Based on extensive interviews with scientists, engineers, administrators, and corporate executives who lived the story, Dealers of Lightning takes the listener on a journey from PARC's beginnings in a dusty, abandoned building at the edge of the Stanford University campus to its triumph as a hothouse of ideas that spawned not only the first personal computer, but the windows-style graphical user interface, the laser printer, much of the indispensable technology of the Internet, and a great deal more. It shows how and why Xerox, despite its willingness to grant PARC unlimited funding and the responsibility for developing breakthroughs to keep the corporation on the cutting edge of office technology, remained forever unable to grasp (and, consequently, exploit) the innovations that PARC delivered, and details the increasing frustration of the original PARC scientists, many of whom would go on to build their fortunes upon the very ideas Xerox so rashly discarded.
(P) and ©1999 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., All Rights Reserved, Harper Audio, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers
"...for any student of business or technology, Dealers of Lightning offers a gem of a story that has never before been so well told." (The New York Times Book Review)
xerox parc was the fertile crescent of modern computing gadgetry. everything we use today seems to have roots going back to that time and that place. this is an enthralling book for students of technology. well worth a look!
The book's clear and fluid narrative accounts the rise and fall of Xerox PARC in a way which seems to touch on every major segment of hi-tech from VLSI circuits and Intel to Ethernet and 3COM. I was surprised to learn that even more had been invented, tinkered with and implemented at PARC than I could ever have imagined- with very little of it becoming a comercial product. This was a fascinating tale and is perfect for any person in high tech, printing or technical sales.
I thought the book was very insightful. What a tragedy of how Xerox dropped the ball. To think of what the personel computer means today, and to know it's a derivitive of what was invented at Xerox.
Maybe the printed version is better. Although the history of PARC is fascinating, the book was poorly written -- or the abridgment was mangled. It was tedious and disorganized. The narrator was terrible -- like somebody from one of those True Time TV shows with the cheesy reenactments. The production values were very low -- I could record a better-sounding narration in my living room with a simple digital recorder.
This book provides a great history lesson in technology, however, its main focus is on the individuals that developed the technology, not the technology itself. It can be pretty tedious to listen to, but there is some good suff in there if you can hang in there.
It is absolutely amazing how many modern technologies spawned from the developments made by the visionaries at PARC such as the computer mouse, the GUI interface, ethernet, the laser printer, etc. Its even more amazing that Xerox capitalized on virtualy none of these inventions.
In the interest of full disclosure, I had a unique interest in this book due to the fact that have been a Xerox employee for over a decade, and have actualy had the opportunity to visit PARC (long after its inovative heyday of course).
Most books on the history of the PC give Xerox PARC just a passing mention. It was PARC's work the inspired the Apple Lisa, and later Macintosh and Microsoft's Windows operating system. But, PARC recruited the top talents in computer science, and gave them the freedom to reinvent the computer.
So much of the modern personal computer sprang directly from the work done at PARC. The graphical user interface, ethernet, and the laser printer were all developed there. Doug Engelbart refined his "mouse" device while at PARC.
This book covers PARC's history from its founding through the 1980s. It describes the politics and, yes, the budgets behind the research conducted there. Key players, like Alan Kay, are profiled. And there's even a tiny bit of technobabble for people who are into that sort of thing.
Which brings me to Forrest Sawyer's reading. It was a pleasure listening to him for six hours. As an experienced newsman, his delivery was polished and precise. At one point, the book breaks into a description of how Ethernet works, and what differs it from other networking schemes, and Sawyer sails through it like it was a story about two old friends.
The first hour was a little tedious unless you are interested in hearing about a bunch of guys and the size of their budgets. Once it got in to the technical details of the work being done at PARC it got really good. Note that "iWoz" is a much better listen but I still give this book 4 stars.
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