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.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.