Fact-Checking Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson has done some remarkable things (according to his present byline he is “CEO of the Aspen Institute. Author of biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Kissinger. Former editor of Time, CEO of CNN”).  Little reason for him to doubt his own authority, on anything.  But he invites you to fact check the book he is currently working on, starting with a draft of a chapter published in Medium.  I appreciate the creative spirit of collaboration, and his faith in the wider community to get his facts both straight and full of color:

The Culture That Gave Birth to the Personal Computer

I am sketching a draft of my next book on the innovators of the digital age. Here’s a rough draft of a section that sets the scene in Silicon Valley in the 1970s. I would appreciate notes, comments, corrections

In that draft he makes reference to the starting point of the Whole Earth Catalog, and the meme that came with it of using an image of the earth from space to communicate its fragility and limitations as much as its wondrousness; which, along with the rest of the draft (as if you needed convincing) makes the book sound worth the wait:

…he began to grok the smallness of the earth and the importance of other people appreciating it as well. “It had to be broadcast, this fundamental point of leverage on the world’s ills,” he recalled. “I herded my trembling thoughts together as the winds blew and time passed. A photograph would do it—a color photograph from space of the earth. There it would be for all to see, the earth complete, tiny, adrift, and no one would ever perceive things the same way.”

He resolved to convince NASA to take such a picture from space. So with the goofy wisdom that comes from acid, he decided to produce hundreds of buttons so people in the pre-Twitter age could spread the word. “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?” they read. His plan was simple. “I prepared a Day-Glo sandwich board with a little sales shelf on the front, decked myself out in a white jump suit, boots and costume top hat with crystal heart and flower, and went to make my debut at the Sather Gate of the University of California in Berkeley, selling my buttons for twenty-five cents.” University officials did him the favor of throwing him off campus, which prompted a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, thus helping propel his one-man crusade. He took it on the road to other colleges across the country, ending at Harvard and MIT. “Who the hell’s that?” asked an MIT dean as he watched Brand give an impromptu lecture on the planet earth while selling his buttons. “That’s my brother,” said Peter Brand, an MIT instructor.

In November 1967, NASA complied…

Read the whole article here.

2 thoughts on “Fact-Checking Walter Isaacson

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on the culture that gave birth to the personal computer | SoshiTech

  2. Pingback: An Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur |

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