NewsPeek: the genesis (1979 - 1981)
While an undergrad at M.I.T., I became aware of the ignorance, apathy and powerlessness expressed and/or felt by much of the society, and I decided that I wanted to do something about this. Perhaps due to the fact that I was so immersed in the process of learning, I decided that what I wanted to do was nothing less than educate the world.
I soon realized the folly of this idea, partly because much of the world often appears not to desire further education, but more importantly, I wouldn't want to create the world in my (or any particular singular) likeness.
As I was trying to think of what I wanted to do for my thesis (I was interdisciplinary between the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Architecture Machine Group, now called the Arts and Media Technology Center, or the Media Lab, for short) I came to the realization that providing high quality information to those willing to seek it out (I call such people teachers) would be a key step in my original goal.
Further, I understood that the definition of what makes information high quality should be up to the informed choice of each individual consumer. The entire publishing system was going to have to be turned upside down, and as a first step towards this I created a personal newspaper called NewsPeek and designed and built its initial hardware and software as my undergraduate thesis in 1981.
NewsPeek combined the seemingly limitless information resources of Mead Data Corporation's Nexis on-line news service with large-scale personal computing, artificial intelligence and advanced communications and networking to produce an electronic newspaper which contains high quality news, information and entertainment individualized by and for the user. (For more on NewsPeek, see The Media Lab by Stewart Brand, Viking Press, (c)1987, or read the Thesis' introduction)