Thisf side of the book. Computer Lib proper (whose title is neverthelessthe simpler! way lo refer lo both halves), is an attempt to explain simply andconcisely why computers are marvelous and wonderful, and what some mainthings are i.i the field.The second half of the book. Dream Machines, is specially about fantasyand imagination, and new techniques for it. Thar half is related lo this half,but can be read firsL; I wanted lo separate them as distinctly as possible.The remarks below all refer to this first half, the Computer Lib half of Lhe book.FANDOMWith this book I am no longer calling myself a computerprofessional. I'm a computer fan, and I'm out lo make youone. (All computer professionals were fans once, but peopleget crabbier ae they get older , and more professional )A generation of computer fane and hobbyists is well onIts way, but for the most part these are people who havehad some sort of an In. This is meant to be an In for thosewho didn't get one earlier.The computer fan is someone who appreciates theoptions, fun, excitement, and fiendish fascination of computers.Not only le the computer fun in itself, like electric trains;but It also extends to you a wide variety of possible personaluses. On case you don't know it, the price of computersand of using them is going down as fast as every otherprice 1
going up. So in the next few decades we may bereduced to eating soybeans and carrots, but we'll certainlyhave computers.)Somehow the Idea is abroad that computer activitiesare uncreative, as compared. say , with rotating clay againstyour fingers until It becomes a pot.This is categoricallyfalse. Computers involve imagination and creation at thehighest level. Computers are an involvement you can reallyget into, regardless of your trip or your karma. Theyare toys , they are tools, they are glorious abstractions.So It you like mental creation, toy trains, or abstractions,computers are for you. If you are interested in democracyand its future, you'd better understand computers .AndIt you are concerned about power and the way it is beingused, and aren't we all right now, the same thing goes.THE SOCIETYWhich brings us to our next topic.There Is no question of whether the computer willremake society; it has. You deal with computers perhapsmany times a day or worse, computers deal with you,though you may not know it. Computers are going intoeverything, are intertwined with everything, and it's goingto get more and more so. The reader should have a senseof the dance of options, the remarkably different waysthat computers may be used: by extension, he should cometo see the extraordinary range of options which confrontus as a society in our future use of them. Indeed, computershave with a swoop expanded the options of everything But a variety of inconvenient systems already touch onour lives, nuisances we must deal with all the time; andI fear that worse is to come, I would like lo alert the reader,in no uncertain terms , that the time has come to be openlyattentive and critical in observing and dealing with computersystems; and to transform criticism into action. If systemsare bad, annoying and demeaning, these matters shouldbe brought to the attention of the perpetrators. Politelyat first. But just as the atmospheric pollution fostered byGM has become a matter for citizen concern and attack throughlegitimate channels of protest, so too should the proceduralpollution of inconsiderate computer systems become a matterfor the same kinds of concern. The reader should realize hecan criticize and demand;THE PUBLIC DOES NOT HAVE TO TAKEWHAT'S BEING DISHED OUT .There is already a backlash against computers, andthe spirit of this anlicomputer backlash is correct, butshould be directed against very specific kinds or things.The public should stop being mad at "computers" in theabstract, and start being mad at the people who make in-convenient systems. It is not "the computer," which hasno Intrinsic style or character, which is at fault; il is peoplewho use "lhe computer" as an excuse to inconvenience you,who are at fault. The mechanisms of legitimate publicprotest.sitins and so on should perhaps soon be turnedto complaint over bad and inhuman computer systems.The question is, will the crummier trends continue?Or can the public learn, in time, what good and beautifulthings are possible, and translate this realization into dneffective demand? I do not believe this is an obscure orspecialized issue. Its shadow falls across the future of mankind, if any , like a giant sequoia. Either computersystems are going lo go on inconveniencing our lives, orthey are going to be turned around to make life better.This is one of lhe directions that consumerism should turn.1have an axe to grind: I want to see computers usefulto individuals, and lhe sooner the belter, without necessarycomplication or human servility being required. Anyonewho agrees with these principles is on my side, and anyonewho does not, is not.THIS BOOK IS FOR PERSONAL FREEDOM.AND AGAINST RESTRICTION AND COERCION ,That's really all it's about. Many people, for reasons of their own, enjoy and believe in restricting and coercingpeople; the reader may decide whether he is for or againstthis principle.A chanl you can take to the streets:COMPUTER POWER TO THE PEOPLE!DOWN WITH CYBERCRUD!THE FUTURE, IF ANYSimply as a matter of citizenship, it is essential lounderstand the impact and uses of computers in the worldof the future, if any: and to have a sense of the issues aboutcomputers lhal confront us as a people especially privacyand data banks, but also strange new additions lo oureconomic system ("the checkless society") , our politicalsystem (halfbaked voteathome proposals), and so on.I regret that there is not room to cover these here.Various companies ore seeking wide public support forthe sorts of things they are trying to bring about. Legislationwill be proposed on which the views of the public shouldhave a bearing. II is important that these be understoodsensibly by some part of the electorate before they are madetoo permanent, rather lhan made mailers of dumb assent.Finally, and moat solemnly, computers are helpingus understand lhe unprecedented danger of our future(see "The Club of Romep .^fl). The human race mayhave only a shorl time left on earth, even if there is no war.These studies must be seen and understood by as manyintelligent men of good will as possible.THEREFOREWelcome to the computer world, the damndest andcraziest thing that has ever happened.But we , the computerpeople . are not crazy. It is you others who are crazy tolet us have all thi6 fun and power to ourselves.COMPUTERS BELONG TO ALL MANKIND.B.A., philosophy. Swarthmore; graduate study U. of Chicago: M.A., sociology, Harvard. Mostly selftaught in computers,Member of editorial board, Computer Decisions magazine; listed in New York Times’Who'a Who in Computers; member of Association for Computing Machinery sincc 1964.Research assistant. Communication Research Institute, 19623. Instructor in sociology, Vassar College, 19646.Senior staff researcher, Harcourt, Brace » World Publishers, 19667. Consultant lo Bell Telephone Laboratories, Whippany, N.J., 19678.Consultant to CBS Laboratories, Stamford, Ct., 19609. Proprietor of The Nelson Organization, Inc., New York City, 196972.Lecturer in art, U. of Illinois at Chicago Circle, spring 1973.Lecturer in computer education, Office of Instructional Resources Development, U. of Illinois at Chicago Circle, 19734. Photo
by Roger Field.