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The Barnes & Noble Review March 1999 While Gates, Jobs, and the other big boys of Silicon Valley are basking in the glory of the information age, renowned Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik reveals how, back in the early '70s, a group of inventors at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) blazed the trail for all of today's indispensable technology from the PC The Barnes & Noble Review March 1999 While Gates, Jobs, and the other big boys of Silicon Valley are basking in the glory of the information age, renowned Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik reveals how, back in the early '70s, a group of inventors at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) blazed the trail for all of today's indispensable technology — from the PC to email to ATMs to meteorologists' weather maps. And they did it without fanfare or recognition from their employer. Hiltzik's Dealers of Lightning provides a fascinating look at technohistory that sets the record straight. In Dealers of Lightning, Hiltzik describes the forces and faces behind the revolution that the Xerox PARC team single-handedly spawned. The Xerox PARC group was composed solely of top technical minds. The decision was made at Xerox headquarters to give the team complete freedom from deadlines and directives, in hopes of fostering a true creative environment. It worked — perhaps too well. The team responded with a steady output of amazing technology, including the first version of the Internet, the first personal computer, user-friendly word-processing programs, and pop-up menus. Xerox, far from ready for the explosion of innovation, failed to utilize the technology dreamed up by the group. Out of all the dazzling inventions born at Xerox PARC, only a handful were developed and marketed by Xerox. However, one of these inventions, the laser printer, proved successful enough to earn billions for the company, therefore justifying its investment in the research center. Most oftheteam's creations would go on to be developed and perfected by other companies, such as IBM, Apple, and Microsoft. Drawing from interviews with the engineers, executives, and scientists involved in the Xerox PARC, Dealers of Lightning chronicles an amazing era of egos, ideas, and inventions at the dawn of the computer age.


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The Barnes & Noble Review March 1999 While Gates, Jobs, and the other big boys of Silicon Valley are basking in the glory of the information age, renowned Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik reveals how, back in the early '70s, a group of inventors at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) blazed the trail for all of today's indispensable technology from the PC The Barnes & Noble Review March 1999 While Gates, Jobs, and the other big boys of Silicon Valley are basking in the glory of the information age, renowned Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik reveals how, back in the early '70s, a group of inventors at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) blazed the trail for all of today's indispensable technology — from the PC to email to ATMs to meteorologists' weather maps. And they did it without fanfare or recognition from their employer. Hiltzik's Dealers of Lightning provides a fascinating look at technohistory that sets the record straight. In Dealers of Lightning, Hiltzik describes the forces and faces behind the revolution that the Xerox PARC team single-handedly spawned. The Xerox PARC group was composed solely of top technical minds. The decision was made at Xerox headquarters to give the team complete freedom from deadlines and directives, in hopes of fostering a true creative environment. It worked — perhaps too well. The team responded with a steady output of amazing technology, including the first version of the Internet, the first personal computer, user-friendly word-processing programs, and pop-up menus. Xerox, far from ready for the explosion of innovation, failed to utilize the technology dreamed up by the group. Out of all the dazzling inventions born at Xerox PARC, only a handful were developed and marketed by Xerox. However, one of these inventions, the laser printer, proved successful enough to earn billions for the company, therefore justifying its investment in the research center. Most oftheteam's creations would go on to be developed and perfected by other companies, such as IBM, Apple, and Microsoft. Drawing from interviews with the engineers, executives, and scientists involved in the Xerox PARC, Dealers of Lightning chronicles an amazing era of egos, ideas, and inventions at the dawn of the computer age.

30 review for Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age

  1. 4 out of 5

    Keri Solaris

    Actual Rating: 2.5 Stars "This did not mean that great discoveries, even surprising ones, will not be made here and there by researchers working for corporations. It simply means that a certain quality once possessed by PARC in its extraordinary early years seems to have departed from the world of science and technology, perhaps forever. Call it magic." Not my favorite book; read for class. It wasn't that it was bad, it just wasn't for me and didn't really capture my interest. However, it g/>"This Actual Rating: 2.5 Stars "This did not mean that great discoveries, even surprising ones, will not be made here and there by researchers working for corporations. It simply means that a certain quality once possessed by PARC in its extraordinary early years seems to have departed from the world of science and technology, perhaps forever. Call it magic." Not my favorite book; read for class. It wasn't that it was bad, it just wasn't for me and didn't really capture my interest. However, it gives a good history of Xerox PARC and how the Computer Age came to be.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Davis

