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The Nudist on the Late Shift: And Other True Tales of Silicon Valley Paperback – May 2 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (May 2 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767906039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767906036
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 2.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,862,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Perhaps more than anywhere else, Silicon Valley in the latter part of the 20th century has come to represent the essence of the American dream. Its economy has resembled the various rushes and booms of the 1800s. The Valley is a unique place in a unique time, where just about anyone with a good idea, an aptitude for hard work, and a boatload of luck has a chance to make it big--really big. In The Nudist on the Late Shift, Po Bronson intends to capture the spirit of the Valley, leading us through a series of vignettes that takes us from a "near brush with sudden wealth" to a $400 million buyout; from life on the edge with a group of Java programmers to the plight of a futurist writer with the looming deadline for a 9,000-word article. For Bronson, the appeal of the Valley is this:
Every generation that came before us had to make a choice in life between pursuing a steady career and pursuing wild adventures. In Silicon Valley, that trade-off has been recircuited. By injecting mind-boggling risk into the once stodgy domain of gray-suited business, young people no longer have to choose. It's a two-for-one deal: the career path has become an adventure into the unknown.
Like Tracy Kidder's Soul of a New Machine, what makes Bronson's book work is a talent for narrative. He presents compelling stories about those who make it--for example, Ben Chiu (Killerapp.com, C/NET) and Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail)--as well as those whom we'll never hear of again: the database salesman working on the "hockey stick" at the close of the quarter and the "kiss-ass entrepreneur" who's taken up COBOL programming to make ends meet. The Nudist on the Late Shift is for anyone who has wondered what life on the modern frontier is like--and for those who are already there, the reflection might be revealing. --Harry C. Edwards --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Having satirized Silicon Valley in his novel The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest, Bronson now turns a much rosier eye on the pulsing heart of the information age. As Bronson examines the pursuit of high-tech entrepreneurial glory, his method recalls the way Robert Altman's Nashville gave moviegoers a sense of the chase for country music stardomAexcept there's very little pathos here and a lot of blue sky. Though he dutifully presents the long odds facing the would-be founders of the next Yahoo!, Bronson thrills to the culture of the Valley because he believes it fuses the often contradictory desires for security and adventure. "By injecting mind-boggling amounts of risk into the once stodgy domain of gray-suited business, young people no longer have to choose. It's a two-for-one deal: the career path has become the adventure into the unknown." Bronson clearly likes the wild-eyed optimists and masters of uncertainty he profiles. There's Sabeer Bhatia, the Indian-born founder of Hotmail, who established a company and, against the advice of more experienced heads, rejected several buyout offers from Bill Gates until Microsoft paid $400 million for Hotmail. There's the exec who let Bronson be a fly on the wall during the ulcer-inducing process of steering a company through an IPO. And there are the talented programmers, many of whom, though not yet 30, have Ancient Mariner-like tales of rejecting stock optionsAand thus forfeiting millionsAin companies that were bought or went public. Bronson is tuned in to the quirks of both personality and culture. His prose, often funny, maintains impressive velocity and is well suited to the manic life of the Valley and its colorful menagerie of characters. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback
The economic and cultural situation in the San Francisco area around the turn of the 21st century has been described as being similar to that of the 1850's gold rush in the same area. Now that the boom is over, Po Bronson's book is just as entertaining as Mark Twain's tales of the gold rush days. As another "one who was there", I recognize the heady atmosphere, the excesses that seemed reasonable at the time, the temerity with which a bold few reached out to grab everything they could.
One anecdote early in the book really hits home with me. Bronson mentions an article about Siebel Systems, one of the darling stocks of the 1999-2000 boom. He relates how, after the article first appeared, he received an e-mail from a Siebel employee about how working for the company was ruining his life. When I read the book, I was working for Siebel Systems and its stock was flying high. I laughed at Bronson's story. A year later, working for Siebel had ruined my life, and I left the company in early 2001...
That's just the perspective of one disillusioned employee of one company, but the same story was repeated all throughout Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, and the rest of the dot-com universe. This book gives you a great picture of life during the boom. For the "after" picture, just look at today's headlines.
