nettime's_historical_conciousness on Sun, 26 Mar 2000 23:25:48 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Homebrew Computer Club

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NYT, March 26, 2000
A Pioneer, Unheralded, in Technology and Activism

ENLO PARK, Calif. -- The founders of the Homebrew Computer Club could not
have made an odder couple. 

Gordon French had been a weapons designer who helped build missile
guidance systems; Frederick Moore Jr. was a long-haired, bearded peace
activist who was running a community information network that he
maintained from index cards in a shoe box at his funky office in the Whole
Earth Truck Store, a back-to-the-land venture. 

Moore was involved in the club for just its first year -- as secretary,
treasurer and newsletter editor. But two and a half decades later, his
original communitarian vision of the power of personal computers has
re-emerged to challenge the computer industry's status quo, in the form of
the free software movement. 

Moore saw computers as a way to help pull the world together. In the
Homebrew Club, he saw the potential for using personal computers in
political organizing. 

Both truisms now, these were lonely views at the time. Thoreau-like in his
personal morality, Moore often found himself out of step with his fellow

"He would suggest cake sales to raise funds for the group, or publish cute
little poems in the newsletter," Steven Levy wrote in "Hackers: Heroes of
the Computer Revolution," (Doubleday, 1984) "Meanwhile, most of the club
members would be turning to the back of the newsletter to study the
schematics in the contribution called 'Arbitrary Logic Function Generation
Via Digital Multiplexers.' That was the way to change the world, and a lot
more fun than a cake sale." 

The Homebrew Club quickly became the hot spot for an industrial
revolution, and Moore soon dropped out, returning to his life as a
political organizer. 

His roots there were deep. He briefly became a national figure in the fall
of 1959, a result of an individual act of conscience that in many ways was
the opening act of the American student movement of the 1960s. 

Early in the morning of Oct. 17, 1959, as a freshman at the University of
California at Berkeley, he sat down on the steps in front of Sproul Hall,
the campus administration building, and announced that he was beginning a
seven-day fast against the university's ROTC program, then compulsory. 

In fact, his hunger strike lasted only two days. His father, an Air Force
colonel stationed in Colorado, arrived on campus at the request of the
university administration, and Moore withdrew from school. 

The act of conscience had not failed, however. His solitary protest had a
profound impact on the school, which was then still the embodiment of the
"silent generation" of the 1950s. "If you want to speak about courage,
speak about Fred Moore. He stood alone," wrote David Horowitz in "Student: 
The Political Activities of the Berkeley Students" (Ballantine, 1962). 
Horowitz was among those at Berkeley who were moved by the protest; he
would become a student leader during the 1960s. 

For the rest of his life, Moore remained a committed pacifist. He became a
"long walker," wandering across the country several times as a peace
activist. He remained an inveterate inventor and something of a hacker,
too: he found big computers at the Stanford University medical center and
he would often spend long hours there teaching himself to program. 

A planned round-the-world peace walk led him, at the age of 50, from the
Pacific coast of Canada down to San Francisco. Along the way, he came up
with the idea of a "Redwood Summer" of environmental protests against
Pacific Lumber's logging of redwood forests on the California coast. 

Moore died in 1997 after a traffic accident in eastern Arizona. He was 57. 
He had had a seminal impact on both the antiwar movement and the personal
computer industry, but none of the three major Bay Area newspapers
published an obituary to mark his passing. 

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