By Robert X. Cringely
Laptop production is--after autos, strength construction and unlawful drugs--the biggest on the planet, and it really is one of many final nice good fortune tales in American company. unintentional Empires is the trenchant, significantly readable historical past 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 notable expertise they created. Cringely finds the manias and foibles of those males (they are regularly males) with deadpan hilarity and cogently demonstrates how their neuroses have formed the pc company. yet Cringely provides us even more than high-tech voyeurism and insider gossip. From the beginning of the transistor to the mid-life trouble of the pc undefined, he spins a sweeping, uniquely American saga of creativity and ego that's straight away uproarious, stunning and encouraging.
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Donald Knuth is a Stanford 28 THE TYRANNY OF THE NORMAL DISTRIBUTION computer science professor generally acknowledged as having the biggest brain of all—so big that it is capable on occasion of seeing things that aren't really there. Knuth, a nice guy whose first-ever publication was "The Potrszebie System of Weights and Measures" ("one-millionth of a potrszebie is a farshimmelt potr szebie"), in the June 1957 issue of Mad magazine, is better known for his multivolume work The Art of Computer Program ming, the seminal scholarly work in his field.
Microprocessor-based computers would be too cheap to build and would have to sell for too little money. Worse, their lower part counts would increase reliability, hurting the service income that was an important part of every computer company's bottom line in those days. And the big computer companies just didn't have the vision needed to invent the personal computer. Here's a scene that hap pened in the early 1960s at IBM headquarters in Armonk, New York. , and president Al Williams were being briefed on the concept of computing with video dis play terminals and time-sharing, rather than with batches of punch cards.
Breakdowns were frequent, even welcome, since they gave the enthusiast something to brag about 46 WHY THEY DON'T CALL • • IT • COMPUTER VALLEY • to friends. The idea of doing real work with a microcomputer wasn't even considered. Planes that were easy to fly, cars that were easy to drive, computers that were easy to program and use weren't nearly as interesting as those that were cantankerous. The test of the pio neer was how well he did despite his technology. In the comput ing arena, this meant that the best people were those who could most completely adapt to the idiosyncrasies of their computers.