Computer Lib / Dream Machines

Publisher summary

Computer Lib

In Computer Lib: You Can and Must Understand Computers NOW, Nelson covers both the technical and political aspects of computers.

Nelson attempts to explain computers to the laymen during a time when personal computers had not yet become mainstream and anticipated the machine being open for anyone to use.[6] Nelson writes about the need for people to understand computers more deeply than was generally promoted as computer literacy, which he considers a superficial kind of familiarity with particular hardware and software. His rallying cry "Down with Cybercrud" is against the centralization of computers such as that performed by IBM at the time, as well as against what he sees as the intentional untruths that "computer people" tell to non-computer people to keep them from understanding computers.

Dream Machines

Dream Machines: New Freedom through Computer Screens - a Minority Report, is the opposite of the Computer Lib side. Nelson explores what he believes is the future of computers and the alternative uses for them. This side was his counterculture approach to how computers had typically been used.

Nelson covers the flexible media potential of the computer, which was shockingly new at the time. He saw the use of hypermedia and hypertext, both terms he coined, being beneficial for creativity and education. He urged readers to look at the computer not as just a scientific machine, but as an interactive machine that can be accessible to anyone.

In this section, Nelson also described the details of Project Xanadu. He proposed the idea of a future Xanadu Network, where users could shop at Xanadu stands and access material from global storage systems.


Ted Nelson