Steve Job’s Google of the 60s: Whole Earth Catalog – Lloyd Kahn
Steve Jobs called The Whole Earth Catalog “one of the bibles of my generation”. He went on to explain in his Stanford commencement speech in 2005, “It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions”.
The Whole Earth Catalog was a kind of “unofficial handbook of the counterculture”. It was, pre-Internet, a way for anyone anywhere to tap into a global economy. Founder and editor Stewart Brand set out to create a catalog- like the then-very-practical-and-universal catalog L.L. Bean- that would showcase all of the great tools of the world to help anyone do things for themselves or learn about big ideas.
Lloyd Kahn was the Shelter editor of the catalog. Kahn, an insurance broker-turned-builder, leveraged his experience with Whole Earth and began to publish his own books. First, he wrote very popular books on dome building. Kahn had become “the spokesman for the counterculture on domes” (his dome home even appeared in Life Magazine), but he took the books out of print when he decided the building style just wasn’t practical and “I didn’t want any more domes on my kharma”.
In 1974 Kahn took down his dome and replaced it with a more traditional handmade home. “Built stud-frame house using recycled lumber, doors, windows,” he writes in his 2004 book Home Work, “Relief somehow to discover old ways can work best.”
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