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Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer

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In the early 1970s the personal computer was just a wild dream shared by a small group of computer enthusiats in an area south of San Francisco now called Silicon Valley. Working after-hours in basements and warehouses, computer pioneers Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Appel Computer, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Gary Kildall of Digital Research, and many others ignited a In the early 1970s the personal computer was just a wild dream shared by a small group of computer enthusiats in an area south of San Francisco now called Silicon Valley. Working after-hours in basements and warehouses, computer pioneers Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Appel Computer, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Gary Kildall of Digital Research, and many others ignited a technological revolution of astounding magnituce. This is the story of those individuals and th industry they founded. It reveals the visions they shared, the sacrifices they made, and the rewards they reaped.


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In the early 1970s the personal computer was just a wild dream shared by a small group of computer enthusiats in an area south of San Francisco now called Silicon Valley. Working after-hours in basements and warehouses, computer pioneers Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Appel Computer, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Gary Kildall of Digital Research, and many others ignited a In the early 1970s the personal computer was just a wild dream shared by a small group of computer enthusiats in an area south of San Francisco now called Silicon Valley. Working after-hours in basements and warehouses, computer pioneers Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Appel Computer, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Gary Kildall of Digital Research, and many others ignited a technological revolution of astounding magnituce. This is the story of those individuals and th industry they founded. It reveals the visions they shared, the sacrifices they made, and the rewards they reaped.

