I remember that my father had a copy of "The Last Whole Earth Catalog," which came out sometime in the 1970s. This Millennium version was released in 1994 with the tagline " Access to Tools & Ideas for the 21st Century." Its huge size -- about 384 pages, roughly 24 by 12 inches, has made it tough to lug around all this time. It's basically a compendium of cool stuff of the sort that the Web and Internet have made obsolete in print form (though the catalog lives on, I guess, and we still have Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools). This edition of the print catalog includes a foreword by Stewart Brand (mentioned earlier on this blog), one of the creators of the original 1960s era catalog. So now that we are here in the post-Internet 21st century, what remains of value in here? Some of the topics covered: organic food, edible landscaping, lucid dreaming, psychedelics, bicycling science, virtual reality, comix, zines, fringe video, self-defense for kids, meditation, erotic literature, building a sidewalk telescope, do-it-yourself CD-ROM, satellite TV, and "Internet: How to Use it." An excerpt from the latter:

Before you get too excited about Mosaic, remember that image and sound files can be huge. If you're connecting over a phone line using SLIP/PPP, the experience can be like sipping jello through a straw. Mosaic looks good at TI speed, which is commonplace at CERN and NCSA. From home, even at 28,800 bps, those hourly SLIP/PPP charges add up, with most of your connect time spent waiting for images to transfer. The Web is, for better or worse, people's information space of choice as we move into the second half of the 1990s. But using it comfortably requires high bandwidth connections that are currently beyond most home users.

    This Old Book is a series of posts about books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades.

AuthorPatrick LaForge