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Format: Paperback
Po Bronson expresses the zeitgeist of silicon vally in the 90s. He rides the dot com bubble within the context of two decades of accelarating technological business savvy. Some have pointed out that Bronson is not stripping the illusions away from the silicon valley mystique, he is perpetuating it. But I would argue that rather than writing propaganda for the time, the place, the culture, he is finding exploring the myths it is founded on.
The myth aspect of what Bronson is doing is particularly well expressed by the title essay, where Bronson tries to track down the source of a persistent rumor that there is a fellow who prefers to work in his birthday suit -- at least at night. The quest takes him through the email highways and byways, and gives a sense of the close-knit interconnectedness of what is really a rather sprawling confusion of cultures.
Later in the book -- executives, celebrity software engineers safely documented -- Bronson starts to explore some other aspects of the culture, including a fascinating story of life as a salesman. Not all of these essays are terribly relevant, but clearly Bronson is trying to do more than simply document the everyday world that is life at Oracle, Sun, Apple, 3Com, dot-com startups, and high-tech networking joints. He considers the lone genius, working on projects that do not require electricity. He considers the pundit, imagining the future for his paid audiences. I just wish he also documented the barrista, serving coffee to these high and mighty; or the administrative assistant, trading work stories in a second level of interconnectedness.
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By A Customer on Sept. 7 2000
Format: Paperback
Bronson's Nudist is ambitious. At a very high level of generality, one might get some sense of what is "going on out here" by reading the book. By naming names and giving details, Bronson attempts to put flesh on his vignettes. But, Nudist is plagued with numerous errors in the details of the story -- errors that must force any reader to question the research done to prepare the book. In short, Nudist is sloppy work.
Two (of many) examples (focusing on the law, rather than on spelling errors like his misspelling of the "Dumbarton Bridge"):
(1) Who is Maria Rosatti? Mario Rosati is the fourth name partner at Silicon Valley's behemoth law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati. In the Valley, "WSGR" and is (for better or worse) extremely well known -- Bronson's mistake is not easily dismissed.
(2) In describing the Sun v. Microsoft case, followed by many in the Valley, Bronson is clearly completely confused. In an effort to sound smart, and to put flesh on his story (regarding why it is difficult to write Java code that will work on both Netscape and Explorer browsers), he attempts to string legal terms together that have no business being in the same sentence. In other words, he gives a completely nonsensical description of the case.
In short, if Bronson wanted to add detail to make his story more real, he should've done his homework. The fact that he did not, and that his errors are so glaring, indicates a lack of diligence, and destroys his credibility. Given these errors, and given that there's no way of really knowing if he got the stuff that you can't definitively identify as an error correct, Nudist simply does not live up to its expectations.
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Format: Paperback
Po Bronson is part of the new imaging of Silicon Valley as a sort of high-tech Hollywood. But people who work in the main technical jobs of high tech should not be misled by his title.
As Silicon Valley becomes the new Hollywood, the actual "nudist on the late shift", the programmer, becomes a screenwriter. But in Hollywood, although screenwriters are well paid in many instances, they are also at the bottom of the food chain. A visitor to Hollywood asked in the 1930s, "where are the screenwriters' yachts?" only to realize that the REAL cheesecake was being made by the users of the screenwriters' output.
Programming is a form of writing and as such creates anxiety amongst Po's real audience: the business glamerati who read Forbes and Vanity Fair. There is an unresolved tension between the fact that without a script there is no movie, and the real need for a superstructure of direction, marketing, finance and distribution: there is an unresolved tension between the central role of software and the real need for an even vaster superstructure.
The dream of the Forbes and the Vanity Fair crowd is thus one of expropriation. Hmm, the nerds produced most of the wealth in the last twenty years while our crowd did little more than trash the New Yorker. Time to acknowledge their skills, and show them the door...unless, of course, they can reinvent themselves as one of us (to be fair, we live in an open society where this is possible.)
Po Bronson did his homework and understands much about technology: but his overall approach is to bring gasp and glam to an area of the economy which used to be a refuge from the Jet Set, Forbes and Vanity Fair.
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