30 review for Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    (3.0) Was expecting it to be more entertaining Okay, decent stab at a comprehensive history of the personal computer. Definitely achieves the breadth of that ambitious goal, so I give it credit there. I've been wanting to read this for a while, so still glad that I have. I don't know quite what it was missing. Wasn't as good as Hackers, though certainly covered a lot of the same ground (at times, felt like I was rereading sections from Hackers, and kind of wonder if one of the two books borrowed (3.0) Was expecting it to be more entertaining Okay, decent stab at a comprehensive history of the personal computer. Definitely achieves the breadth of that ambitious goal, so I give it credit there. I've been wanting to read this for a while, so still glad that I have. I don't know quite what it was missing. Wasn't as good as Hackers, though certainly covered a lot of the same ground (at times, felt like I was rereading sections from Hackers, and kind of wonder if one of the two books borrowed from the other? -- Fire in the Valley doesn't seem to give any sources, bibliographies or suggest when/who was interviewed, kinda weird). For the times that overlapped, I felt that we got more in-depth in Hackers, though at least Fire in the Valley did get it right that Microsoft bought first version of PC-DOS and Bill Gates didn't write it. Think the way this was told was unfortunate as well. He tried to pick someone important for each section/chapter and do a quick bio from early on till their heyday and fade away. This resulted in really short narratives and also people being formally introduced into the narrative many pages after they first appear. The way it reads like we hadn't actually read about someone till the chapter that actually focuses on them. This was most apparent to me when I reached the Gary Kildall section. Another stylistic thing were his 'cliffhangers' at the end of almost every section. It was his segue device, to drop a hint that something momentous would change the course of the current subject's life/livelihood. And then we jump way back in time to the next entrepreneur's early career, build back up to the event that the previous section/chapter hinted at. It's pretty gimmicky, and in a book this large, it eventually got very tiresome. I guess what I'm thinking is that I'd much rather read 10 separate books that each focus on a single thread of narrative. We'd get much more into the meat of it. For example, far more enjoyed reading Steve Jobs than this. I do admit Jobs is probably one of the more colorful stories to tell here of course. ;) Bugs: * p65: seems to get MIT and MITS confused (typo) * p230 (or so): cued up instead of queued up * 359: "...could Scully bring himself demote [Steve Jobs]..." (missing a "to" in there, I think) (otherwise not bad, but seems these could've been caught, especially in a fancy new edition)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    A year was a lifetime in those days.—Lee Felsenstein (SOL and Osborne 1 designer) Since I lived in Michigan at the time most of these events took place, I was isolated from them. I had a TRS-80 Model I from 1980 through 1987. The Tandy computers were the top-sellers from the moment it came out in 1976 through at least 1980 and probably 1982. Since Tandy was not a west coast business, it figures little in these pages, however: the “valley” of the title is Silicon Valley, and the stars of this book A year was a lifetime in those days.—Lee Felsenstein (SOL and Osborne 1 designer) Since I lived in Michigan at the time most of these events took place, I was isolated from them. I had a TRS-80 Model I from 1980 through 1987. The Tandy computers were the top-sellers from the moment it came out in 1976 through at least 1980 and probably 1982. Since Tandy was not a west coast business, it figures little in these pages, however: the “valley” of the title is Silicon Valley, and the stars of this book are people I heard about only in passing in my corner of the nascent computer industry. (For very personal, and Michigan-centered, history of the TRS-80 corner, I highly recommend David & Theresa Welsh’s Priming the Pump: How TRS-80 Enthusiasts Helped Spark the PC Revolution.) This is a big book; it covers a lot of ground, but still manages to miss some things that I think are important, especially to the authors’ focus on the free-wheeling, open character of the west coast hobby community. For example, Bob Albrecht comes up as a prominent early proponent of BASIC and one of the founders of Dr. Dobb’s Journal. He called himself “the dragon”, the authors write. They leave out—or perhaps don’t know—that Albrecht was a figure in another west coast phenomenon, Dungeons & Dragons. He wrote about fantasy roleplaying both in the context of computers, in Rainbow Magazine (a magazine for owners of Tandy’s Color Computer), and on their own, for example, The Adventurer's Handbook: A Guide to Role Playing Games. The gaming community back then was very similar to the computer hobbyist community, and shared many of the same values (much to TSR’s chagrin). And there are, as far as I can tell, outright mistakes. In 1980, Radio Shack introduced a spate of new machines. Its Pocket Computer, slightly larger than an advanced calculator with four times the memory of the original Altair, sold for $229. Its Color Computer, at $399, offered graphics in eight colors and up to 16K of memory. And the TRS-80 Model II was an upgrade of the Model I. The Model II wasn’t an upgrade of the Model I; it was a completely different machine aimed at a completely different market, and sold concurrently with the Model I line. This is somewhat important, and plays into the overall thesis of the book, which is that this was all completely new. We see consecutive model numbers today and we think, of course, the second was a newer model of the first. But this was a new industry with new players, and many of them, Radio Shack included, were flying by the seat of their pants. They may well have figured they’d keep the Model I for consumers and the II for businesses and treat their computers like any other appliance, always selling the same model with slight upgrades. As it turned out, they soon created the Model III to replace the I, and renumbered their business line entirely. Similarly, there’s a photo of “Michael Shrayer with his pioneering word processor, Electric Pencil, in 1976”. But Shrayer is clearly showing off his software on a TRS-80 Model III—which wasn’t released until 1980. I know about these errors because I’m familiar with the computers; I can’t know if similar errors exist in the rest of the book. Another flaw is that each chapter is written as a sort of mini-essay, sometimes repeating what we already know from previous chapters but not nearly redundant enough for each to stand on their own. Those are the flaws. The book is otherwise fascinating, explaining figures I’ve otherwise heard of only in passing or not at all: Ted Nelson, Gary Kildall, the Homebrew Computer Club, the early Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and Paul Allen. There’s a great anecdote about Paul Allen flying to Albuquerque to show off his and Bill Gates’s newly-created BASIC to MITS (the makers of the Altair 8080) and realizing while on the flight that they had neglected to write a “loader program” to load their software onto someone else’s Altair. All he had was a bunch of paper tape and no way to show it off to MITS. So he wrote a loader program on paper while flying, and switched it in (the Altair had no keyboard—it used switches to enter machine code in binary) cold. It worked. One of the undercurrents running throughout the book is that these things were built because the people building them wanted to use them. Nobody else was making them, so they had to do it themselves. Writing about Steve Wozniak in high school, before the Apple I: He knew that he was going to design computers himself one day—he hadn’t the slightest doubt of that. Only one thing bothered him: he wanted to design them now. He didn’t have a college degree, or even a high school degree yet. In order to design computers, he had to do it on his own. As big as it is, the book also feels very unfinished. It ends with Apple acquiring NeXT and Steve Jobs ousting Gil Amelio to become Apple’s interim CEO. The iMac has just become a success, but there is no iPod, no iPhone, not even OS X: Apple’s future is still very much in doubt. Netscape has just gone open source and been bought by AOL and Sun, but it is still a viable competitor to Internet Explorer. Dr. Dobb’s Journal still existed. And Java, running code downloaded from the Internet, was still considered secure. Google, which would fit right into their thesis, is nowhere here, though the company had been founded a year or two before publication. The book is copyrighted 2000, but may have been finished in 1999: there is no date later than 1999. Page and Brin began developing Google in 1996; Google started in 1997, and the web site was running no later than December of 1998, according to the Internet Archive. The book is most useful for the early years; even by 1980 when I discovered that a teenager could own a computer, names like Altair, MITS, and even IMSAI were only vague memories. There were references to them in one old computer magazine I picked up (Hobby Computer Handbook) but by the time I started reading current magazines, they were gone. Despite its flaws, if you’re interested in the period, I do recommend this book. Why are video games so much better designed than office software? Video games are designed by people who love to play video games. Office software is designed by people who want to do something else on the weekend.—Ted Nelson

