The Soul of a New Machine

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9780140062496: The Soul of a New Machine

Computers have changed since 1981, when Tracy Kidder memorably recorded the drama, comedy, and excitement of one companys efforts to bring a new microcomputer to market. What has not changed is the feverish pace of the high-tech industry, the go-for-broke approach to business that has caused so many computer companies to win big (or go belly up), and the cult of pursuing mind-bending technological innovations. The Soul of a New Machine is an essential chapter in the history of the machine that revolutionized the world in the twentieth century.

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Review:

The computer revolution brought with it new methods of getting work done--just look at today's news for reports of hard-driven, highly motivated young men and women developing software and online commerce who sacrifice evenings and weekends to meet impossible deadlines. Tracy Kidder got a preview of this world in the late 1970s when he observed the engineers of Data General design and build a new 32-bit minicomputer in just one year. His thoughtful, prescient book, The Soul of a New Machine, tells us stories of 35-year-old "veteran" engineers hiring new college graduates and encouraging them to work harder and faster on complex and difficult projects, exploiting the youngsters' ignorance of normal scheduling yet engendering a new kind of work ethic.

These days, we are used to the "total commitment" philosophy of managing technical creation, but Kidder was surprised and even a little alarmed at the obsessions and compulsions he found. From in-house political struggles to workers permitted to tease management to marathon 24-hour work sessions, The Soul of a New Machine explores concepts that already seem familiar, even old-hat, less than 20 years later. Kidder plainly admires his subjects; while he admits to hopeless confusion about their work, he finds their dedication heroic. The reader wonders, though, what will become of it all, now and in the future. --Rob Lightner

Review:

"It has the ring of truth....For readers who would like to know what it takes to make a computer, how computers are organized, and who the people are who put them together, I strongly recommend The Soul of a New Machine. I do not know anything quite like it".

-- Jeremy Bernstein, New York Review of Books

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