By Robert X. Cringely
Computing device production is--after autos, power construction and unlawful drugs--the greatest on the planet, and it truly is one of many final nice good fortune tales in American enterprise. unintentional Empires is the trenchant, enormously readable heritage of that undefined, focusing as a lot at the astoundingly extraordinary personalities at its core--Steve Jobs, invoice Gates, Mitch Kapor, and so forth. and the hacker tradition they spawned because it does at the amazing 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 beginning of the transistor to the mid-life drawback of the pc undefined, he spins a sweeping, uniquely American saga of creativity and ego that's right now uproarious, stunning and encouraging.
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Additional info for Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date
The hardware people are radically different from the software people, and on the software side alone, there are at least three subspecies of programmers, two of which we are interested in here. Forget about the first subspecies, the lumpenprogrammers, who typically spend their careers maintaining mainframe com puter code at insurance companies. Lumpenprogrammers don't even like to program but have discovered that by the simple tech nique of leaving out the comments—Clues, labels, and directions written in English—they are supposed to sprinkle in among their lines of computer code, their programs are rendered undecipher able by others, guaranteeing them a lifetime of dull employment.
It came typically as an unassembled $350 kit, clearly targeting only the electronic hobbyist market. There was no software for the machine, so, while it may have existed, it sure didn't compute. There wasn't even a keyboard. The only way of programming the computer at first was through entering strings of hexadeci mal code by flicking a row of switches on the front panel. There was no display other than some blinking lights. The Altair was limited in its appeal to those who could solder (which eliminated most good programmers) and to those who could program in machine language (which eliminated most good solderers).
Even area codes follow another bit of Miller's work. " If I tell you that my telephone number is (415) 525-9270 (it is; call any time), you probably remember the area code as a separate chunk of information, a single data point that doesn't significantly affect your ability to remember the sevendigit number that follows. The area code is stored in memory as a single three-digit number—415—related to your knowledge of geography and the telephone system that rather than the random sequence of one-digit numbers—4-1-5—that relate to nothing in particular.