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Throughout the '70s and '80s, Xerox Corporation provided unlimited funding to a renegade think tank called the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Occupying a ramshackle building adjacent to Stanford University, PARC's occupants would prove to be the greatest gathering of computer talent ever assembled: it conceptualized the very notion of the desktop computer, long before IBM launched its PC, and it laid the foundation for Microsoft Windows with a prototype graphical user interface of icons and layered screens. Even the technology that makes it possible for these words to appear on the screen can trace its roots to Xerox's eccentric band of innovators. But despite PARC's many industry-altering breakthroughs, Xerox failed ever to grasp the financial potential of such achievements. And while Xerox's inability to capitalize upon some of the world's most important technological advancements makes for an interesting enough story, Los Angeles Times correspondent Michael Hiltzik focuses instead on the inventions and the inventors themselves. We meet fiery ringleader Bob Taylor, a preacher's son from Texas known as much for his ego as for his uncanny leadership; we trace the term "personal computer" back to Alan Kay, a visionary who dreamed of a machine small enough to tuck under the arm; and we learn how PARC's farsighted principles led to collaborative brilliance. Hiltzik's consummate account of this burgeoning era won't improve Xerox's stake in the computer industry by much, but it should at least give credit where credit is due. Recommended. --Rob McDonald --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Anyone who uses a personal computer is familiar with technologies pioneered by Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which started operation in 1970. The received wisdom is that Xerox muffed the chance to dominate the personal computer era by allowing revolutionary technologies developed at PARC to be snatched up by strangers and rivals (most famously, Apple, which took the mouse and the graphical user interface from PARC). L.A. Times reporter Hiltzik argues that the received wisdom is wrong. He expertly situates the story of which products actually made it to market for Xerox (e.g., the laser printer) and which technologies Xerox leaked away (WYSIWYG word processing, hypertext, Ethernet and TCP/IP, to name a few) in a broader analysis of the role of basic science research in business. He praises Xerox execs for understanding the difference between basic research and product development and for exempting PARC from the stultifying effect of having to do the latter. Among the many facts of life on the cutting edge that Hiltzik makes abundantly clear is that very bad decisions are often made for very good business reasons. While granting that Xerox could certainly have better exploited the new technologies issuing from PARC, he emphasizes that the company brought together "a group of superlatively creative minds at the very moment when they could exert maximal influence on a burgeoning technology, and financed their work with unexampled generosity." This is a top-notch business page-turner. Unburdened by any gee-whiz jaw-dropping, yet fully appreciative of the power of creative minds, it is informed by a sure understanding of the complex relationship between business and technology. Major ad/promo.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
if you like computers, computing science, history.. an absolute must!Published 3 months ago by Bruno L
This journal clears up some the myths about Xerox ceding the lead in the tech race of the 70s and 80s. It covers the eureka moments and some whimsical moments as well. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jim Odell
This book gives you the raw details of what went into the creation and running of the most (in)famous research facility in computing. Read morePublished on Jan. 19 2000
Michael Hiltzik has done an incredible job in describing the context of the environment and the dynamics of the personalities as they interacted in the birthplace of computing... Read morePublished on Jan. 17 2000 by Robert A. Navarro
What I really appreciate about Dealers of Lightning is that, for the first time in a single volume, there is a comprehensive analysis of the legendary Xerox PARC (Palo Alto... Read morePublished on Dec 29 1999 by Robert Morris
As always your mileage may vary. My mileage was low.
I ended Michael Hiltzik's book on Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center and the invention of the computer technologies we use... Read more
Perhaps spoiled by Owen W. Linzmayer's precise dates and timelines (Mac Bathroom Reader, Apple Confidential), I found it difficult to be certain of even the year in which certain... Read morePublished on Oct. 19 1999
Anyone who thinks "Dealers of Lightning gives Xerox a pass for its handling of PARC technology must be reading with one eye closed. Read morePublished on Aug. 26 1999