    Riveting read. Not as technical as I'd like - though I have yet to read any computer book that is. Mostly it's straight up porn for anyone who loves working with computers. PARC was one hell of a lab back in the day. The most interesting part about this is seeing what really happened with Xerox and the first GUI PCs. It's not that they let the opportunity slip through their fingers, they were never the right company to produce an OS in the first place. Still, it worked out well for virtuall Riveting read. Not as technical as I'd like - though I have yet to read any computer book that is. Mostly it's straight up porn for anyone who loves working with computers. PARC was one hell of a lab back in the day. The most interesting part about this is seeing what really happened with Xerox and the first GUI PCs. It's not that they let the opportunity slip through their fingers, they were never the right company to produce an OS in the first place. Still, it worked out well for virtually all of the engineers involved. They went on to bigger and better things, or started companies of their own (3com, Adobe) to make the computer technology they wanted.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nick Black

    church

  4. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Sellers

    Really the Grand Canyon of books. Everyone knows that the Grand Canyon is a big hole in the ground but when you go see it your like "DAMN that's a big hole in the ground. Same thing with this book. The myth is that xerox parc invented most modern software but when you read this book your like "DAMN they really did invent everything." Overall though, a few stories aside, it just adds depth to the myth rather than providing any real new insights.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elen

    rating for entertainment alone -- i don't rly agree with a lot of the overarching points made here but god i love reading about old computers.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Raghu

