Mark joins Cool Tools

In the mid- to late-1980s, Kevin Kelly was editor of Whole Earth Review, which was my favorite magazine (it’s no longer around, but it’s still my favorite). It’s where I learned about zines, Factsheet Five, fractals, desktop publishing, the Well, artificial life, lucid dreaming, memetics, virtual reality, smart drugs, the Church of the SubGenius, creative computing, and many other things that intrigued me and pointed to a different way of living and thinking.

The Whole Earth Review inspired my wife Carla and I to start our own zine, bOING bOING. I sent a copy of our first issue to Kevin and he suggested we trade subscriptions. What a thrill! I was living in Boulder, Colorado at the time, working as an engineer, and longed to move back to California to be at the center of the personal computer/Silicon Valley/Mondo 2000/cyberpunk/Whole Earth nexus.

In 1992 Kevin called to tell me about a magazine he was co-founding called Wired. It sounded similar to an 1987 issue of Whole Earth Review he’d edited called Signal, which blew my mind when I read it (I re-read Kevin’s introduction to the Signal issue and was surprised to see how much of it remains relevant 26 years later). On the call, Kevin asked me to write a piece for the first issue of Wired. I did, and by the time the third issue came out, I was working there as associate editor. Some of my best memories of those years were talking with Kevin about stories and projects and having conversations with him about everything from beekeeping to Survival Research Labs.

I left Wired in 1998 (I think Kevin left around the same time), and we remained friends, seeing each other when we had the chance. I’ve always wanted to work with Kevin again, and as a fan of a tool review site Kevin started 10 years ago called Cool Tools, I saw an opportunity to do that. We talked and agreed it would be great fun to collaborate. So we formed a partnership, called Cool Tools Lab. I’m editor-in-chief.

We’ve already come up with a lot of ideas for Cool Tools projects, and some are very ambitious. As Kevin said, “Let’s turn Cool Tools into a butterfly, not just a better caterpillar.” That’s a terrific goal to have, and it’s one that can be achieved while staying true to Cool Tools’ original statement of purpose:

Cool tools really work. A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We only post things we like and ignore the rest.

I love learning about what people make and do, and the tools they use. Do you have a tool you love? Tell us about it at Cool Tools.

Read Kevin's announcement on Cool Tools. Follow Cool Tools on Twitter.


  1. Will the real cool tools please stand? There’s and there’s the link in the story.  Which is the real cool tools?

  2. Coinkydinky . . .

    I’m arranging and purging after a move. I just re-shelved the book version of SIGNAL. An utterly mind-blowing book when it came out . . . and a stunningly dated thing now. I’m keeping it out of historical interest. Really, the web has changed everything.

    And I’m trying to find a home for my collection of the first five years of WIRED. (I have three or four extra copies of Issue #1, which I’m keeping.) (Seriously, if you live in the Portland area and want a collection of WIRED, get in touch. They occupy a long, heavy copy paper box.)

    And I’m trying to find a place to put my 1971 The Last Whole Earth Catalog. It is an awkwardly huge thing.

    1. I’ve been using this thing called eBay for a couple of months. It’s a company on the Internet (though I’m not sure what the Internet is…) – eBay is a company that allows people to sell things. I think they allow people to sell magazines, but you might want to check first. I assume eBay will work in Portland, but again you should check first

      1. Hey, congratulations! Give yourself a pedantic twit point!

        I don’t want to sell the magazines. I’m just looking for a good home, and not have to go through the hassle of an auction or of shipping them.

        The one person who was interested in them via the local Freecycle list never showed up to pick them up.

        1. There might not be much demand for old WIRED magazines – it’s that way with magazines like MAD and PLAYBOY – there were so many printed at the time, that the “rarity WOW factor” doesn’t really ever kick in. Unless you have signed issues or mis-prints or editions that were yanked off the market for some reason. One of the main problems with the desirability of old tech magazines is that the tech is out of date, articles that may have been cutting edge in 1997 might only have fleeting historical interest – I’ve learned that sometimes things just have to go into the recycling bin. Even libraries won’t takes things today that they used to take

          1. Sadly true. I am not beyond tossing those WIRED in the bin, but I don’t mind keeping them around for the week or two it takes to check Freecycle or mention them here.

            WIRED Issue #1 is actually worth something, and I’m keeping a few issues of that. And a couple of them are signed by the publisher, and maybe Bruce Sterling (whose mug is on the cover).

    2. >And I’m trying to find a place to put my 1971 The Last Whole Earth Catalog. It is an awkwardly huge thing.

      I have mine next to the Designer’s Republic issue of Emigre, and the new collected editions of Popeye.

      Oversized wonders, each and every wone.

  3. Hooray, excellent news. I think some day The Whole Earth Catalog will be seen as the first web and the social group that produced it as the spiritual core of the internet ethos. I am very happy to learn that my current favorite catalog of great stuff, boingboing, has its roots in that earlier example and look forward to the developments to come at Cool Tools, a site that has been in my bookmarks for a long time.

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