Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make by Robert X. Cringely

By Robert X. Cringely

Laptop production is--after vehicles, strength construction and unlawful drugs--the biggest on the planet, and it truly is one of many final nice good fortune tales in American enterprise. unintended Empires is the trenchant, drastically readable heritage of that undefined, focusing as a lot at the astoundingly atypical personalities at its core--Steve Jobs, invoice Gates, Mitch Kapor, and so on. and the hacker tradition they spawned because it does at the striking expertise they created. Cringely finds the manias and foibles of those males (they are continually males) with deadpan hilarity and cogently demonstrates how their neuroses have formed the pc enterprise. yet Cringely offers us even more than high-tech voyeurism and insider gossip. From the delivery of the transistor to the mid-life hindrance of the pc undefined, he spins a sweeping, uniquely American saga of creativity and ego that's right now uproarious, surprising and encouraging.

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When balancing your checking account isn't, by itself, enough, why not create an alternate universe where checks don't exist, nobody really dies, and monsters can be killed by jump ing on their heads? That's what computer game designers do. They define what it means to be a sky and a wall and a man, and to have color, and what should happen when man and monster collide, while the rest of us just try to figure out whether interest rates have changed enough to justify refinancing our mortgages. 20 THE TYRANNY OF THE NORMAL DISTRIBUTION Who are these ultrasmart people?

Television was the same way, envisioned at first as a two-way visual communication medium. Early phonographs could record as well as play and were supposed to make record ings that would be sent through the mail, replacing written let ters. The magnetic tape cassette was invented by Phillips for dictation machines, but we use it to hear music on Sony Walkmans. Telephones went the other direction, since Alexander Graham Bell first envisioned his invention being used to pipe music to remote groups of people.

In the actual doing of that voodoo that they do so well, there's a major difference, too, in the way that hippies and nerds write computer programs. Hippies tend to do the right things poorly; nerds tend to do the wrong things well. Hippie program mers are very good at getting a sense of the correct shape of a problem and how to solve it, but when it comes to the actual code writing, they can get sloppy and make major errors through pure boredom. For hippie programmers, the problem is solved when they've figured out how to solve it rather than later, when the work is finished and the problem no longer exists.

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