When I was a teenager I regularly listened to John Peel's Radio 1 show. Peel is credited as breaking entire genres, as well as bands. He was one of the first broadcasters to play progressive rock in the UK, and he championed bands including The White Stripes and Smashing Pumpkins who both went on to be hugely successful.
"Oh well, it's tough being 14." I know it is Clara, this is for you.
-- John Reads Clara's Letter, from the Peel Session for A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld by The Orb
When rave started to reach public consciousness, Peel was one of the few mainstream DJs playing it. My father said something about listening to that "strange music where songs seem to last 10 minutes". This intrigued me -- I'd been listening to grunge for a year or two so all I knew was guitar bands and pop music. We flipped the radio on after a summer barbecue and Peel was playing The Orb. It left a lasting impression on me, and to this day I still listen to the same tracks.
As a teenager I naturally gravitated towards certain musical genres because I was trying to find my own identity. It's socially efficient to identify with a specific group. I was originally interested in rock music, but went on to discover rave, ambient, drum and bass, progressive rock, house, techno, and more. Before long my CD collection had grown into a decidedly schizophrenic mess.
Whenever a hardcore fan of a particular genre would criticise or question my interest in an opposing musical enclave, I'd think about John Peel. He never seemed to care about what kind of people listened to a certain type of music, what clothes they wore, or what label the band was signed to. He just had a genuine interest in music.
Fast-forward to the textual battles of contemporary technology culture. Android or iOS? Macs or PCs? Vim or Emacs? BSD or Linux? PS3 or Xbox? Python or Ruby? Node or Go?
Technology culture has its roots in entrepreneurialism, science, and occasionally the arts. For our industry and culture to evolve, we need a generation of technological John Peels. When I think about the contribution John Peel made to contemporary music culture in the UK, I can't begin to imagine what the equivalent in my field could do.