  3. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Loved this book! I read it back when it was first published and during the time I was working at my first job after graduating from Cal...Apple. The mid-late 80's at Apple were the best of times (Mac intro, the "1984" commercial, huge profit margins, brilliant & creative colleagues, and wildly over the top parties) and the worst of times (Black Friday layoffs of '85, the rebellious black pirate flag hanging atop the Mac building (Steve's lair), the bitter and acrimonious dethroning and Loved this book! I read it back when it was first published and during the time I was working at my first job after graduating from Cal...Apple. The mid-late 80's at Apple were the best of times (Mac intro, the "1984" commercial, huge profit margins, brilliant & creative colleagues, and wildly over the top parties) and the worst of times (Black Friday layoffs of '85, the rebellious black pirate flag hanging atop the Mac building (Steve's lair), the bitter and acrimonious dethroning and departure of Steve (Jobs), Gil Amelio, and more layoffs. For anyone that worked in Silicon Valley then, and now, this is a fascinating and accurate portrayal of the leaders and visionaries who helped shape the technology industry.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Fire in the Valley is one of the seminal books on the history of personal computing and still has value. Over time, most books on the subject have tended to focus on the chosen few who have become household names (especially Jobs and Gates), but at the time when this book was first written, it was not yet obvious who would be canonized in the long run. Thus, Fire in the Valley, describes the key contributions of dozens and dozens of individuals whose names have mostly been forgotten. The book Fire in the Valley is one of the seminal books on the history of personal computing and still has value. Over time, most books on the subject have tended to focus on the chosen few who have become household names (especially Jobs and Gates), but at the time when this book was first written, it was not yet obvious who would be canonized in the long run. Thus, Fire in the Valley, describes the key contributions of dozens and dozens of individuals whose names have mostly been forgotten. The book reminds us how communal and democratized the early days of personal computing were. Hundreds of hobbyists, from around the country (not just Silicon Valley), contributed to the development of the computer. That said, the book's comprehensive nature leaves it somewhat diffuse, and some readers might, by the end, find themselves longing for something simpler (a biography of Jobs), even if it means missing out on the many heroes of the early computing revolution. I recommend it more for its value as a history than as a pleasant read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cori

    An entirely captivating look at how the technology of the personal computer evolved from garage hobby project to household essential. I read the original 1984 version first and was left thirsting for more so tracked down this updated one. The only downside is that it is in desperate need of updating again because 10 years have passed since this edition. I would love to see a new version or a new book written on the further impact of the Internet, Social Networking, and how Silicon Valley An entirely captivating look at how the technology of the personal computer evolved from garage hobby project to household essential. I read the original 1984 version first and was left thirsting for more so tracked down this updated one. The only downside is that it is in desperate need of updating again because 10 years have passed since this edition. I would love to see a new version or a new book written on the further impact of the Internet, Social Networking, and how Silicon Valley recovered from the dotcom bust. I believe there are more stories to tell and these guys are the ones to do it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jan Van Ryswyck

    Amazing storytelling about the birth and rise of the personal computer. Required reading for anyone in the IT industry.Favorite quote from the book: "Let's not worry about conformity and tradition. Let's just do whatever works and let's have fun doing it."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Case

