Tech visionaries and LSD: Turn on, tune in, geek out

While some of the technology industry's brightest minds were inventing the first PCs and developing groundbreaking software, they were also feeding their heads with LSD.

Tech visionaries and LSD: Turn on, tune in, geek out next

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Tech Trippers



Silicon Valley's rise as the hub of the technology industry in the 1960s coincided with LSD's explosion on the cultural scene. Within a few miles of Stanford Research Center (SRI), where Douglas Englebart was envisioning the personal computer as a mechanism to "augment human intelligence," three organizations were then legally administering LSD to guinea pigs. The Veterans Administration Hospital in Menlo Park and the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute were studying LSD to better understand schizophrenia.

Meanwhile, the International Foundation for Advanced Study, founded by a former engineer, sought to give credibility to LSD's mind-expanding properties. These organizations offered leaders of the counterculture (Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg) and some of the personal computer industry's founding fathers their first communions with acid. No doubt, their mind-blowing experiences influenced the communal ethos of the early personal computing industry and later the open source software movement.

Source: John Markoff. What the Doormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (Penguin 2005).

Photo: Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters on Kesey's International Harvester bus.

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Tech visionaries and LSD: Turn on, tune in, geek out

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