How wonderful is this book? That will depend on several factors. I've read a lot of books that claim to dish out the real dirt about Apple, and this book impressed me because Andy Hertzfeld didn't write all the anecdotes himself. Instead, he created a web site at www.folklore.org and encouraged any and all persons involved with the creation of the Macintosh to document their own recollections of how it all went down. Those essays, along with dozens written by Hertzfeld himself, are now the basis of this new book, mixed in with pencil sketches, historcal photos, and old ads. This book is not about grinding axes or settling grudges. It merely documents in an objective fashion how the whole team came together, and the many many ups and downs encountered in bringing this wonderful computer to life.
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.