    The book significantly underestimates gaming's role in promoting the adoption of computing technologies. I'm to get more into this in depth with my video review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John Harvard

    A fast-paced narrative documenting the development of the PC industry, from the emergence of the Altair computer in the seventies to the arrival of the internet and AOL in the late nineties. The book is not technical and does not need any formal understanding of computers to be enjoyed. It is the story of the PC revolution and the personalities behind it. The book spends a fair bit of time portraying key personalities who were behind the PC revolution and how they incrementally built on each A fast-paced narrative documenting the development of the PC industry, from the emergence of the Altair computer in the seventies to the arrival of the internet and AOL in the late nineties. The book is not technical and does not need any formal understanding of computers to be enjoyed. It is the story of the PC revolution and the personalities behind it. The book spends a fair bit of time portraying key personalities who were behind the PC revolution and how they incrementally built on each others efforts to continually improve the PC and make it more affordable. The title of the book is wholly appropriate, it was really a wildfire of ideas and efforts in Silicon Valley that led to the PC revolution. A similar revolution seems to be occurring in Silicon Valley in Artificial Intelligence, or AI, today where every company seems to be taking incremental steps and learning from others to make AI ever more powerful and accurate in its predictive capability.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dan Cohen

    A decent account of the fascinating few years that saw the birth of the PC industry. I was impressed by the fact that the author kept a wide angle view and so did not neglect to write about the journals, fairs, clubs, retailers and other key elements of the scene, in addition to the obvious players (hardware and software vendors). Perhaps a little overly US-centric for my taste (although the title of the book means I can't say I wasn't warned). I might have found the book a little easier to A decent account of the fascinating few years that saw the birth of the PC industry. I was impressed by the fact that the author kept a wide angle view and so did not neglect to write about the journals, fairs, clubs, retailers and other key elements of the scene, in addition to the obvious players (hardware and software vendors). Perhaps a little overly US-centric for my taste (although the title of the book means I can't say I wasn't warned). I might have found the book a little easier to follow if it had been structured more by date and less by, say, company, but that's a quibble. Definitely worth a read if you are interested in the subject.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    I've read many books that covered the history of computers, with Steven Levy's Hackers being a favorite. This book had anecdotes of never seen before. It was an exciting read even knowing large portions of the history it covers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John Hart

    The book contain some new info to me but the story line jumped around a bit. I listened to the audio book version and that is where everything fell apart for me. The narrator has absolutely no emotion in his voice.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    An interesting contemporary account of the development of personal computers

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dan Rozanski

    One of my favorite books...movie wasn't bad either (Pirates of Silicon Valley)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Padley Masson

    an interesting account of how it all began.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kian

    As a child of the 80s, and a learner of the 90s, I grew up in an exciting era in personal computing. I literally cut my teeth on a ZX Spectrum, and then after learning how that worked inside and out, as a family we eventually upgraded to an Escom IBM compatable PC. I started hacking BASIC programs when I was old enough to type and moved on to Pascal, Delphi and Visual Basic when I was in secondary up to Java, C# and more modern languages as time went on. I've been in this industry a while. I know As a child of the 80s, and a learner of the 90s, I grew up in an exciting era in personal computing. I literally cut my teeth on a ZX Spectrum, and then after learning how that worked inside and out, as a family we eventually upgraded to an Escom IBM compatable PC. I started hacking BASIC programs when I was old enough to type and moved on to Pascal, Delphi and Visual Basic when I was in secondary up to Java, C# and more modern languages as time went on. I've been in this industry a while. I know the struggles of the UK home computing industry, between Sir Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry and the inevitable demise and arrival of Atari and Amiga. When we moved on to IBM PCs, I started to follow what was then the relatively mature industry, with Gates and Jobs as very prominent icons. Whilst all this was going on, I had very little idea of the early history of personal computing, the things that happened before the Z80 processor and Clive Sinclair's little black box. [Fire In The Valley](https://pragprog.com/book/fsfire/fire...) is a history of the personal computing from the MITS Altair through to the present day. I expected a dry history, a page by page presentation of facts and was pleasantly surprised by quite a compulsive page-turner giving a sense of real excitement to the early and developing industry. Whilst *Fire In The Valley* claims to be a complete history of personal computing, it clearly thrives on the early years, with a distinctive focus on MITS, IMSAI, Processor Technology, Apple, the companies and cultures of the 1960s through to the 1990s. The late few chapters do focus on the rise of Windows, Apple and the post-PC era but the bulk of the book is on these early years. The book is organised mostly around subjects rather than presenting a chronological history. Where one chapter will deal with the development of the computer manufacturing industry from the 1960s through to the mid 1970s you'll then find yourself cast back to the mid 1960s for a discussion of early computer publishing. Check the dates whilst you're reading to make sure you're when you think you are and you'll be fine. I found this book surprisingly inspiring. It's full of stories of geeks starting out businesses with very little, mostly from their garage sheds. Some rise, some fell, and it was interesting to see how much hard graft went in to building these empires. As someone coming in to the IBM PC era during the 90s, it was very easy to see these people as having it all handed to them on a plate, where the realities were lots of late nights, dodgy deals, fallen ventures and near bankruptcy. It's excellent reading, and really fills in the details for those of us working in the industry today.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Senthil Kumaran