    The first ever time I developed software using the Smalltalk programming language and development environment, it was a sublime experience. There was no other way to describe it. I had written computer programs in C, Cobol, Fortran etc prior to that for many years, but Smalltalk was qualitatively in a much higher plane in terms of the joy it brought to the programming experience. The object-oriented approach and the Integrated Development Environment of Smalltalk brought a totally intuitive feel The first ever time I developed software using the Smalltalk programming language and development environment, it was a sublime experience. There was no other way to describe it. I had written computer programs in C, Cobol, Fortran etc prior to that for many years, but Smalltalk was qualitatively in a much higher plane in terms of the joy it brought to the programming experience. The object-oriented approach and the Integrated Development Environment of Smalltalk brought a totally intuitive feel to design, coding and testing of software. Thinking in terms of objects to design computer software seemed the natural way to solve problems. It made me want to learn about the creators of this technology. That is how I came to know about Xerox PARC, a research arm of the parent company Xerox. The more I read about PARC, the more I discovered that PARC was indeed the home of many pioneering inventions in the digital computer space in the past fifty years. Whoever would have thought that a company, known for a dull product like copiers, also happens to be the foundation and one of the main pillars of the modern era of personal computing and the internet? This book was written almost twenty years ago and it talks about what happened in PARC in the 1970s. To that extent, it may not impact the current generation of 25-year olds and younger. After all, this generation has always been blessed with a computer in each of their hands with all its modern-day graphics and interactive features. However, the earlier generations know how difficult it was to get ‘some computer time’ in a batch processing environment on a mainframe computer. Those systems were usually secured away from programmers with no interactive provisions. It was Xerox PARC, which leapfrogged this world of quarantined, barely-accessible computers into the modern era of friendly personal computing, graphical user interfaces, laser printers, desktop publishing and the Internet. It is amazing that the ideas behind such a leap were formulated in just a decade of frenzied innovation in one corner of Silicon Valley. So much so that even the company which owned all these inventions - Xerox - was perhaps unprepared for the pace of change, that they missed out on making enough economic capital out of this bonanza. First of all, it is important to put the many advances that happened in PARC in the 1970s in perspective. The following timeline gives an idea of how the transformation happened: 1971: Alan Kay completes the first version of the revolutionary object-oriented Smalltalk language along with concepts from his Dynabook, which was the forerunner of modern-day laptops, GUI and e-books. Gary Starkweather completes work on the first laser printer. 1972: Alan Kay, Chuck Thacker and Butler Lampson start work on ‘Alto’, the first ever personal computer. 1973: Dick Shoup builds ‘Superpaint’, the first ever image editing software. Bob Metcalfe invents ‘the Ethernet’ 1974: Dan Ingalls invents ‘BitBlt’, the general-purpose graphical operation that underlies most bitmap graphics systems today, enabling overlapping windows and pop-up menus. Charles Simonyi, Tim Mott and Larry Tesler develop ‘Bravo’ and ‘Gypsy’, two programs which together were the first user-friendly word processors. 1976: Dan Ingalls designs the bytecoded virtual machine that made Smalltalk practical 1977: The book, ‘Introduction to VLSI Systems’ is typeset entirely on desktop publishing systems, invented at PARC 1978: The Dorado and the Notetaker are completed - the former the best computer from PARC and the latter a suitcase-sized machine that became the forerunner of portable computers. 1980: Jim Clark designs the ‘Geometry Engine’ using design principles formulated at PARC. It was the first 3-D computer graphics chip which was the foundation of Silicon Graphics Inc. Looking at this array of achievements, I have often wondered what the ‘ je ne sais quoi’ was that made PARC so special. The author says that PARC believed in getting the best research done by hiring the best researchers and leaving them unburdened by directives, instructions or deadlines. The engineers at PARC were free from improving Xerox’s existing products. They were tasked to lead the company into new and unchartered territory. PARC lived the famous dictum of Alan Kay that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. Bob Taylor noted that time-sharing computers created computing communities but kept them isolated due to the design differences between their machines. This made him view the computer as more than just a mathematical calculator. He saw it as a communicating device, paving the way for computer networks and the internet. At a time when the computer was believed to be a perfect machine that wouldn’t tolerate errors and faults, Bob Metcalfe explicitly designed the Ethernet to be imperfect. Alan Kay said, “it was an object lesson to make something work when you don’t know how to make it work well.” The author emphasizes that even the TCP/IP architecture, which has been the backbone of the internet, was the contribution of PARC’s Universal Packet (PuP). Hiltzik sums up with the words, “Xerox brought together a group of superlatively creative minds at the very moment when they could exert maximal influence on a burgeoning technology, and financed their work with unexampled generosity”. The book is mainly about the scientists of PARC, the culture of PARC, the politics and interactions with one another in creating the future. It deals less with the details of the technologies which were developed there. For those interested in Silicon Valley lore, there are fascinating chapters on Steve Jobs’ visit to PARC in 1979 and Charles Simonyi’s meeting with Bill Gates in 1981. The popular impression in Silicon Valley about PARC is that Xerox failed to monetize any of this path-breaking work and left it to other companies like Apple, IBM, Intel and Microsoft to benefit greatly from it. Author Hiltzik shows that this is not fully correct. Apparently, Xerox got revenues from its laser printer alone which ran into returns of its investment in PARC many times over. Steve Jobs apparently said in the 1980s that Xerox could have owned the entire computer industry, but failed to do so. However, Hiltzik does not believe that any single company could have dominated the computer industry and gives rational arguments to back up his conclusions. I enjoyed reading the book as a lesson in the history of computer technology as well as a slice of Silicon Valley history, both of which have been a major part of my life as well. My unstinted admiration for Smalltalk and PARC made this book an exercise in preaching to the converted. But it is not a book just for the computer technologist. There is enough human interest in it to make it worthwhile for the general reader. The passion of the scientists and engineers for their vision and the leadership at PARC that knew how to get the most out of its human capital are engrossing stories in themselves. One can also read the book as a peep into how organizations do innovation and how they promote creativity in their laboratories.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Josh Friedlander

