Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age

Dealers of Lightning Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age The Barnes Noble ReviewMarch While Gates Jobs and the other big boys of Silicon Valley are basking in the glory of the information age renowned Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik revea

  • Title: Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age
  • Author: Michael A. Hiltzik
  • ISBN: 9780887309892
  • Page: 216
  • Format: Paperback
  • The Barnes Noble ReviewMarch 1999 While Gates, Jobs, and the other big boys of Silicon Valley are basking in the glory of the information age, renowned Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik reveals how, back in the early 70s, a group of inventors at Xerox s Palo Alto Research Center PARC blazed the trail for all of today s indispensable technologyfrom the PThe Barnes Noble ReviewMarch 1999 While Gates, Jobs, and the other big boys of Silicon Valley are basking in the glory of the information age, renowned Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik reveals how, back in the early 70s, a group of inventors at Xerox s Palo Alto Research Center PARC blazed the trail for all of today s indispensable technology from the PC to email to ATMs to meteorologists weather maps And they did it without fanfare or recognition from their employer Hiltzik s Dealers of Lightning provides a fascinating look at technohistory that sets the record straight In Dealers of Lightning, Hiltzik describes the forces and faces behind the revolution that the Xerox PARC team single handedly spawned The Xerox PARC group was composed solely of top technical minds The decision was made at Xerox headquarters to give the team complete freedom from deadlines and directives, in hopes of fostering a true creative environment It worked perhaps too well The team responded with a steady output of amazing technology, including the first version of the Internet, the first personal computer, user friendly word processing programs, and pop up menus Xerox, far from ready for the explosion of innovation, failed to utilize the technology dreamed up by the group Out of all the dazzling inventions born at Xerox PARC, only a handful were developed and marketed by Xerox However, one of these inventions, the laser printer, proved successful enough to earn billions for the company, therefore justifying its investment in the research center Most oftheteam s creations would go on to be developed and perfected by other companies, such as IBM, Apple, and Microsoft Drawing from interviews with the engineers, executives, and scientists involved in the Xerox PARC, Dealers of Lightning chronicles an amazing era of egos, ideas, and inventions at the dawn of the computer age.

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    1 thought on “Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age”

    1. Xerox PARC is legendary as the home of some of the most brilliant minds in the history of computing. It played a pivotal role in the creation of (among other things) personal computers, GUIs, and the internet. It's also emblematic of the inability of large corporations to recognise and foster innovation. This book brilliantly captures the personalities of PARC, their triumphs, frustrations and clashes, with each other and with the Xerox suits. There's a good balance here in terms of attention to [...]

    2. Riveting read. Not as technical as I'd like - though I have yet to read any computer book that is. Mostly it's straight up porn for anyone who loves working with computers. PARC was one hell of a lab back in the day. The most interesting part about this is seeing what really happened with Xerox and the first GUI PCs. It's not that they let the opportunity slip through their fingers, they were never the right company to produce an OS in the first place.Still, it worked out well for virtually all [...]

    3. rating for entertainment alone -- i don't rly agree with a lot of the overarching points made here but god i love reading about old computers.

    4. Really the Grand Canyon of books. Everyone knows that the Grand Canyon is a big hole in the ground but when you go see it your like "DAMN that's a big hole in the ground. Same thing with this book. The myth is that xerox parc invented most modern software but when you read this book your like "DAMN they really did invent everything." Overall though, a few stories aside, it just adds depth to the myth rather than providing any real new insights.

    5. I’ve heard of Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) for years now and of its importance, but this book really drove home just what a critical place PARC was for the development of the personal computer. It was an excellent, excellent book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.Back in the mid-60s, Xerox decided they wanted to compete with IBM and AT&T by developing their own research labs in the hopes of winning prestige and a possible Nobel or two, just like Bell Labs did. They set PARC up with a virt [...]

    6. A fascinating account of the invention of the personal computer at a Xerox research facility in the 1970s. Hiltzik's book explains how over the course of ten years some of the world's foremost computer scientists invented almost every feature that we have come to associate with personal computing--overlapping windows, "what you see is what you get" word processing, the desktop, high speed printing, connection to an Ethernet, point and click technology, the ubiquity of the mouse, and the use of i [...]

    7. Fascinating history of PARC and the people who made it the world's leading computer science research center in the 1970s. Does not specifically unpack the factors that made PARC excel, but contains enough information about its successes to draw broader lessons about creating conditions conducive to breakthrough R&D. - Hire the best people- Give them a long leash- Force them to interact Ethernet is a good example -- Bob Metcalfe was stringing coaxial cable through the PARC basement when he bu [...]

