Computer Industry History

So here's a guide to some of the books and links to peruse if you are interested in the industry that has changed the world, seems to be run by kids, employees a lot of us, and is just plain fascinating.

Computer Industry History Links...

Andy Hertzfelds online Folklore Articles

Stanfords The Early Macintosh, 1979-1981

Crack a Mac Challenge; Wired  Tidbits  Cracked 

Triumph of the Nerds

Elsop's History of The Computer & The Internet Links

Open Directory Computer History

Computer History Museum

DigiBarn Computer Museum 


Personal Computer Industry History:

Dealers of Lightning : Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age * - Micheal Hiltzik - A clear eyed view of the history of PARC, with a more detailed story of Steve Jobs visits to PARC then found elsewhere.

Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer * - Paul Freiberger, Michael Swaine - More then just Apple and Microsoft, good coverage of the Homebrew Computer Club and other computer industry pioneers.

Inside Intel : Andrew Grove and the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Chip Company - Tim Jackson - A well written and documented business and technical history of this influential computer company. I thought there were interesting parallels of paranoia and dictatorship with Microsoft.

Accidental Empires - Robert X Cringely - 'How the boys of silicon valley make their millions, battle foreign competition, and still can't get a date' A readable, funny, but informative history with lots of insider gossip. Probably my favorite book on the subject. Perhaps because I have been a big fan of Cringely since his Infoworld days.

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution * - Steven Levy - follows members of an MIT model railroad club (!!) to the Homebrew Computer Club to uncover the origins of the term 'Hack', and uncover more gems of the history of modern computing.

Earlier Computer Industry History:

Father, Son & Co. : My Life at IBM and Beyond - Thomas Watson Jr. - A frank and revealing broad scope picture of IBM, and a compelling human drama of a powerful family. Highly recommended.

Inside Big Blue: Will the Real IBM Please Stand Up? - Jack D. Martin - What's it really like to work for IBM, the most successful mismanaged company in the world ? Written by someone who was there for 30+ years (half in management), and got out alive. Lots of observations and anecdotes, served up with a sense of humor.

Perot: an Unauthorized Biography - Todd Mason - Perot's failures and successes, and an interesting supplement to Albert Lee's Call Me Roger . I was working at GM IS when EDS came in and took over, so I saw some of this from the inside. It was ugly ! And perhaps this book will help explain why I was afraid for American democracy when Perot ran for president.

Soul of a New Machine - Tracy Kidder - An analysis of the development lifecycle of a new 32-bit minicomputer, the Data General Eclipse MV/8000, and the people that did the work, often to extremes, presaging the work style of the PC revolution.

Books on Microsoft:

No puff pieces or hero worship in this list ! Avoid any books (ghost) written by Bill Gates !

Barbarians led by Bill Gates, Microsoft from the Inside - Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller - Microsoft's near-catastrophic failure to see the arrival and success of the Internet.  Also the unplanned success of Windows 3.0, the demise of GO's Pen Windows, and the compromised design and slow success of Windows 95. A final chapter tackles the Netscape-Microsoft browser war and Microsoft's head-on collision with the Justice Department.

The Plot to get Bill Gates - Gary Rivlin - Rivlin takes a deep look into Bill Gates character and of those that oppose him. As well as OS/2, MS Word, Excel, NetWare, Java, and, of course Windows.

The Microsoft Files, the Secret case against Bill Gates - Wendy Rohm - "This is the book that Microsoft doesn't want you to read" a primer for anyone interested in the government's antitrust efforts. Good info, but rather poorly written,

Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled the Future of Microsoft * - David Bank - The downward spiral of Microsoft's public image. Bank's argues that the debate over competing Windows and Internet strategies set the stage for the public spectacle of the trial and the mass exodus of talented employees

Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire * - James Wallace - a relatively short book and an easy read. Gates' psychology, the corporate culture of Microsoft and its evolution, and early years, and material about Ballmer

Microsoft in the Mirror: Nineteen Insiders Reflect on the Experience * - Karin Carter - A good dose of Microsoft workers culture, from the inside. 

Books on Apple:

Revolution in The Valley - Andy Hertzfield - Wonderful stories of the real making of the Macintosh from the people who were there. I read the original online versions, but the book is better organized, edited and has some more material.

Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company - Owen Linzmayer - Probably the best history of Apple Computer. I enjoyed the first version greatly a long time ago, and now it's updated.

Apple : The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders - Jim Carlton - Focuses on the mistakes between the initial and current regimes of Steve Jobs. And how technological innovation is often antithetical to business interests. Great Fun !

Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything - Steven  Levy - The story of the genesis of the Macintosh and the people who developed it. A good read !

The Macintosh Way: The Art of Guerrilla Management - Guy Kawasaki - About Apple and the Apple business method of doing the "right thing the right way". Explains the principles of evangelism, a bold approach to the making and selling of a product. Funny and inspiring.

The Cult of Mac * - Leander Kahney - Mostly from his Wired magazine columns, this coffee table book is great fun for Mac fans. It's about the people that love Macs not the history of the machine.

Guide to the Macintosh Underground: Mac Culture from the Inside - Bob LeVitus, Michael Fraase - A slightly twisted collection of essays about the Macintosh experience, by two Mac outlaw fanatics, written for other fanatics, on the 10th anniversary of the Mac.


My Computer History

I have worked for Control Data Corp. and Amdahl Computer, mostly on IBM and IBM compatible equipment, from Card Reader/Punches to Mainframes. I've seen some big data centers and Cray Supercomputers. I had a Mac in 1987 and built a set of linked spreadsheets to manage my brass locomotive collection. DOS PC's at work came a little later and I wasn't too impressed, the most benefit I got from them was easy multiple mainframe sessions. It wasn't until I got into programming in 1990 that I started to write batch files and PC Focus programs, and began to rely on a PC on my work desk.

So I have seen my share of the history of the computer industry; the technical, the products, the business, the personalities, and I enjoy learning more about it. Perhaps it's seeing that our 'Heroes' make mistakes as bad as I do, or maybe it's just fun to discover how nasty Microsoft really is.


Guide to Dave's Book Recommendations...