Meet the man who taught Steve Jobs to think different


"Stay hungry, stay foolish"
Photo: Cellanr/Wikipedia CC

Steve Jobs reminisced about acid trips and, despite his status as a “master of the universe,” was also a total hippie, according to legendary Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand.

Brand is making a rare appearance today at San Francisco’s Obscura Digital for an event entitled “The 1960s Revisited: A 50th Anniversary Celebration.” In an interview to promote it, he talked about Jobs’ “hippie-to-tech pipeline” and much more.

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Brand will be familiar to anyone who has read Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Jobs. As one of the figures who kicked off the countercultural Silicon Valley revolution that eventually led to the arrival of the personal computer, he was one of the key formative influences on Apple’s late co-founder.

During Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, he referred to Brand’s publication as “Google, in paperback form” in terms of importance, and referenced its mantra of “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”

Brand was also the cameraman and assistant to Douglas Engelbart at the now-famous “Mother of All Demos,” in which Engelbart showed off hypertext, email and the mouse for the first time.

In an interview with KQED, Brand was asked how he feels about the way recent biopics have focused on Jobs’ early LSD-induced “mind expansion” and how this helped with his later technological ideas. Brand responded:

“Stuff that happens to somebody in their twenties is going to be formative, no matter what. For lots of people it’s travel. They work in the Peace Corps and that’s who they are. Their first amazing job establishes their sense of what’s possible. And psychedelic drugs were new, so they were unique to us. They were indeed potent, and led to revelations and occasions. Maybe more occasions than revelations. In any case, they were definitely formative in the case of Steve Jobs. The couple of times that he and I talked, we would reminisce about acid trips.”

Elsewhere in the interview (which is well worth reading in full), Brand says Jobs “was a master of the universe, but he was also a hippie and still went barefoot when he could.”

For anyone in the San Francisco area interested in a key part of tech history, I’d highly recommend today’s event as a rare opportunity to meet a 77-year-old pioneer. You can find out more details here. I’d also recommend reading John Markoff’s wonderful book What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry as a great chronicle of this influential period in tech history.


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