Revolution in The Valley [Paperback]: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made Hardcover – Dec 16 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Another blog-turned-book (see Hertzfeld's www.folklore.org), this set of remembrances chronicles the birth of the Macintosh from inside the lab. In 1978, Hertzfeld's world was rocked by his purchase of an Apple II; by the next year, he was working for the fledgling company on the nascent Mac as a software engineer, co-writing the Mac's operating system. Strictly for Silicon Valley-folk and Apple obsessives, Hertzfeld's short entries dwell on everything from mouse-scaling parameters to the eating habits of hardware engineer Burrell Smith. A plethora of color photos feature early screen shots and sedentary-looking Mac team members in tight t-shirts ("User Friendly!") and large glasses. Even aficionados may find their attention wandering at sentences like, "The most controversial part of the Control Panel was the desktop pattern editor, which I had rescued from its earlier standalone incarnation." But among the 90 entries, highlights include awkward-looking early demos of the Mac's operating system; competition and idea-swapping with Microsoft, Osborne and Xerox; and inside glimpses of Apple's unique, before-the-boom culture. Hertzfeld's earnest enthusiasm for the work that he and the team began 25-plus years ago is infectious enough to carry one through the rest.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Andy Hertzfeld was a graduate student in computer science at UC Berkeley in January 1978 when he purchased one of the first Apple IIs.He quickly lost interest in grad school as he began writing programs for his Apple II, eventually leading him to join Apple Computer as a systems programmer in August 1979. He joined the Macintosh team in February 1981, and became one of the main authors of the Macintosh system software, including the User Interface Toolbox and many of the original desk accessories. He left Apple in March 1984, and went on to co-found three companies: Radius (1986), General Magic (1990) and Eazel (1999). In 2003, he developed web-based software for collective storytelling that he used to write the stories in this book. In 2005, he joined Google, and was one of the main creators of Google+.
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The summation of the folklore.org site, this book is a set of about 100 stories. Each running about 3-4 pages on average. Starting with Andy's first day at Apple and ending around the time when Jobs' was ousted in a palace coup. The stories run the gamut from the deep technical to the interpersonal. They are well written and engaging.
A must read for those inspired by the original Apple Mac engineers.
What I like about this book can be summed up in two phrases. First, none of the essays exceeds five pages (roughly the length of my attention span), so I easily breezed through ninety pages of historical material without losing interest. I found myself laughing outloud at times. Second, because of the way Hertzfeld collected these stories, I truly believe that this book is not an attempt to re-write history so as to exalt himself as the God of Macintosh. While I have seen reviews of this book describe it as a coffee table book, I don't view it as a coffee table book. The essays cover technical details about how the Macintosh was prototyped and debugged, and these technical details will be above 95 percent of the people who pick up this book. Not to mention there is a lot of text.
The anecdotes in this book read quite true to me. We follow Hertzfeld from his initial hire at Apple through to his maneuvers to get himself onto the Macintosh development team. Because the anecdotes come from a variety of sources, the book really seems to fairly depict each person's role in the development of the Macintosh. For example, we've all heard Jef Raskin claim that he was the creator of the Macintosh, but this book reveals that the form factor of the computer envisioned by Raskin was nothing like the 128k Mac that ultimately arrived at retail stores, and that Raskin was put on a forced leave of absence from Apple before the machine even shipped.
Having said all these great things about the book, who is the target market for this book? I happen to have been a Mac owner since the 128k Mac was released (I passed on the 128, and waited for the 512), so this book brought back many fond memories of how the Mac changed my life and of the adventures I have had with it since its introduction. But as the foreward of this book acknowledges, most people today are computing with Windows machines and in a sense "everyone is basically using a Mac," because all the concepts implemented by the Mac team are now available in one form or another on the Windows operating system. But I don't think a Windows user would find this book of interest, as they typically don't care how the computer works or what mountains had to be moved to make the graphical operating system happen.