    This is one of the finest book written on the history of personal computers and computer revolution tracing back from 1960 to 1984. It traces it back to the hobbyist culture which shaped the industry. It talks about the attempts made my individuals who were interested in electronics, computers and who cared about this thing even before it was widely known to the general public. The history of machines and companies like IMSAI took me by surprise as even in the very early days, there was this This is one of the finest book written on the history of personal computers and computer revolution tracing back from 1960 to 1984. It traces it back to the hobbyist culture which shaped the industry. It talks about the attempts made my individuals who were interested in electronics, computers and who cared about this thing even before it was widely known to the general public. The history of machines and companies like IMSAI took me by surprise as even in the very early days, there was this company which was completely run by sales people and where technology had a backseat. But as challenges kept on, IMSAI faded because the technology was the ruler of this industry. It shows how the MITS ALTAIR computers helped spread the imagination of ownership of personal computers, but they were not perfect and had lot of short-comings in their engineering that led others catch on in the game. The story of young programmer bill gates is fascinating and it becomes more interesting towards as he works out his partnership with a big company like IBM. The story of Steve and Woz, and their differing personalities, styles makes an interesting read too. Steve seems to have had am ambition to build a great business and he pursued it like a religious leader would with his ideology, Woz on the other hand was an engineer, a fun loving type with no interest in business. I had an idea of Gary Kidall, who was the original author of DOS operating system and I thought that he lost out in the revolution, but this book corrected me as I learnt that Gary Kidall did make millions with his invention of DOS and enjoyed the lifestyle he wanted. Here are some of the photos from this book which shows the various revolutions. I bet each of them have an Wikipedia entry that you can read further on. https://plus.google.com/photos/108858...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    If you have time or interest to read only one book about the history of the personal computer, this is that book. I have read and reviewed many related titles; this is one of the few to to encapsulate both the PC's technical and entrepreneurial history. The building blocks: the first microprocessors in the early 1970’s, the release of the CP/M operating system in 1974, and the the Altair BASIC programming language and Altair 8800 in 1975. Swaine and Freiberger ask and effectively answer relevant If you have time or interest to read only one book about the history of the personal computer, this is that book. I have read and reviewed many related titles; this is one of the few to to encapsulate both the PC's technical and entrepreneurial history. The building blocks: the first microprocessors in the early 1970’s, the release of the CP/M operating system in 1974, and the the Altair BASIC programming language and Altair 8800 in 1975. Swaine and Freiberger ask and effectively answer relevant questions including why the PC revolution was sparked by individuals, while business-orientated suppliers such as Hewlett Packard, initially resisted PC initiatives. The authors also point to the release of the Apple iMac in 1998 as the crowning achievement in PC development - following this laptop computers and smaller devices increasingly became popular. Added chapters for the third edition include discussion about mobile platform development and cloud-based storage. The personal insights of computer scientists and engineers turned entrepreneurs including the late Gary Kildall, Lee Felsenstein and Ed Roberts, help make this book a very engaging read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    As the short timeframe on reading this book might indicate, it was engaging. I feel I haves better understanding of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as a result. The myth of IBM going with Microsoft for their operating system, because Gary Kildal was to busy flying, gets debunked. The notion that Bill Gates was just able to buy another operating system, cheap, from someone else and slap it onto the IBM PC is also debunked. If you're looking for the proliferation or urban legends and myths, As the short timeframe on reading this book might indicate, it was engaging. I feel I haves better understanding of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as a result. The myth of IBM going with Microsoft for their operating system, because Gary Kildal was to busy flying, gets debunked. The notion that Bill Gates was just able to buy another operating system, cheap, from someone else and slap it onto the IBM PC is also debunked. If you're looking for the proliferation or urban legends and myths, you will hate this book. If you're looking for an honest, sober look at the creation of the PC industry, and a good lead-in on the post-PC era, start here. The who and the why are at least as important as the what. Why did they do that? Why was he able to do that, then, when others had failed? These are clearly laid out. Many things which seem bizarre today make perfect sense when viewed through the lens of the time and the circumstances. Probably the most informative book I've seen WRT IMSAI. While they're an historical footnote today, their existence brings interesting lessons for those would hope to duplicate their one-time success.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christophe Addinquy

