BIT Information service was an important part of the radical alternative movement in Britain between 1968 and 1979. It provided all sorts of information, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It published a number of alternative travel guides, and also nurtured and subsidised the British Communes Network. In addition, it helped and supported the Arts Lab Newsletter, CLAP (the Community Levy for Alternative Projects) and Cope, the anti-psychiatry info and help service. Every six weeks, a BIT Info Sheet was published.
BIT was started in May 1968 by John (Hoppy) Hopkins and friends, people active in producing the British underground paper, the International Times (IT). It evolved out of IT because the paper got too many inquiries to cope with and produce a news-paper at the same time. Bit rapidly expanded and continued even when IT collapsed for a while in the early 70's. BIT had links to similar countercultural groups all round the world, and, at its high point, got about 250 telephone calls every day. It was important because it gave both local and international information, and so linked and informed people on global and regional levels.
Bit was always infinite in scope. As well as providing all sorts of information to all sorts of different people, from where it was possible to stay to how it was possible to get there, BIT gave support to or started a number of other projects. BIT published overland travel guides to India and Australia, Africa, South America and an Address Network for Europe. These became well known, and provided, through their sales, useful revenue for BIT. It supported the British commune movement by subsidising the Commune Network which existed at that time. Similarly, funds went to the Arts Lab News-letter which linked and helped the dozens of centres which sprang up all over Britain in the late 60's and early 70's. A further project was CLAP – the 'Community Levy for Alternative Projects' which raised over £30, 000 for radical and imaginative projects throughout the land. CLAP simply published a regular listing of projects needing money with a short description of what they were doing and readers were asked to give 1% of their income to the projects of their choice. BIT functioned for many years as a very important part of the radical movement in Britain, providing as it did a totally independent, unbiased and unique source of information, free and unpolluted. A service which brought all elements of the movement together, linking all their assets and offering something that no government agency can ever be trusted to provide even if they tried.
The end of BITEdit
BIT came to an end in 1979. The BIT offices had become a drop in centre for all sorts of people who used it without putting in anything in return. It had huge telephone bills and a ruined infra-structure. Files and archives were first muddled and then eventually destroyed. The International Times wanted to fill the gap when BIT ended by publishing regular information Listings, however IT was also in its last days, and no longer came out regularly enough to be a useful substitute.