The book concludes with Steve Jobs removal from the Macintosh team in 1985. It provides no insight on whether the "new Apple" after Jobs' return is anything like the "old Apple" chronicled in this book. This is, of course, due to the fact that Hertzfeld was only at Apple from 1979 to 1984, so here we are, twenty years later, still reminiscing about what it was like to invent the original Mac. Hertzfeld's departure from Apple came after a six-month leave of absence, and the magic he had felt before his leave had gone away (or "grown up") by the time he was scheduled to return. So he left amicably, and went on to found three separate companies in the years that followed. Revolution In The Valley is a wonderful book to read, but I'm thinking the only people who will want to read it are those who were Apple devotees in the early 1980's, or MBA students studying where Apple went wrong with its multiple reorganizations and management shakeups. I find the anecdotes in this book fascinating, and I can't put it down. Programming geeks or budding electrical engineers will find this book fascinating. These stories are the words of real ex-employees, many speaking out for the first time, and detail the day to day travails of the people who made it all happen. But I honestly don't think my wife or my sister would spend much time with this book at all. It's just too much of an insider's look at a company that is struggling to remain relevant in a world that is very different than the world in 1984. But if you are one of the people who bought into the whole Macintosh culture in the 1980's, I would definitely recommend this book.
Being in the software industry myself, I could identify with a lot of the programming situations and unique characters that end up in software development. It was oddly comforting to find that certain things haven't really changed that much. My favorite in this regard was a short entry about a management decision to "track progress" by entering the number of lines coded that week. One guy put down "-2000", as he had done some optimizing and was able to get rid of a lot of extra source code.
Great nuggets of information about how things came into existence. For instance, the "Command" key icon, the boot beep, and the original font names. A glimpse at what it was like to work for Steve Jobs was also captivating.
All told, a must read.
Some of the vignettes are fairly technical - they might be more than the lay reader wants to get into, but each story is short (3-5 pages) so a non-technical reader can always skip ahead (or back, or sideways) to a less-technical narrative.
Hertzfeld doesn't gloss over conflict within the Mac team, but he also celebrates the fun times and shows why the Mac development team was a unique and very productive working environment. It's clearly one person's version of the story, but he never claims it's anything else.
All in all, I highly recommend this book for anyone who's interested in the Mac as a computer and Apple as a company.
Past the intuitive graphical user interface, behind the first 3.5" floppy drive in a personal computer, and over the novel logic board was something that most users never knew was there. Inside the case of every Macintosh was a collection of signatures. Just as an artist would sign a canvas, the team that put together the first "insanely great" computer signed their masterpiece.
The Macintosh was a special product because of the amazing team that took it from conception to retail. Revolution in the Valley is the story of their achievement. It is a sturdy and attractive hardbound book with a modern and approachable layout, relevant illustrations, and highlighted summary quotes from team members and the minds that inspired them. Under the dust cover it is adorned with stills taken from the infamous 1984 commercial announcing the Macintosh.
Though the book touches on parts of the larger Apple story - such as the exile and return of Steve Jobs, the development of the Lisa, and the great initial success of the Apple II - it maintains its focus on the Macintosh throughout. It follows the project from Jeff Raskin's research project, to Steve Jobs' adoption as the future of Apple, and through the first time the world said "'hello' to Macintosh."
Rather than offering a "monolithic narrative," Revolution is presented as a compilation of short stories. Most are the work of Andy Hertzfeld, a key personality in the development of the Macintosh system software, but some are submissions from other team members.
The episodic approach makes the book accessible and easy to read, not to mention giving it a coffee-table appeal. Each is organized more or less chronologically, but overlap often - thankfully in dates much more than in narrative. In such cases there are useful references to the related story and the assortment of unique voices actually better illustrates the key personalities than a single-perspective account would.
Co-authors also contributed to the healthy collection of rare and unique photographs, original notes, and advertisements that are well placed throughout the book. Combined with the energetic layout, the illustrations give a lot of color to the lively tales of Silicon Valley's most famous pirates.
As can be expected in a book about a technical innovation, there is some jargon that may be lost on the average Apple fan, but those instances are few and sufficiently nestled in the story that their meaning is clear enough.
The market is full of books about Apple, but Revolution in the Valley offers a specific focus and an easy-going style. If you call yourself a fan, you owe it to yourself to peruse this book and get to know the people that birthed the Mac. For those who are looking to learn a little more about the roots of Apple's success, this is a great choice. It truly is The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made.
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