    This an historical fresque about the story of the creation of the personal computer. It goes little beyond that, but it's essentially that. But more than history, this book is about people, about the little stories behind the history. Nearly all action is in the silicon valley, but not all of it. This is where we learn surprising things about Bill Gates, where the relationship between the two Apple's Steve are clarified, where the importance of rather unknown characters are raised. It's not a This an historical fresque about the story of the creation of the personal computer. It goes little beyond that, but it's essentially that. But more than history, this book is about people, about the little stories behind the history. Nearly all action is in the silicon valley, but not all of it. This is where we learn surprising things about Bill Gates, where the relationship between the two Apple's Steve are clarified, where the importance of rather unknown characters are raised. It's not a light read, but excellent reading from cover to cover. The author know his subject and in fact was directly connected to key peoples. The text make the choice of an organization by subject rather than strict chronologic order, but the chronology is overall respected. An excellent book. Ma note de lecture en Français ici

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A late 90s update to the 1984 history of the personal computer. The chapters up to the end of the original timeline I found a little confusing; telling the story by subject rather than strictly chronologically, combined with the number of names floating from company to company made it tough to keep track of cause and effect at times. And slight updates to early chapters were awkward and at times felt like typos. But the chapters taking it from the introduction of the Macintosh to the early A late 90s update to the 1984 history of the personal computer. The chapters up to the end of the original timeline I found a little confusing; telling the story by subject rather than strictly chronologically, combined with the number of names floating from company to company made it tough to keep track of cause and effect at times. And slight updates to early chapters were awkward and at times felt like typos. But the chapters taking it from the introduction of the Macintosh to the early Department of Justice cases against Monopoly were much more straightforward and several sections following up with some early figures were an excellent addition (although still 20th century). It still makes me laugh that this came with a CD-Rom (although the library I borrowed it from did not include it).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tero Kuittinen

    Probably the best book about tech industry I have ever read. It's fascinating just how clueless major corporations were about the personal computer industry - and how the early computer firms cobbled together their products figuring things out as they went along. Also shocking how small the early R&D budgets and tight the development timelines for early video games were. So many classic hardware and software products were hastily slapped together with minimal time for polishing, let alone Probably the best book about tech industry I have ever read. It's fascinating just how clueless major corporations were about the personal computer industry - and how the early computer firms cobbled together their products figuring things out as they went along. Also shocking how small the early R&D budgets and tight the development timelines for early video games were. So many classic hardware and software products were hastily slapped together with minimal time for polishing, let alone testing. The feverish pace of advances is captured with real verve and great details by Freiberger. This book is likely to sweep along even readers who assume they have zero interest in Silicon Valley's history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Neville Ridley-smith

