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What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s…

What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal…

by John Markoff

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This is a very interesting book which addresses the social and technological ideas behind the movement from large computers set up in companies, universities or government facilities to personal computers meant for individuals and their communication needs and workloads. And of course, there are a few video games that appear here and there. This book lets the reader know from what computing power grew, and, for me, it sparked an interest in finding out what computing power could actually do in our modern world beyond the prescribed functions given to us by Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc. ( )
  Brian.Gunderson | Aug 6, 2012 |
This is a fun book. I have read it a few times, and have now incorporated it into my California History course, as it complements material on the Bay Area's cultural history, and it especially offers a solid knowledge base concerning the establishment and development of the industries of Silicon Valley. Indeed, one of the more groundbreaking insights that I gained when reading this work is the undeniable and significant involvement of government-financed projects in developing the foundational concepts and technological breakthroughs that we enjoy today in the world of personal computers and electronic social networking.
  metis63 | Jul 20, 2012 |
Finished 9/6/2010 ( )
1 vote | RobertW | Sep 6, 2010 |
Having first read "Fire in the Valley", I was a bit more in line with the various individuals that comprise this particular history. That said, Markoff provides a lot more information on the "why" to the story of the personal computer than "Fire in the Valley" did. Its the perfect follow-on to the academic aspect from "Fire". The storyline and characters come and go throughout the book -- and while it can be a bit confusing, the final chapter actually rolls a lot of the material into place. Several of the smaller story-lines are brought to light in the overall arch of the personal computer that nearly everyone seems to be familiar with. As both a Systems Administrator and a an amateur Historian, I was fascinated and enthralled by everything as Markoff presented it. Highly recommended from this corner. ( )
  TommyElf | Apr 15, 2010 |
I came to this book with no preconceptions, and came away feeling I had a much better understanding of the early days of personal computing. While others had difficulty finding a narrative thread, I thought Markoff (perhaps despite himself) told the interesting story of two ways of thinking about the impact of personal computing.

In Markoff's tale, Doug Engelbart and the group based at Xerox PARC was trying to figure out how to augment human intelligence, while the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) was trying to develop an electronic brain--essentially to replace human intelligence.

Yes, the story is convoluted, with a lot of characters. I did find myself wanting to create a timeline and chart the various dramatis personae; and someday I may still do that. Yes, I think the influence of LSD is probably overstated, though it certainly makes sense in creating a context for all this research. I do think this is a readable and fascinating account of this period. "What the Dormouse Said" is one of my favorite books of the last several years. ( )
  workingwriter | Oct 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670033820, Hardcover)

While there have been several histories of the personal computer, well-known technology writer John Markoff has created the first ever to spotlight the unique political and cultural forces that gave rise to this revolutionary technology. Focusing on the period of 1962 through 1975 in the San Francisco Bay Area, where a heady mix of tech industries, radicalism, and readily available drugs flourished, What the Dormouse Said tells the story of the birth of the personal computer through the people, politics, and protest that defined its unique era.

Based on interviews with all the major surviving players, Markoff vividly captures the lives and times of those who laid the groundwork for the PC revolution, introducing the reader to such colorful characters as Fred Moore, a teenage antiwar protester who went on to ignite the computer industry, and Cap’n Crunch, who wrote the first word processing software for the IBM PC (EZ Writer) in prison, became a millionaire, and ended up homeless. Both immensely informative and entertaining, What the Dormouse Said promises to appeal to all readers of technology, especially the bestselling The Soul of a New Machine.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:33 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An analysis of the political and cultural forces that gave rise to the personal computer chronicles its development through the people, politics, and social upheavals that defined its time, from a teenage anti-war protester who laid the groundwork for the PC revolution to the imprisoned creator of the first word processing software for the IBM PC.… (more)

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