Artifact Details


Britton, Lois Jennings oral history

Catalog Number





In this oral history conducted by author John Markoff and Marc Weber of CHM, Lois Britton (née Jennings) tells the story of how in 1968 she and her then-husband, counterculture legend Stewart Brand, founded the iconic Whole Earth Catalog: Access to Tools. Together they published the loose collection of ideas and practical techniques that inspired a generation of hippies and computing pioneers. The Catalog's guiding principle was "coevolution," that human culture evolves in step with its tools. Jennings and Brand were familiar with Doug Engelbart's futuristic computing lab, and knew that computers might become the most flexible tools of all.

Jennings was raised in Bethesda, Maryland, and her mother was a member of the Ottawa tribe. She recounts how drumming from peyote ceremonies in the basement of the family's home kept her up at night as a teenager.

She ended up majoring in math at the University of Maryland with a minor in English, and took a course in programming for high speed computers. She had wanted to be an engineer, but as a woman her professors were not encouraging. Her first job after college was as a "hidden figure," one of a small group of mathematical aides, mostly women, doing calculations for the Navy both manually and with computers.

Bored, she took a job teaching math on the Tongue River Reservation in Montana, where her sister was working as a nurse. She soon met Brand when he was attending the National Congress of American Indians where she was a volunteer. He had gone as part of his exploration of Native American culture, and they married. Their relationship was tumultuous, lasting through the peak of the Catalog years and the counterculture itself. In the oral history Jennings recounts the famous "Demise" party where she and Brand gave away $20,000 in proceeds from the Catalog, approximately the amount they had put in.

During her time as a founding trustee and treasurer of the People's Computer Company Jennings married English explosive expert Keith Britton. They and their friends were deeply involved in the Homebrew computer club, whose members famously included the future founders of Apple and Microsoft. Jennings recounts how she served as treasurer or other roles for several early personal computing efforts.




Britton, Lois, Interviewee
Leisher, Mark, Camera person
Markoff, John, Interviewer
Weber, Marc, Interviewer


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Bethesda, MD, USA


41 pages





Collection Title

CHM Oral History Collection


Computer History Museum

Lot Number


Related Records

102792665 Britton, Lois Jennings oral history