    I'm sceptical of the genius narrative. In my mind, there are always a few people with irrational self-confidence - and of course a couple happen to succeed. Cue mythmaking, fawning biographies and countless would-be clones... Relatedly, I can feel some sympathy for the executives at Xerox. The standard narrative is that their Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) developed all of the big ideas of modern desktop computing (mouse, ethernet connection, desktop GUI, laser printing) under their I'm sceptical of the genius narrative. In my mind, there are always a few people with irrational self-confidence - and of course a couple happen to succeed. Cue mythmaking, fawning biographies and countless would-be clones... Relatedly, I can feel some sympathy for the executives at Xerox. The standard narrative is that their Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) developed all of the big ideas of modern desktop computing (mouse, ethernet connection, desktop GUI, laser printing) under their noses, but the myopic suits failed to develop and fund it. This unremarkable, reportage-like book acknowledges that there is another side to that story - one in which hindsight is easy but managing a failing company is hard, in which brilliant but cantankerous geniuses aren't always best off given all the control and resources they want - without trying to say which story is true, or divine greater lessons. Steve Jobs (whose own tech-world canonisation came after this book was written) said that Xerox could have been the IBM or Microsoft of the '90s. Instead, others came in (including, famously and literally, Jobs himself) and took the ideas forward. Hiltzik notes that there is nothing like Xerox PARC at the time of writing - even Microsoft's research is much more product-focused. Would Google/Alphabet change his mind?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Goku

    Xerox PARC is legendary as the home of some of the most brilliant minds in the history of computing. It played a pivotal role in the creation of (among other things) personal computers, GUIs, and the internet. It's also emblematic of the inability of large corporations to recognise and foster innovation. This book brilliantly captures the personalities of PARC, their triumphs, frustrations and clashes, with each other and with the Xerox suits. There's a good balance here in terms of attention to Xerox PARC is legendary as the home of some of the most brilliant minds in the history of computing. It played a pivotal role in the creation of (among other things) personal computers, GUIs, and the internet. It's also emblematic of the inability of large corporations to recognise and foster innovation. This book brilliantly captures the personalities of PARC, their triumphs, frustrations and clashes, with each other and with the Xerox suits. There's a good balance here in terms of attention to the human, technical, and business elements of the story. Entertaining and informative - highly recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim Black

    A perfect companion to the book "Where Wizards Stay Up Late", this book provides a more nuanced explanation for why so many of the technologies pioneered at PARC ended up being exploited by other, more nimble, technology companies. I am coming away with a greater appreciation for the difficulty of turning truly groundbreaking research into marketable consumer products. Highly recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Simon Eskildsen

    Entertaining account of the heyday of Xerox PARC in the 1970s when Alan Kay, Bob Taylor, and Thacker were all there spewing out inventions such as the ALTO; arguably the most complete, first personal computer. Although it was never successfully brought to market, it heavily influenced personal computing. Xerox is where the foundation of human-computer interaction was developed: mouse, GUI, WYSIWYG, and so on. Ethernet was built at XEROX too, where the appeal of an "ARPANET for Everyone" (ARPAnet Entertaining account of the heyday of Xerox PARC in the 1970s when Alan Kay, Bob Taylor, and Thacker were all there spewing out inventions such as the ALTO; arguably the most complete, first personal computer. Although it was never successfully brought to market, it heavily influenced personal computing. Xerox is where the foundation of human-computer interaction was developed: mouse, GUI, WYSIWYG, and so on. Ethernet was built at XEROX too, where the appeal of an "ARPANET for Everyone" (ARPAnet was a small University 'internet') was a vision I imagine was often discussed at lunch.. In addition, Smalltalk was invented here and it allowed the engineers to work faster than anyone else. In particular, the speed of re-compilation was one of the things that really wow'ed Jobs when he made his historical visit. Why not 5 stars? I was reading this book to really hope to get under the skin of the culture of XEROX. What made this such a creative environment? It's more of a historical account, which is still thoroughly enjoyable--but it didn't go as deep as I would've liked. I listened to the audiobook, which I probably wouldn't recommend. Audio sounds like something recorded on cassette in the 90s, which upon further inspection seems to be fairly close to the truth..

