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MC 755; T-489; Vt-257

Dyson, Esther, 1951- . Papers of Esther Dyson, 1971-1999 (inclusive), 1978-1998 (bulk): A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

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Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College


Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Rosa Raisel Fund, the Class of 1958, and the Ardis B. James fund.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 755; T-489; Vt-257
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Esther Dyson, 1951-
Title: Papers of Esther Dyson, 1971-1999 (inclusive), 1978-1998 (bulk).
Date(s): 1971-1999
Date(s): 1978-1998
Quantity: 17.51 linear feet (42 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 3 photograph folders, 11 audiotapes, 2 videotapes, and electronic records.)
Language of materials: Materials in English. Some materials in Russian, Hungarian, German, and French.
Abstract: Correspondence, reports, drafts, writings by and about, and other professional papers of Esther Dyson, journalist, publisher, editor, forum moderator, and pundit in the computer industry.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 99-M113
The papers of Esther Dyson were given to the Schlesinger Library by Esther Dyson in August 1999.

Processing Information:

Processed: October 2013
By: Marilyn Morgan with assistance by Emily Underwood

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research except for folders #41.3 and #42.7 which are closed until January 1, 2066. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Esther Dyson is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Esther Dyson Papers, 1971-1999; item description, dates. MC 755, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

BIOGRAPHY

Born in Switzerland on July 14, 1951, to physicist and author Freeman Dyson and mathematics professor, Verena Huber-Dyson, Esther Dyson spent her childhood in California; London; Boston, Massachusetts; and Princeton, New Jersey. She attended Loughton County Grammar School for Girls in England, and Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey. Admitted to Harvard at age sixteen, Dyson graduated with a B.A. in economics (1972). As an undergraduate, she worked as a journalist on the Harvard Crimson. Her experience on the Crimson whet her appetite for reporting and, following graduation, she began working at Forbes (1974), first as a fact-checker, then as a reporter. After working for Forbes for three years, Dyson became a securities analyst at the investment firm, New Court Securities (later Rothschild Inc.); there, she tracked the progress of Federal Express and other start-ups, and began avidly following trends in the small computing and software trades. From there, Dyson worked as an analyst for the investment bank and full-time investment firm, Oppenheimer and Company. In her work as a securities analyst, Dyson met many pioneering and influential leaders in the computer industry, including Benjamin Rosen, the founder of Rosen Research. Rosen hired Dyson as vice-president of Rosen Research and she took over production of the Rosen Electronics Newsletter, a monthly newsletter devoted to the technology industry. Under Dyson's editorial influence the newsletter was rechristened Release 1.0 and its content evolved, growing less technical in nature and attracting a broader audience including investors and entrepreneurs.
Dyson wrote prolifically, analyzing the impact of emerging technologies and markets on economies and societies. In addition to assuming responsibility for production of Rosen's newsletter, Dyson also began organizing an annual computer forum which grew from the annual Semi-conductor Forum sponsored by Rosen Research. Platforms for Communication Forum, commonly referred to as PC Forum, quickly became one of the most important annual conferences in the trade. In 1984 while she continued to write and edit Release 1.0, Dyson joined forces with the Ziff-Davis Publishing Company to launch a daily newspaper, Computer Industry Daily, in 1985. Production of that publication, aimed at chief executives of hardware and software companies, financial analysts, investors, and journalists who followed the industry, began in March 1985. The daily newsletter experienced setbacks from the start; after three months, Ziff-Davis decided to cease its production. Undaunted, Dyson handled the disappointment by resuming production of Release 1.0 under the direction of her recently-established venture capital firm, EDventure Holdings. The re-publication of Release 1.0 was greeted enthusiastically by the computer trade. In 1997, in response to consumer demand, Dyson published a book called Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age.
As the founder and president of EDventure Holdings, Dyson has routinely traveled to Eastern Europe and Russia, and helped to shepherd the growth of emerging technology companies. An active participant in several non-profit and advisory organizations, Dyson served as founding chairperson of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) from 1998 to 2000. In the role of angel investor and philanthropist, she has championed digital technology, biotechnology, and, more recently, space travel.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in five series:

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The papers of journalist, angel investor, and computer pundit Esther Dyson include correspondence; annotated schedules and itineraries; reports; drafts and published articles written by Dyson; biographical clippings; surveys; financial records; audiovisual recordings of interviews; and photographs documenting Dyson's professional life. The collection also includes a small amount of personal correspondence with family members and friends. The majority of Dyson's collection arrived well-ordered and organized chronologically; in most cases, individual documents were assigned topical labels (e.g., correspondence, schedules, etc.) by Dyson. The archivist maintained those distinct groupings. One segment of the collection arrived loose and unordered; these documents were kept together in Series IV. The archivist created folder titles for these materials, following Dyson's notations. Electronic records received with the collection will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in appropriate series. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany.
Series I, Engagements, 1978-1999 (#1.1-27.4, FD.1, F+D.1), contains documents pertaining to conferences, forums, and other events that Dyson planned and organized, as well as conferences at which Dyson spoke or attended. The bulk of the material arrived in large groupings ordered chronologically, presumably taken from binders or filing cabinets. Most documents are ordered chronologically, in some cases, correspondence (such as an invitation to speak) received the previous year was grouped with documents about the event itself; original groupings were maintained. This series includes a few professional daily planners; correspondence inviting Dyson to speak at events; daily itineraries of meetings and talks that Dyson delivered; programs for conferences Dyson planned or attended; and Dyson's annotated schedules (including her travel plans and meals). In addition to highlighting Dyson's professional engagements, these highly detailed annotated schedules provide a fair amount of personal information about Dyson's life as she often handwrote additional notes and impressions of events and meetings. Information about her closest contacts and family typically appear in the annotated schedules. Also included in this series are published transcriptions of speeches and presentations delivered at PC Forum (Platforms for Communication Forum), that Dyson planned, organized, and produced. Dyson developed relationships with now widely-known influential individuals, such as Benjamin Rosen and Bill Gates, who shaped the personal computing world; these influential leaders attended and brain-stormed at PC Forum. There is material documenting Dyson's earliest professional years, but the most detailed information exists for the period post-1986. Correspondence and schedules pertaining to the publicity campaign for Dyson's second book, Release 2.0, is found in this series, as is a small amount of personal material, such as wedding or dinner invitations. The series is arranged chronologically by event. Additional materials related to speaking engagements, such as recordings, are located in Series V.
Series II, Correspondence, 1971-1993 (#27.5-34.6, PD.1-PD.2), contains professional correspondence as well as personal letters Dyson exchanged with her mother, Verena Huber-Dyson, her father, Freeman Dyson, and her siblings and some personal items. These letters, especially those exchanged with her mother, contain details about Dyson's personal life, including her romantic relationships. Love-letters and poems from admirers are found in his series as well. The majority of this series is professional in nature and pertains to Dyson's work on the computer industry newsletters Release 1.0 and Computer Industry Daily, including detailed readers' feedback to the newsletters. It also includes feedback about Dyson's speaking engagements and PC Forum, as well as investment opportunities and other business plans. In March 1985, Release 1.0, ceased publication and was replaced by Computer Industry Daily, which Dyson also edited. Within three months, that project ceased production and Dyson resumed publishing the monthly Release 1.0. The series is arranged beginning with personal correspondence arranged alphabetically, followed by professional correspondence arranged alphabetically by company and ordered chronologically thereunder.
Series III, Writings by and about and personal, 1972-1996 (#34.7-38.11), contains clippings of articles, press releases, announcements, interviews, etc., which were either written about Dyson, and articles and essays by Dyson. In her role as editor and producer of Release 1.0, Dyson interviewed a number of influential figures; interviews Dyson conducted are included here. Despite its approximate $400 annual subscription cost, Release 1.0 attracted a loyal following among software manufacturers, investors, distributors, and end-users--leaders in the computer industry. Participation in PC Forum, where the most established computer executives met and made deals with the industry's young movers and shakers, was limited to subscribers of Dyson's newsletter. This series is arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder. Mailing lists and planning documents about Release 1.0 and Computer Industry Daily are located in Series IV. Additional interviews of Dyson as well as interviews she conducted are located in Series V.
Series IV, Other professional work, 1979-1996 (#38.12-42.7, F+D.1-F+D.2, PD.3, E.1), contains reports; mailing lists; contracts; phone messages; drafts; personnel information; financial and budget materials; and documents for Computer Industry Daily and other projects, such as the Sunball Spring Training Program, in which Dyson invested. It also contains completed surveys sent to beta readers of Computer Industry Daily as well as files pertaining to her consulting work and some research files. While Dyson wrote directional annotations on nearly each item, this series arrived loose and largely unordered. Loose documents identified in some way by Dyson were grouped together here, with Dyson's original titles retained. For instance, Dyson compiled research files on leading figures in the computer industry, labeling these documents "faces." They represent a variety of documents, including resumes, clippings, published catalogs, and reports containing biographical information. Dyson's web site for EDventure Holdings is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX). This series is arranged alphabetically by company name and chronologically thereunder.
Series V, Audiovisual, 1985-1990, n.d. (#T-489.1 - T-489.11, Vt-257.1 - Vt-257.2), contains audiocassettes and videotapes of Dyson being interviewed and/or interviewing leaders in the computer world. Often, she would interview colleagues and the most influential people in the world of computers in order to write "plannable news" on computing trends in her publication, Release 1.0. In some cases, interviews were transcribed and transcriptions appear in the collection as noted. See Series I and III for additional materials pertaining to talks, including transcripts of interviews.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Angels (Investors)--United States
Artificial intelligence
Businesswomen
Computer networks--social aspects
Electronic records
High technology industries--Planning
Internet industry--Planning
Internet--Social aspect
Journalists
New business enterprises--Finance
PC Forum
Venture capital--United States
Web sites
Women journalists
Women-owned business enterprises
Duncan, Mark
Dyson, Alice
Dyson, Dorothy
Dyson, Freeman J.
Dyson, George
Dyson, Verena Huber
EDventure Holdings
Felsenstein, Lee
Rosen, Benjamin
Rosen Research, Inc.
Ziff-Davis Publishing Company

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