A Sampling

In the 21st century, you have to use technology as one of the tools in the toolkit to bring about social change.

Beth Simone Noveck

Briars often have unique takes on the use of technology in society.

Peter + Trudy Johnson-Lenz

Friends of the Briarpatch Peter & Trudy Johnson-Lenz are pioneers in computing as group support and invented the term “groupware.”

In the late 1970s they developed an early groupware product to run on personal computers known as “M.I.S.T” (for Microcomputer Information Systems Technology). MIST included discussion forums, bulletin boards, and email. MIST ran on a single PC and users could participate by connecting by modem from any remote office or home equipped with a PC and modem.

In the early 1980s, a M.I.S.T system was installed in the Glide Memorial Foundation offices for in-house use and was shared with Briarpatch members and members of Common Good School.

Peter + Trudy John-Lenz
Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz

Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps

Friends of the Briarpatch Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps were pioneers in the study and practical applications of contemporary networking and systems theories.

Lipnack and Stamps led the way in recognizing our extensive connections among all segments of society. They shared their knowledge and research results in a series of books published across a 15-year period from 1982 to 1997.

Among their most popular was their book on “Virtual Teams,” one of the earliest to alert our culture to the possibilities of the technology-mediated communications across distance and time that has become so commonplace today.

Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps
Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps

Books by Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps:

  • Virtual Teams: Reaching Across Space, Time, and Organizations with Technology (1997).
  • The Age of the Network: Organizing Principles for the 21st Century (1994).
  • The TeamNet Factor: Bringing the Power of Boundary Crossing Into the Heart of Your Business (1993).
  • The Networking Book: People Connecting with People (1986).
  • Networking: The First Report and Directory (1982).
Cover: Virtual Teams

Common Good School

Briar project The Common Good School used the Glide Memorial Foundation M.I.S.T. system for communicating among the many community organizers that acted as co-founders and faculty at the school. 

Common Good Association

Stewart Brand

Primal mover and doer in the history of Briarpatch, Stewart Brand had his hand in practically every aspect of the growth and evolution of our community. He blazed trails and created powerful influences through his origanizing and publishing efforts. Here are a few examples of his impact on tech.

first ever demo mouse keyboard monitor

Camera man at the first public demo of mouse, keyboard, monitor screen

First-time-ever public demonstration of a computer interface using a mouse, keyboard, and monitor screen–something we now take for granted. Put on at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco in 1968 by the Augmentation Research Center team led by Doug Engelbart. Pictured left to right Mary Church (back to camera), Marin Hardy, Dave Evans, Ed Van de Reit, Dan Lynch (?), Stewart Brand (behind the camera), Roger Bates, and Bill English (sitting).

Stewart was enlisted to do the recording of the event for posterity.

“It has been described as ‘the mother of all demoes,’ since it inspired much of what was to come in personal computers.”

Original photo in the archives of Douglas C. Engelbart and The Bootstrap Institute.

Founder, The Well
(Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link)

The WELL was one of the earliest online community and social media networks.

Launched in the mid-1980s long before public access to the Internet, members used dial-up modems over regular phone lines to connect to servers—very slow but fun!

Many Briars were among the first to sign up and join this vibrant online community.

Logo The Well

Whole Earth Software Catalog.

Based on the original The Whole Earth Catalog, this magazine focused on reviewing the burgeoning field of personal computer software, cataloging useful tools in the same manner as the original Catalog.

Whole Earth Software Catalog

Computers as Poison

With its featured cover article “Computers as Poison,” Issue 44 (1985) of the Whole Earth Review, a magazine format spin-off of The Whole Earth Catalog, was among the first media outlets to openly begin criticizing the blind, uncontrolled adoption of personal computing technology 

Whole Earth Review Computers as Poison Issue

The Media Lab

In 1988, Stewart Brand created an important report on the state of the art in technology research with his book on the Media Lab at M.I.T.

Cover The Media Lab

The Hackers Confernece

In 1984, (with Kevin Kelly and Ryan Phelan) Brand organized “The Hackers Conference,” which became an annual event. The first conference became a TV special by Fabrice Florin, broadcast nationally. 

Wikipedia Listing

Steve Wozniak and Andy Hertzfeld, 1985
Steve Wozniak and Andy Hertzfeld, 1985. Photo by Tony Wills CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18512032

Electronic Frontier Foundation

From 1990 through 1994, Stewart was a Member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that supports civil rights and responsibilities in electronic media.

Wikipedia Listing

Electronic Frontier Foundation logo

Andrew Fluegelman

Andrew Fluegelman, was the inventor of the concept of “Freeware,” the precursor to “Shareware.” 

In late 1982 he developed  PC-Talk, a very popular modem management program which he marketed as “freeware,” meaning you could try it for free and pay later, if you decided to use it.

He was also the founding editor of both PC World and MacWorld.

Cover PC World
Cover MacWorld
Andrew on Cover of MicroTimes

Andrew was also one of the early organizers of the “New Games” movement and publisher of The New Games Book.

Ralph (Jake) Warner

Self-help law publisher Jake Warner at Nolo Press was one of first publishers anywhere to sell their books online and to offer downloadable e-books.

Jake Warner

Compumentor (now known as TechSoup)

In the early 1980s, Daniel Ben-Horin was director of Media Alliance at Fort Mason. He and Briar Claude Whitmyer were next-door neighbors on Potrero Hill. Daniel credits Claude’s neighborly help with computer issues as the inspiration for Compumentor, the first nonprofit matching technologists who wanted to share their knowledge with nonprofits that needed tech volunteers. Whitmyer served as the founding treasurer of Compumentor.

Ben-Horin led Compumentor through a transformation into TechSoup, arguably the most successful technology helper organization offering assistance to nonprofits to date. As of 2017, TechSoup had more than 200 employees and a budget north of $30 million annually.


In the mid-1980s, Briars Tom Hargadon, Mart Pearson, and Claude Whitmyer were involved in an early high-tech startup attempting to distribute software over high-speed telephone lines.

Claude Whitmyer (aka Br'er Claude)

Hands-On Systems Analysis

In the early 1980s, computers became smaller and affordable for many small businesses. That’s when Claude Whitmyer created his “hands-on” system analysis service for small businesses wanting to computerize. He beta-tested it by offering it free to Briarpatch members, such as the Pickle Family Circus.

Master of Arts in Business

From 1994 to 1996, Whitmyer was founding director of the master’s level business program at California Institute of Integral Studies. The program was a hybrid of online courses and monthly weekend “residencies” at the C.I.I.S. campus.

University of the Future

In 1997 Claude co-founded FutureU™ (The University of the Future, LLC) and has taught hundreds of university faculty how to build and deliver courses online. He has also authored or co-authored several ebooks on subjects related to online teaching and learning.

Internet as Great Equalizer

Today he consults with small and really small businesses about “The Internet as the Great Equalizer” for creating successful right livelihood businesses in the Age of the Internet.