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    A fascinating account of the invention of the personal computer at a Xerox research facility in the 1970s. Hiltzik's book explains how over the course of ten years some of the world's foremost computer scientists invented almost every feature that we have come to associate with personal computing--overlapping windows, "what you see is what you get" word processing, the desktop, high speed printing, connection to an Ethernet, point and click technology, the ubiquity of the mouse, and the use of i A fascinating account of the invention of the personal computer at a Xerox research facility in the 1970s. Hiltzik's book explains how over the course of ten years some of the world's foremost computer scientists invented almost every feature that we have come to associate with personal computing--overlapping windows, "what you see is what you get" word processing, the desktop, high speed printing, connection to an Ethernet, point and click technology, the ubiquity of the mouse, and the use of icons as opposed to coding. What's most fascinating is how Hiltzik details the creative process that led to these inventions, specifically how so many of them built off each other and the spirit of competition within the lab that resulted in great leaps forward. While the author is occasionally too worshipful of his subjects, it's not hard to see why with the cast of characters he has to work with. Heavily featured in the book are Bob Taylor (the man who ran the department of the Pentagon that literally invented the Internet), and Alan Kay (a research scientist whose dissertation anticipated by more than 30 years the hand held computer technology that Apple would bring to fruition with its Ipad), two of the most important individuals in the history of personal computing. While it may sound as though this book is written exclusively for those with an interest in or knowledge of computers, that is not the case. Much of the book explores the tensions between Xerox's corporate headquarters and PARC management in addition to the rivalries between and among the departments at PARC. What's more, I have an incredibly rudimentary understanding of technology and almost every aspect of this book made sense to me (with the exception of object oriented programming--I'm still not sure what that is or why it's important and I've done further reading on it). This is a good book for anyone interested in notions of creativity and invention.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Fascinating history of PARC and the people who made it the world's leading computer science research center in the 1970s. Does not specifically unpack the factors that made PARC excel, but contains enough information about its successes to draw broader lessons about creating conditions conducive to breakthrough R&D. - Hire the best people - Give them a long leash - Force them to interact Ethernet is a good example -- Bob Metcalfe was stringing coaxial cable through the PARC basemen Fascinating history of PARC and the people who made it the world's leading computer science research center in the 1970s. Does not specifically unpack the factors that made PARC excel, but contains enough information about its successes to draw broader lessons about creating conditions conducive to breakthrough R&D. - Hire the best people - Give them a long leash - Force them to interact Ethernet is a good example -- Bob Metcalfe was stringing coaxial cable through the PARC basement when he bumped into a colleague (Boggs?) with better soldering skills. The two of them collaborated on what became one of the critical pieces of networking hardware. This book is also a pseudo-biography of Bob Taylor (a true hedgehog in the Tetlock schema). Taylor's focus on developing a personal computer (the Alto) led to one of PARC's biggest breakthroughs. However, Taylor's management style (and "hedgehog-ness") probably precluded PARC from fully benefiting from the interaction potential inherent in the PARC labs (SSL, GSL, CSL, etc). Also debunks the myth that PARC "failed" (that Apple, Microsoft, and others ate its lunch with the personal computer, GUI design, etc). An enjoyable read, but could have been shortened.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liam

    "The theory of second systems was formulated by an IBM executive named Frederick Brooks, whose career supervising large-scale software teams taught him that designers of computer systems tend to build into their second projects all the pet features that tight finances or short deadlines forced them to leave out of their first. The result is an overgrown, inefficient monstrosity that rarely works as expected. As he put it in his pithy masterpiece, The Mythical Man-Month: 'The second system is the "The theory of second systems was formulated by an IBM executive named Frederick Brooks, whose career supervising large-scale software teams taught him that designers of computer systems tend to build into their second projects all the pet features that tight finances or short deadlines forced them to leave out of their first. The result is an overgrown, inefficient monstrosity that rarely works as expected. As he put it in his pithy masterpiece, The Mythical Man-Month: 'The second system is the most dangerous system a man ever designs.'" (74) "Yet to chalk up the mixed fate of PARC's technologies purely to Xerox's blundering, as has been done for many years, is misleading. It encourages others to believe that the commercializing of advanced new technologies is easy, provided only that one has the will to do so; and that a company's early domination of a high-tech market will reward it with an unassailable competitive advantage for decades to follow. It presupposes that a corporation should invariably be able to recoup its investment in all its basic research -- a mindset bound to lead not to more effective corporate-funded basic research but simply to less of it." (390)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amar Pai

