Fire in the Valley is not a computer book but rather a history of the personal computer. Even if the computer isn't your thing, and maybe you don't remember arguing with Commodore 64, Apple II, and TRS-80 owners over whose computer was the best, you'll find the writing engaging and the subject matter more than entertaining. Who would have thought a bunch of misfit nerds could make history?
Fire in the Valley is an accurate, insightful, and often entertaining look at the many accidents and mistakes that eventually led to the computer you have on your desktop today. The history of the personal computer comprises a series of well-planned errors, with eccentric personalities floating from company to company, and geniuses so twisted they created for the sheer joy of it--never imagining the multi-billion dollar industry that would result.
This book is magnetic and the consistent and strong writing draws the reader in. The entire story of the personal computer, from the vacuum tube to the iMac, is told and told well.
Fire in the Valley is an old book, originally published back in 1984. This review refers to the current "collector's edition" and it's been updated to reflect some recent issues. The book is hardbound, hence the hefty cover price. (It also has a CD-ROM, but I don't do CDs in books.) The book is highly recommended--especially for anyone who's into high tech and wants to understand the value of not putting creativity into a bottle. --Dan Gookin
The authors tell their tale with surprising human as well as technological insights. Freidberger and Swaine are blessed with a remarkable tale to tell. Fire in the Valley offers many nerd pleasures, not the least of which is a stroll down memory lane, back to a sunny time of youth and innocence and endlessly whirring floppy drives. All the highlights are covered. One of the strengths of this fine book is that it isn't tendentious about its subject matter. If Fire in the Valley has any thesis, it's that, like Englebart, the very earliest players weren't much motivated by money. Some were simply visionaries. Others just loved computers. Others still couldn't fit in anywhere else.
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