Science writer M Mitchell Waldrop carefully balances the prevailing "hero culture" with a historian's mania for completeness in The Dream Machine: JCR Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal. While it's true that no one person's vision encompassed all of what we now consider personal computing, we can't help but focus on individual effort as we try to understand how we got here.
"Lick," as his students and colleagues called him, was deeply involved in guiding the evolution of personal and networked computing from the 1950s through the 1980s after leaving a career in cognitive psychology. Waldrop captures his spirit vividly--contrary to our stereotypical view of computer scientists, Licklider was profoundly interested in his fellow humans, and this interest helped him lead the design of technology adapted to human needs.
Waldrop interviewed dozens of contemporaries and examined reams of notes and primary sources to compose this massive biography of influence that stretches from MIT to the Pentagon to Xerox PARC and far beyond. If it sometimes seems that Licklider was a little too well-beloved, especially in comparison to some of the more colourful figures in computing's recent history, it is worth remembering that his patience and humility were the very qualities that helped deliver the home computing revolution we take for granted today. If we had to choose just one 20th-century computer pioneer that we couldn't do without, it would have to be the man behind The Dream Machine. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Licklider was a brilliant scientist whose essential contributions to cognitive psychology and cybernetics included critical early developments in the field of man-machine interaction. However, his original work is often overshadowed by his accomplishments as a teacher, administrator and project leader and this ably written and well-researched biography isn't likely to propel him into the limelight. Waldrop (Man-Made Minds) devotes about 20% of the book to Licklider himself; the rest covers his teachers, colleagues and students at MIT and the Pentagon including computing pioneers Douglas Engelbart, Wes Clark and Larry Roberts and Licklider's indirect influence on the development of personal computers and the Internet (via "the world's first large-scale experiment in personal computing" at MIT). To his credit, Waldrop avoids common stereotypes of computer nerds or saints, delivering a vivid account of Licklider and his contemporaries. But he was not able to interview Licklider (who died in 1990), nor does he include material from personal papers or memoirs. Instead, Waldrop bases most of the book on secondary accounts, including biographies and histories of technology. The result is an informative and engaging history of computers from the 1930s to the 1970s, with an emphasis on Licklider and his period of greatest influence, 1957 to 1968. (Aug. 27)Forecast: A six-city author tour will raise some interest, but there isn't much demand for another history of computing and the Internet, especially when Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon's Where Wizards Stay Up Late and Martin Campbell-Kelly's Computer cover the same material.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
A graduate course in a book! A tour through historical theories, accounts, and events that made up the development of the modern computer and the Net. Read morePublished on May 24 2004 by Robert Cannon
If The Dream Machine were a novel, you might conclude the author used every writer's technique to make it a thriller. Read morePublished on Jan. 25 2003 by Jerome I. Weintraub
Everyone has heard about the amazing ideas and systems from Xerox PARC, but few realize that this lab was was the culmination of JCR Licklider's vision of personal, interactive... Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2002 by Arbys
For anyone interested in why computers and the net are the way they are today, this entertaining and well-written account is essential. Read morePublished on Jan. 2 2002 by Rob Gurwitz
I was a ms reviewer of this complete, but very readable book based on JCR Licklider's vision of interactive and networked computing. It covers almost 50 years of computing. Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2001 by cgb
This is the best history of computer science that I know. Unlike many "histories" that merely review the commercial exploitation of computers, this book focuses on the... Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2001 by Severo M. Ornstein
Licklider was an incredibly influential man of the 20th century and he deserves a better written biography. Read morePublished on Oct. 24 2001
This is a great book. If you get a kick out of the history of computing then this will be a read you will treasure. Read morePublished on Oct. 12 2001 by Bruce E. Hogge