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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0071358927, Paperback)In the early 1970s, while Silicon Valley was designing the latest generation of digital wristwatches and pocket calculators, a ragtag group of college dropouts, hippies, and electronics hobbyists were busy creating the future in their garages. What they built was the personal computer, but what they were aiming for was something much more ambitious: a revolution. Fire in the Valley is the story of their efforts, and in particular, the contributions of an informal think tank called the Homebrew Computer Club. Its technically gifted community, comprising sci-fi aficionados and Berkeley counterculturists, believed computers could usher in an age of human empowerment, perhaps even a utopia.
The club's most famous member is Steve Jobs of Apple, whose story is told here, as is Bill Gates's, who was strongly influenced by Homebrew. What sets Fire in the Valley apart from the many other books about early days at Apple and Microsoft, though, is its focus on the brilliant engineers and coders who built the foundation that would eventually support those two companies. They included ex-Berkley Barb editor and hardware designer Lee Felsenstein, who was adamant about using computers for populist ends; Adam Osborne, who took PCs to the next level by making them portable; hacker legend John "Captain Crunch" Draper, who used telephony for his own mischievous purposes; and activist Ted Nelson, the Thom Paine of the computer revolution.
The cast of characters is sometimes tough to keep track of, and authors Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine have wisely included a graphic timeline in the first pages of the book that readers will find useful. It stretches from 1800 to 1999, encompassing events that have occurred since Fire in the Valley's original 1984 publication. This second edition includes new chapters and photographs to document the last 15 years, but they serve as more of an epilogue than a new act in this drama. The Homebrew Club's mark on personal computing history is cemented, and Fire in the Valley is an engaging account of it, one that should inspire readers everywhere. --Demian McLean
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:50 -0400)
Overview: In the 1970s, while their contemporaries were protesting the computer as a tool of dehumanization and oppression, a motley collection of college dropouts, hippies, and electronics fanatics were engaged in something much more subversive. Obsessed with the idea of getting computer power into their own hands, they launched from their garages a hobbyist movement that grew into an industry, and ultimately a social and technological revolution. What they did was invent the personal computer: not just a new device, but a watershed in the relationship between man and machine. This is their story. Fire in the Valley is the definitive history of the personal computer, drawn from interviews with the people who made it happen, written by two veteran computer writers who were there from the start. Working at InfoWorld in the early 1980s, Swaine and Freiberger daily rubbed elbows with people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates when they were creating the personal computer revolution. A rich story of colorful individuals, Fire in the Valley profiles these unlikely revolutionaries and entrepreneurs, such as Ed Roberts of MITS, Lee Felsenstein at Processor Technology, and Jack Tramiel of Commodore, as well as Jobs and Gates in all the innocence of their formative years. This completely revised and expanded third edition brings the story to its completion, chronicling the end of the personal computer revolution and the beginning of the post-PC era. It covers the departure from the stage of major players with the deaths of Steve Jobs and Douglas Engelbart and the retirements of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer; the shift away from the PC to the cloud and portable devices; and what the end of the PC era means for issues such as personal freedom and power, and open source vs. proprietary software.
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