    Wow I had no idea how much stuff originated from PARC. -laser printers -ethernet -desktop computing w/ GUI - mouse, windowing, all that -adobe -3com -SGI -object oriented programming (smalltalk) -probably more stuff I'm forgetting Truly a remarkable place, and a tragic story for Xerox. Their clueless corporate management and stultifying resistance to change kept them from truly realizing the commercial potential for most of these things. They could h Wow I had no idea how much stuff originated from PARC. -laser printers -ethernet -desktop computing w/ GUI - mouse, windowing, all that -adobe -3com -SGI -object oriented programming (smalltalk) -probably more stuff I'm forgetting Truly a remarkable place, and a tragic story for Xerox. Their clueless corporate management and stultifying resistance to change kept them from truly realizing the commercial potential for most of these things. They could have OWNED computing in the 90's and beyond. Instead they're just the copier company, and Microsoft/Adobe/Apple/3COM/SGI/etc became the future.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nelson

    Read this book and you will discover that many of the things that Steve Jobs used the MAC (mouse and distribute applications across several windows) were originally conceived at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) Xerox.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Fascinating story but told in a superficial manner. Mentions hundreds of names you will not remember a minute later and ignores all but simplest technical issues. I'm just not that interested in people's personal stories. Came here for the technology and was bored by all the social aspects.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mikael Falkvidd

    I love the stories from this era. It created the industry I love and work in. The book feels very accurate and tells a detailed story. I found it a bit heavy sometimes though. If you liked this book you should definitely read iWoz.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Excellent - Xerox really dropped the ball on this one.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mauro

    "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Alan Kay I knew that the Xerox PARC had been important (I saw Pirates of Silicon Valley), but before reading this book I had no idea how much. The did invent the future, all right: personal computing, graphical user interfaces, object-oriented programming, WYSIWYG editors, Ethernet, laser printing, VLSI chip design - the list goes on and on. There's even the suggestion that a protocol developed at PARC influenced TCP/IP. I was pa "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Alan Kay I knew that the Xerox PARC had been important (I saw Pirates of Silicon Valley), but before reading this book I had no idea how much. The did invent the future, all right: personal computing, graphical user interfaces, object-oriented programming, WYSIWYG editors, Ethernet, laser printing, VLSI chip design - the list goes on and on. There's even the suggestion that a protocol developed at PARC influenced TCP/IP. I was particularly impressed at how they created a microprocessor-based (unlike the Alto) portable computer with Smalltalk, bitmapped display, multiprocessing and networking - the Xerox NoteTaker - in 1976... how did Xerox fail to market this?! It was exasperating to read how Xerox was falling on hard times as they lost market share to Japanese photocopier manufacturers, even as they were sitting on a frigging gold mine. The technical bits in this book were interesting (even the layman explanation of object-oriented programming was pretty decent), as well as the colorful portraits of the guys and gals who created all this wonderful stuff, but I ended up skimming over the many pages about corporate infighting and politics.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Maguire

    I've read "Where Wizards Stay Up Late", and "Steve Jobs" --- this book is a nice piece of history linking the events of those two things. It's a fun read about a bunch of visionaries and their cool engineering. Though the book hit a little too close to home; the toxic politics inside PARC reminded me of a lot of the otherwise-great jobs I've had! Xerox's bureaucracy's complete incapacity to do anything with their amazing research is a great warning against growing too big. The PARC gu I've read "Where Wizards Stay Up Late", and "Steve Jobs" --- this book is a nice piece of history linking the events of those two things. It's a fun read about a bunch of visionaries and their cool engineering. Though the book hit a little too close to home; the toxic politics inside PARC reminded me of a lot of the otherwise-great jobs I've had! Xerox's bureaucracy's complete incapacity to do anything with their amazing research is a great warning against growing too big. The PARC guys are inspiring; they aren't allowed to buy a computer so they say "fuck it, we'll just make one." They don't have the cash to buy fancy speakers, so they reverse engineer someone's set, learn what they need to, and then build their own for 1/10th of the cost. They need to send files back and forth, but they are in two separate offices a few miles apart. So they hook up some lasers on the roof and beam the information to a truck parked half way, which beams it the rest of the way. Pretty good solution compared to waiting for months to run the cables!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Richard Rossi