    Incredibly detailed account of the various people and companies that started the PC revolution. It's almost too detailed. A lot of it I've already forgotten. Fortunately it's organised in a way that I could easily find out those details if I wanted to. The organisation of the book has it's upsides and downsides. It constantly goes back and forth in time with each chapter. Each chapter takes it's appropriate topic and traces it through the appropriate time, so one chapter may cover 1975-1980, then Incredibly detailed account of the various people and companies that started the PC revolution. It's almost too detailed. A lot of it I've already forgotten. Fortunately it's organised in a way that I could easily find out those details if I wanted to. The organisation of the book has it's upsides and downsides. It constantly goes back and forth in time with each chapter. Each chapter takes it's appropriate topic and traces it through the appropriate time, so one chapter may cover 1975-1980, then the next will cover 1976-1979. It would be nice to have a second version of the book that puts everything in chronological order. The benefit is that information about particular topics/people/companies are consolidated in individual chapters. Anyway, great book if a bit dry at times.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bjoern Rochel

    The majority of the book (80 %) is spend pre 1984. That was a bit unexpected to me, since I've seen 'Pirates of Silicon Valley' before which as far as I know is based on this book. The movie mostly focusses on Apple and Microsoft throughout the 80s, but those two companies are just a minor part of the book. Not a bummer though, I hadn't head the story of IMSAI, MITS, the Altair and all the other interesting developments of that time before. The last 15% then rush through the development of the The majority of the book (80 %) is spend pre 1984. That was a bit unexpected to me, since I've seen 'Pirates of Silicon Valley' before which as far as I know is based on this book. The movie mostly focusses on Apple and Microsoft throughout the 80s, but those two companies are just a minor part of the book. Not a bummer though, I hadn't head the story of IMSAI, MITS, the Altair and all the other interesting developments of that time before. The last 15% then rush through the development of the last 25 years, which is nice but doesn't of course reach the depth of the old material. I wish someone would write up something that detailed for those 25 years as well .... Should be a must read for everyone involved in information technology.

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Desmarais

    Nicely researched history of the industry. I grew up as a hobbyist during the birth of the personal computer, and so experienced (from mostly the outside) a lot of what is covered in this book, but the authors do a nice job of both covering the history and - through a liberal use of anecdotes - make it interesting and personal. They also manage to refute a few of the goofier myths and legends that cropped up during the early years of the industry, and revealed a few that I had not known about. Nicely researched history of the industry. I grew up as a hobbyist during the birth of the personal computer, and so experienced (from mostly the outside) a lot of what is covered in this book, but the authors do a nice job of both covering the history and - through a liberal use of anecdotes - make it interesting and personal. They also manage to refute a few of the goofier myths and legends that cropped up during the early years of the industry, and revealed a few that I had not known about. All in all, a pretty entertaining and informative read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hemanta Gupta

    Fine work, especially the first half about MITS and the Homebrew Computer Club. Required reading for anyone in the current crop who thinks the tech industry is only about chasing funding and billion dollar valuations. -1 though for the less spirited second half and the rather unfocused, tacked-on epilogue about the post-PC era. P.S. also required reading for fans of Pirates of Silicon Valley; this is the book the movie was adapted from.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    A fascinating look into the early (and not so early) days of the microcomputer. Very interesting stories of the very beginnings of microcomputers, leading up to the usual Apple / Jobs soap opera stories. This 2nd edition goes up to about 1999, and includes the beginning and end of Netscape. Not enough on where the IBM PC came from, and not enough about the formative value of computer games, but still a worthwhile read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Giddings

    Inspiring. An in-depth exploration of the PC revolution, with a new final chapter covering the rise of mobile devices as the PC has moved from the desk and into our hands. It's a great read to understand how the revolution started, and an inspirational one to remember that the next revolution in devices could be just around the corner.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matt Mcglothlin

    Very thorough history of the pc revolution and its origins which ironically did not come from the big mincomputer companies of the time like IBM. The organization of the narrative could be improved significantly. It's difficult to follow as the author jumps back and forth in time through various stage of pc innovation. It's a good education on early pc and mac products.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amy Gourley

    A fascinating look at the history of the personal computer. It was intersting to read how fast everything developed, computer companies coming out of nowhere, interesting read. The chronology jumps a bit which was a bit annoying. I love looking at picture sections in a book like this but the pictures were a bit out of order.

  30. 5 out of 5

    AnIrishGuy

    Not a totally comprehensive history of the PC. But pretty close. Entertaining read and one which opened my eyes to a few events in the history of computers. All the big players are here and while there aren't any revelations about them, this is still a good read for someone interested in how the computer industry came about.

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