NewsPeek: the genesis (1979 - 1981)
While an undergrad at M.I.T. in the mid/late 1970's, I was troubled by the ignorance, apathy and powerlessness expressed by much of society and I wanted to do something about it. Perhaps due to the fact that I was so immersed in the process of learning, I came up with a plan to educate the world. There was folly in this idea, partly because much of our society often appears not to desire further education, but more importantly, a single source of information could easily devolve into fascism.
While pondering what to do for a Computer Science thesis -- perhaps involving intelligent agents (actors) or dynamic first order logic proof checkers from the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory -- an exciting new piece of hardware arrived at the Architecture Machine Group (or "Arch Mac," later renamed the Arts and Media Technology Center, or the _Media Lab_, for short) where I was spending much of my time. A Mead Data Lexis/Nexis data terminal was installed with access to huge (for the time) quantities of news and information, but with a clunky user interface. Seeing this triggered the realization that providing high quality information to those willing to seek it out would be a key step in my original goal.
Further, the very definition of what high quality information is should be up to the informed choice of each individual consumer. The entire publishing system was going to have to be turned upside down with people choosing what they wanted to read. As a first step toward this I added saved search capability and preference sharing to Nexis, thus creating NewsPeek, a personal newspaper. The concept description along with the necessary hardware and software interfaces to the Mead Data Nexis terminal became my undergraduate thesis in 1981.
NewsPeek combined the seemingly limitless information resources of Mead Data Corporation's Nexis online news service with large scale personal computing, artificial intelligence and advanced communications and networking to produce an electronic newspaper containing high quality news, information and entertainment individualized by and for the user.
(For more, see the NewsPeek thesis on Github or read The Media Lab by Stewart Brand, Viking Press, ©1987)
Page Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2018