    This book is not for everyone because it contains a lot of office politics. But it does document the role PARC played in the 1970's in laying the foundation for much of what we now take for granted in computer technology. I worked at Xerox during the 70's, spent many hours at PARC on business and was personally involved in some of the products that used PARC inventions. I also witnessed the corporate level office politics that caused PARC so much trouble. I knew many of the corporate players and This book is not for everyone because it contains a lot of office politics. But it does document the role PARC played in the 1970's in laying the foundation for much of what we now take for granted in computer technology. I worked at Xerox during the 70's, spent many hours at PARC on business and was personally involved in some of the products that used PARC inventions. I also witnessed the corporate level office politics that caused PARC so much trouble. I knew many of the corporate players and the author got it right. I even learned how my personal actions had consequences I never knew about. So I enjoyed the book very much. It is hard for me to know how others would like this book because I was too close to the events he described. If you think you know a lot about how we got from 1969 to the birth of personal computing to where we are today, you are probably wrong and you might be astounded to.learn how it all came about.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Artem

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It is incredible how many technologies in use today were actually originating from Xerox PARC. To name a few: personal computers and idea of a laptop, computer mouse, Ethernet, laser printer, graphical user interface, object oriented programming language SmallTalk, hyper text, WYSIWYG, word processor, PostScript, video processing and computer animation, and many more. It was time for those technologies so question of origin is always arguable but it is hard to not appreciate the ambition of visi It is incredible how many technologies in use today were actually originating from Xerox PARC. To name a few: personal computers and idea of a laptop, computer mouse, Ethernet, laser printer, graphical user interface, object oriented programming language SmallTalk, hyper text, WYSIWYG, word processor, PostScript, video processing and computer animation, and many more. It was time for those technologies so question of origin is always arguable but it is hard to not appreciate the ambition of vision of those who were designing those things at PARC knowing that it will take time before being usable and publicly accessible/affordable decade or so later. It is even more incredible how little of it was actually leveraged by Xerox. Interesting reading as part of the computer history.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura T

    What an amazingly well written book about a complex situation. For anyone interested in the dawn of computing and the players that are huge name in computer science this is a must read. In fact, I'd go as far as say this should be mandatory reading for and computer science 101 student (and beyond). It also gives an interesting perspective on research in industrial settings and how products come to market. Hiltzik writes with a decisive and confident voice so, as a small nitpick, I wonder a bit h What an amazingly well written book about a complex situation. For anyone interested in the dawn of computing and the players that are huge name in computer science this is a must read. In fact, I'd go as far as say this should be mandatory reading for and computer science 101 student (and beyond). It also gives an interesting perspective on research in industrial settings and how products come to market. Hiltzik writes with a decisive and confident voice so, as a small nitpick, I wonder a bit how unbiased some of the stories are. That being said, I am still recommending this book to all my geeky computer science or rnd friends.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Themistocles

    I started reading this with very high expectations. Unfortunately the result didn't satisfy me completely. Yes, the story is very interesting, yes the era is exciting and all that, but after a while I realised that insisting on describing person after person and all the power struggles and corporate politics becomes tiresome after a while. In contrast to that, Hiltzik offers little info on the products themselves and, as a result, I didn't come out any wiser about them than I was when I started reading this with very high expectations. Unfortunately the result didn't satisfy me completely. Yes, the story is very interesting, yes the era is exciting and all that, but after a while I realised that insisting on describing person after person and all the power struggles and corporate politics becomes tiresome after a while. In contrast to that, Hiltzik offers little info on the products themselves and, as a result, I didn't come out any wiser about them than I was when I started reading it. Oh, I did learn a few things about photocopiers, but... the Alto, people! Give me something more!!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eric Yap

    An incredible story, a significant story that is worth being told. Lots of people are told the mythologized version of this story of these incredible inventions and Xerox's failure to bring them to market. By delving into absolute detail we understand the human dynamics and the commercial realities which were faced by everyone involved at PARC, and we get a better understanding of how research and development is managed. Readers will be able to take away a lesson from this story that "inventing An incredible story, a significant story that is worth being told. Lots of people are told the mythologized version of this story of these incredible inventions and Xerox's failure to bring them to market. By delving into absolute detail we understand the human dynamics and the commercial realities which were faced by everyone involved at PARC, and we get a better understanding of how research and development is managed. Readers will be able to take away a lesson from this story that "inventing the future" is not enough, and bringing it to the world is not so easy even in the best circumstances. Can't recommend this enough!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tushant Mittal

