Long Strange Tech, part 2
The Deadcast concludes its dive into the Grateful Dead’s entanglement with technology, exploring Jerry Garcia’s digital graphics obsession, how Dead Head online communities helped shape the emergent internet, lyricist John Perry Barlow’s manifestoes, & more.
Long Strange Tech, part 2 Supplementary Notes
by Jesse Jarnow
During their 30 years together, the Grateful Dead moved in overlapping circles with the technology scene emerging out of Silicon Valley. Jerry Garcia was a pretty serious early Mac geek, and we were able to draw on two pretty heady conversations he had about tech topics, Mary Eisenhart’s 1987 BAM interview, and Howard Rheingold’s 1990 talk with Garcia and Bear (audio here). Howard Rheingold wrote early books on Virtual Reality, The Virtual Community, and other topics.
Once John Perry Barlow got online at the turn of the ‘90s, he became what David Gans dubbed “the lord-mayor of cyberspace.” In fact, Barlow is credited as being the first to apply William Gibson’s term “cyberspace” to the emergent technologies known as the internet. As a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Barlow became one of the net’s early theorizers, writing influential manifestos like “Selling Wine Without Bottles: The Economy of Mind on the Global Net” and “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” that helped shape life and commerce on the internet. More recently, April Glaser contributed the respectful reassessment, “The Incomplete Vision of John Perry Barlow.”
The archives of early Dead Head online communities are far from complete, but fun to peruse, including net.gdead, net.music.gdead, and the still-active rec.music.gdead. Intrepid correspondent Christian Crumlish tracked down the starting point for a few well-worn memes including Dale the Porsche Guy (just a troll, according to our forensics) and an origin for the “5/8/77 is a hoax” story.
Grateful Dead MIDI guru Bob Bralove and Live/Dead era organist Tom Constanten have a new album out in their Dose Hermanos guise, The Persistence of Memory. Bob also hepped the band to the HyperText novel, Victory Garden.
John Markoff is the author of What the Dormouse Said How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry and the recent Whole Earth: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand.
Erik Davis is the author of TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information and other fine books.
As always, we are indebted to David Gans, this time featuring his 1982 interview with John Perry Barlow, originally published in Conversations With the Dead.
Albums Before Workingman's Dead?
I truly enjoy the Deadcast. From the personal interviews to the song analysis to the history overviews, it rivals the best podcasts, on any given subject, available. I simply have one question: are there plans to cover the albums that preceded "Workingman's Dead"? I see that you are covering the fiftieth anniversaries of momentous albums, etc., but it seems a shame to miss out on the first four albums simply because the podcast started in 2020. I will be a loyal listener regardless, but I would love to learn more about how the Dead recorded "thick air" for "Anthem of the Sun" and other esoterica from those early years.