in 2010, and are strongly producing film today. In the late 1990's, one could get a 10 pack of Polaroids for $7. The Impossible Project offers 8-packs for only $23.49!! And that is without shipping and handling costs! That is another thing, the ad in The (Updated) Last Whole Earth Catalog posted by Merit Photo Supply shows that a roll of film with 36 exposures costs $2.10, today a roll that size costs anywhere from $7 to $12. Due to the technological advances and the prices of film rising, photography has shifted over to a digital medium. Less and less places are able to produce film, digital prints are made by printer ink, and companies like Kodak are going out of business. The rawness of film photography is being masked by digital editing programs that is an art in itself but nothing compares to the realness of film.


Victoria Bui








http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20130901/FEAT/309019993/1011/FEAT (Article on Polaroids making a come back.)


http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Polaroid (History of Polaroid)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_photography (History of Photography)


https://www.the-impossible-project.com/ (Company that brought back old Polaroid film.)




Comments (1)

Brittany Boren said

at 8:16 pm on Oct 31, 2013

My items are from the 16th edition of The Whole Earth Catalog that was published in June of 1975. I chose my items because I thought they were interesting and the articles were very persuading. The first item I chose was from page 386. The title of the article is called Unique Rocketry and is an advertisement for model rocket kits. This advertisement is set to appeal both children and adults with its riveting 1970s propaganda and the fact that rocket builders wee so impressed with Sputnik that they wanted to make model rockets that were as new and exciting as Sputnik was. Model rockets were taken very seriously in the 1970s with intricate designs and high quality prices. If you want a model rocket today, it would be made out of plastic and anything other than that would cost hundreds of dollars. The highest quality model rocket kit was $21.95 and yes that was expensive but it would definitely be worth it. The second item I chose was a lightning conductor. now this was interesting because why on earth would anyone ever need a lightning conductor? It is an article for a transistor that only felt like explaining the fact that it was a conductor of lightning and should be handled with great precaution. The transistors were used to prevent lightning strikes on houses and buildings so that disasters wouldn't happen.

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