    I rarely were review but this book blew my mind. Brilliantly written, it was the perfect book for me to read right before starting my PhD in computer science. Beautifully explains the passion with which researchers invent, the challenges of a corporate setting and how shortsightedness causes regrettable decisions. The skill of the writer shows as this is not just an information dump of the events in a chronological order but is rather a history furnished with clearly thought out opinions thereby I rarely were review but this book blew my mind. Brilliantly written, it was the perfect book for me to read right before starting my PhD in computer science. Beautifully explains the passion with which researchers invent, the challenges of a corporate setting and how shortsightedness causes regrettable decisions. The skill of the writer shows as this is not just an information dump of the events in a chronological order but is rather a history furnished with clearly thought out opinions thereby creating a very balanced and nuanced treatment of an often oversimplified topic. It definitely is a must read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kaspars Laizans

    Author is not the most tech-savvy one abd definitely not the best to cover such an epic topic as PARC. Respect for the amount of work invested in book though. Generally a neat story glorifying CS research geniuses significance of whose work was lost to the management of Xerox for their own loss. Stories playing up the mythos of brilliance of PARCers while entertaining, are not too technically nor socially revealing. Sadly, the topic is of interest mostly to CS/IT people, fo Author is not the most tech-savvy one abd definitely not the best to cover such an epic topic as PARC. Respect for the amount of work invested in book though. Generally a neat story glorifying CS research geniuses significance of whose work was lost to the management of Xerox for their own loss. Stories playing up the mythos of brilliance of PARCers while entertaining, are not too technically nor socially revealing. Sadly, the topic is of interest mostly to CS/IT people, for whom book is technically too simplistic. For others the topic might be too technical to be of any interest. So, in conclusion - bad mach of author/style with target audience.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian Olinger

    Excellent read on a very interesting period of the innovation and change in the field of research and computing. I do not have a technical or academic research background and found the technical very accessible. The book is also a well-paced narrative with strong character development. Unlike most books that take the lazy narrative of the hero researcher and the villainous corporate monolith, this book offers a much more nuanced view of the challenges of identifying and harnessing radically new Excellent read on a very interesting period of the innovation and change in the field of research and computing. I do not have a technical or academic research background and found the technical very accessible. The book is also a well-paced narrative with strong character development. Unlike most books that take the lazy narrative of the hero researcher and the villainous corporate monolith, this book offers a much more nuanced view of the challenges of identifying and harnessing radically new technology. Pair this book with "The Idea Factory", a history of Bell Labs, to get a full immersion into the history of research in the 20th century.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Philip Joubert

    The actual Xerox PARC story is incredible - they invented most of modern computing - but this book didn't do it for me. There are endless lists of people involved in projects, but very little mentioned about how these innovations came about and what challenges they faced. It reads like a corporate's version of the PARC story rather than the story of the innovators. It was also pretty frustrating that the author hinted at a few super interesting nuggets but never went into detail. One example tha The actual Xerox PARC story is incredible - they invented most of modern computing - but this book didn't do it for me. There are endless lists of people involved in projects, but very little mentioned about how these innovations came about and what challenges they faced. It reads like a corporate's version of the PARC story rather than the story of the innovators. It was also pretty frustrating that the author hinted at a few super interesting nuggets but never went into detail. One example that stands out is how teams and projects were formed, which was a kind of Darwinian system that seems to have been copied by Valve year later.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Doctor Thunder

    Very readable, kept me going with a good story flow and lots of interesting tales of how so many modern technological wonders we all know came to be. A much richer view of a story many people think they know, with colorful characters and descriptions of now well-known technologies in their infancy. Inspired me to seek out more info on many of the people and products and stories it touched on. Would definitely recommend this book, and for another great book like it I'd push Hackers: He Very readable, kept me going with a good story flow and lots of interesting tales of how so many modern technological wonders we all know came to be. A much richer view of a story many people think they know, with colorful characters and descriptions of now well-known technologies in their infancy. Inspired me to seek out more info on many of the people and products and stories it touched on. Would definitely recommend this book, and for another great book like it I'd push Hackers: Heroes Of The Computer Age by Steven Levy on anyone interested in computer history.

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