Category: book-review

Atari Inc.: Business is Fun

Atari Inc.: Business Is FunAtari Inc.: Business Is Fun by Curt Vendel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summarizes the conditions under which Atari games were first developed – and launched an industry. Not as tightly edited as some books out there (was self-published), but has historical details not available elsewhere. If you want to understand the roots of today’s game industry, is an essential read.

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The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley

The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon ValleyThe Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley by Leslie Berlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tells the story both of Robert Noyce’s life, and the start of the semiconductor industry. I learned that Robert Noyce’s personal management philosophy of giving people the tools they needed and then getting out of the way – and its success at Intel is what set the pattern of Silicon Valley companies and large portions of the American tech and software sectors in general.

Good read – and important if you want to understand the roots of this industry.

Where Wizards Stay Up Late

Where Wizards Stay Up LateWhere Wizards Stay Up Late by Katie Hafner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decent history of how the initial Internet protocols and infrastructure were developed. If you want to understand how the underlying structure of what we use today was developed, read this book!

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital RevolutionThe Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Still digesting this one. Walter Isaacson masterfully links Charles Babbage’s original work and Ada Lovelace’s ideas about computing with Hollerith’s punch card tabulation system, Edison’s systemization of innovation and the developments in circuitry control during the 1930s that laid the groundwork for today’s digital technologies. Good book – I recommend it as essential background reading for anyone interested in understanding how innovation happens, in the history of computing, and in understanding trends going forward.

The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It

The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed ItThe Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It by Scott Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good read. I finished with a much better understanding of the market and trade dynamics leading up to the 2008 crash.

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing ItiWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good “as spoken to” style biography in which Steve Wozniak talks about the experiences and self-education that lead up to his developing the initial prototype Apple motherboard and control systems.

A recommended read for aspiring programmers and hardware designers and engineers.

The Innovator’s Dilemma

The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do BusinessThe Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clayton Christensen’s analysis of how new technologies disrupt old ones. It’s a very specific mechanism; new ways of doing things can provide services and products to slightly different market niches than existing ones. The new products and services aren’t initially as good as the existing ones, but with time and development iterations, they end up improving, then getting better than the existing products and services. The older companies may have excellent management and great products, but their customer base has very specific needs which they can best serve by staying focused on them. By the time they pay attention to the newer competitors, the competition is strong enough that it is very easy for their existing customers to simply switch to the new product or service.

Local interest – one of the examples that Christensen uses is that of the Birmingham steel industry from the 1960s through to the early 1980s when the first large-scale layoffs occurred as plant the electric arc furnace began eating into markets for U.S Steel’s Bessemer-process steel production.

Excellent read. You need to understand this business pattern.

Steve Jobs

Steve JobsSteve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tells the story of what made Steve Jobs who he was. He wasn’t the hardware guy – he was the design and human interface guy. He was hard on people, but at the same time, he got brilliant work out of them.

The Google Story

The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our TimeThe Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time by David A. Vise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tells the Google story, starting with the biographies of the two founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The two started with Sergey Brin’s initial insight as to how to determine link popularity (modeled on scientific paper ranking by citation counts from other papers) and then worked out how to index the existing internet (in 1998-1999) and return reasonably good search results. Given that decent search was so badly needed at the time, they had a tool that worked well – and that exploded out of the gate. Has a decent explanation as to how Google Ad Words work, and the what the resulting revenue stream has enabled the company to do.

An excellent primer for those who would like to learn more about Google.

Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet

Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the InternetTubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A layperson’s introduction to the hardware that makes up the backbone of the Internet.

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