In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters Hardcover – Jul 9 2003
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About the Author
Merrill R. (Rick) Chapman is the author of the first edition of this book. He has worked in the software industry since 1978 as a programmer, salesman, support representative, senior marketing manager, and consultant for many different companies, including WordStar (really MicroPro, but no one remembers the name of the company), Ashton-Tate, IBM, Inso, Novell, Bentley Systems, Berlitz, Hewlett-Packard, and Ziff-Davis. His first computer was a Trash One (you antiques out there know what that is), and he began his career writing software inventory management systems for beer and soda distributors in New York City. He is the author of The Product Marketing Handbook for Software, coauthor of the Software Industry and Information Association's US Software Channel Marketing and Distribution Guide, and periodically writes articles about software and high-tech marketing for a variety of publications.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
This book really brought back some memories for me: visions of my old Commodore 64, for example, as well as Coleco's Adam (a system I absolutely lusted after as a kid); it also introduced me to products and services I do not remember. It's amazing to look back now and see just how differently things could have gone in the high-tech business had stupidity not taken down many an important player in the game. At one time, three companies led the way: Microsoft (with its DOS operating system), Lotus (with its spreadsheets), and Ashton-Tate (with its databases) - oh, how things have changed. Merrill R.Read more ›
Chapman takes a look back at the first two decades of the high-tech industry to see how companies with dominant product leads squandered those advantages to become irrelevant (or non-existent). The examples are numerous... IBM and the PC, Micropro and Wordstar, Novell and Netware. He actually worked for some of the companies that are under the microscope, so there is an insider's color and flavor that you don't normally see from a customer perspective. Because of the biting style of writing, the book doesn't suffer from a lofty "anyone could see this coming" attitude that so many of these historical examinations seem to adopt.
Back to the writing style... Chapman has a satirical, wicked wit that is used to maximum advantage here. Even if you weren't terribly interested in the content, it would be worth a read for the laughs. I haven't enjoyed a business book this much in a long time.
And by the way... Don't pass up the glossary at the end. It's the cherry on top of a great sundae.
Why would anyone want to read about all of the stupid things that companies have done since the early 1980s to lose money, destroy customer relationships, go bankrupt and annoy everyone? Well, it should be because almost everyone makes a fatal error in a high tech company. Only Microsoft among the software companies has avoided that folly. Among PC companies, only Dell seems immune to date. Intel flirted with a fatal error when it tried to ignore its Pentium floating point problem. $500 million later, it was wiser.
Another good reason for reading about them is that Mr. Chapman is a very funny writer. He makes the stories very entertaining. He also was present at some of the most inauspicious moments which gives the stories an extra verve that's irresistible.
I especially enjoyed the afterword which explained in detail why it's always a stupid idea to rewrite working code from scratch to create the next release.
I agree with the conclusion that tech companies need to be headed by people who understand the technical issues and the business challenges so they can make informed decisions about what to do next. I also suggest that investors read this book to get early warning signs of high tech meltdowns.Read more ›
The only minor complaint I have is with the interview in the appendix, which:
1. Only has a tangential relationship to the main part of the book, and is really about programming, and
2. Is really, really clueless *about* programming.
There's probably 1/3 of a good point there (programmers are inherently drawn to recoding from the ground up, "Take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. That's the only way to be sure" solutions, so one should be skeptical), but stretched to a wildly dumb conclusion (rewriting code from the ground up is *never* justifiable!) They ignore a lot of obvious problems (e.g., the obvious fact that kludgy software is very difficult to maintain, and that multiple kludges interact with *each other* to exponentially increase bugginess.)
In fact, one might almost call it... stupidity? :)
But you can just skip the appendix, which is actually kinda nice just as a reminder that, yes, even really smart people like the author aren't completely immune to stupidity....
Most recent customer reviews
The author describes his experience and observations around famous failures in software industry. The language is very entertaining. Read morePublished on June 2 2004
It was great to get to hear both some clarifications of urban legend and some reflection on what was messed up by people in the industry. Read morePublished on May 3 2004 by Lars Bergstrom
This book IS timely. The DotCom busts were easy to analyze, even at the time (D'uh!) - no brick and mortar, no estute business plans, just vapor, b.s. Read morePublished on April 1 2004 by Steve Frock
When I picked up this book, I expected it to have more depth of recent dot-com busts than about software companies that tanked years ago. Read morePublished on March 29 2004 by Antonio A. Rodriguez
Chapman offers a caustic and often hilarious first-person Silicon Valley memoir with a biased point of view: stupid is as stupid does. Read morePublished on March 8 2004 by WordScarred
This is one of the best books I've read about what's gone wrong with the high-tech industry. Chapman has the answers, told through stories that are witty, and yet provide useful... Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2004 by Dan Speers
One of the most enjoyable books I have read regarding the business of high tech. Reading some of the previous reviews, I guess not everyone agrees. Read morePublished on Feb. 23 2004
I bought this book after it was recommended to me by a friend who I'd worked with at Novell during the period that Merril Chapman describes, during the 90s when Microsoft was... Read morePublished on Feb. 2 2004 by Dave Z
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