By Robert X. Cringely
Machine production is--after autos, power construction and unlawful drugs--the greatest on the earth, and it really is one of many final nice good fortune tales in American company. unintentional Empires is the trenchant, tremendously readable background of that undefined, focusing as a lot at the astoundingly peculiar personalities at its core--Steve Jobs, invoice Gates, Mitch Kapor, and so on. and the hacker tradition they spawned because it does at the impressive know-how they created. Cringely unearths the manias and foibles of those males (they are constantly males) with deadpan hilarity and cogently demonstrates how their neuroses have formed the pc company. yet Cringely supplies us even more than high-tech voyeurism and insider gossip. From the start of the transistor to the mid-life difficulty of the pc undefined, he spins a sweeping, uniquely American saga of creativity and ego that's without delay uproarious, surprising and encouraging.
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Extra info for Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date
This was like Perseus giving fire to humans, and as ambitious, though well within the capability of Knuth's largest of all brains. He invented a text formatting language called TeX, which could drive a laser printer to place type images on the page as well as or better than the old linotype, and he invented another language, Metafont, for designing whole families of fonts. Draw a letter "A," and Metafont could generate a matching set of the other twenty-five letters of the alphabet. When he was finished, Don Knuth saw that what he had done was good, and said as much in volume 3 of The Art of Com puter Programming, which was typeset using the new technology.
In order to make spectacular prog ress, to achieve profound results in nearly any field, what is re quired is a combination of unusual ability and profound dedication—very unaverage qualities for a population that typi cally spends 35 hours per week watching television and less than 1 hour exercising. Brilliant programmers and champion bodybuilders already 31 ACCIDENTAL EMPIRES have these levels of ability and motivation in their chosen fields. And given that we live in a society that can't seem to come up with coherent education or exercise policies, it's good that the hackers and iron-pumpers are self-motivated.
The real problem is finding such superprogrammers in the first place: Often they hide. Back in the 1950s, a Harvard psychologist named George A. Miller wrote "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two," a landmark journal article. Miller studied short-term memory, especially the quick memorization of random sequences of num bers. He wanted to know, going into the study, how many num bers people could be reliably expected to remember a few minutes after having been told those numbers only once.