    8. "The theory of second systems was formulated by an IBM executive named Frederick Brooks, whose career supervising large-scale software teams taught him that designers of computer systems tend to build into their second projects all the pet features that tight finances or short deadlines forced them to leave out of their first. The result is an overgrown, inefficient monstrosity that rarely works as expected. As he put it in his pithy masterpiece, The Mythical Man-Month: 'The second system is the [...]

    9. Wow I had no idea how much stuff originated from PARC. -laser printers-ethernet-desktop computing w/ GUI - mouse, windowing, all that-adobe-3com-SGI-object oriented programming (smalltalk)-probably more stuff I'm forgettingTruly a remarkable place, and a tragic story for Xerox. Their clueless corporate management and stultifying resistance to change kept them from truly realizing the commercial potential for most of these things. They could have OWNED computing in the 90's and beyond. Instead th [...]

    10. Read this book and you will discover that many of the things that Steve Jobs used the MAC (mouse and distribute applications across several windows) were originally conceived at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) Xerox.

    11. I love the stories from this era. It created the industry I love and work in. The book feels very accurate and tells a detailed story. I found it a bit heavy sometimes though.If you liked this book you should definitely read iWoz.

    12. This book is not for everyone because it contains a lot of office politics. But it does document the role PARC played in the 1970's in laying the foundation for much of what we now take for granted in computer technology. I worked at Xerox during the 70's, spent many hours at PARC on business and was personally involved in some of the products that used PARC inventions. I also witnessed the corporate level office politics that caused PARC so much trouble. I knew many of the corporate players and [...]

    13. Excellent read on a very interesting period of the innovation and change in the field of research and computing. I do not have a technical or academic research background and found the technical very accessible. The book is also a well-paced narrative with strong character development. Unlike most books that take the lazy narrative of the hero researcher and the villainous corporate monolith, this book offers a much more nuanced view of the challenges of identifying and harnessing radically new [...]

    14. What an amazingly well written book about a complex situation. For anyone interested in the dawn of computing and the players that are huge name in computer science this is a must read. In fact, I'd go as far as say this should be mandatory reading for and computer science 101 student (and beyond). It also gives an interesting perspective on research in industrial settings and how products come to market. Hiltzik writes with a decisive and confident voice so, as a small nitpick, I wonder a bit h [...]

    15. Very readable, kept me going with a good story flow and lots of interesting tales of how so many modern technological wonders we all know came to be. A much richer view of a story many people think they know, with colorful characters and descriptions of now well-known technologies in their infancy. Inspired me to seek out more info on many of the people and products and stories it touched on.Would definitely recommend this book, and for another great book like it I'd push Hackers: Heroes Of The [...]

    16. Extremely interesting account of the rise (and to a certain extent, the fall) of PARC. My enjoyment was significantly impacted by poor organization, repetition, and (at least in the Kindle edition) a significant number of typos; a good editor could have cut this book to 2/3 of its current length and greatly improved the reading experience.

    17. Some outdated technical comparisons since this book was written over 18 years ago. Accurate and entertaining history of Xerox PARC from the 60s to the 80s. Terrible OCR typos though and the author enjoys his thesaurus so he can sound more intelligent, but still a good read.

    18. Fascinating story but told in a superficial manner. Mentions hundreds of names you will not remember a minute later and ignores all but simplest technical issues. I'm just not that interested in people's personal stories. Came here for the technology and was bored by all the social aspects.

    19. Some interesting anecdotes on glory days of Xeroc PARC, the science/tech and the business side. The famous Steve Jobs visits; Alan Kay and Smalltalk. But overall, not much I didn't read before, and the tech is described only in the most superficial ways.

    20. If ever a book was written that shows the destruction of corporate yes men can be to the welfare of a corporation, it is this one. Xerox ruled the roost for a few decades. Xerox could have ruled the roost for decades. It the corporate HQ got out of the way, it just might have, but the yes-men and brown nosers and paranoid execs led Xerox down a path of dismal returns.In the 60's, Xerox set up a research center that created so much of what we know today-from the mouse to many aspects of programmi [...]

    21. Gripping read for anyone interesting in computing history and business strategy within the tech landscape.

    22. History of birthplace of a lot of modern computer ideas as a story of clash of different characters and administrative and research approaches.This book breaks the popular opinion that XEROX just overlooked a lot of PARC ideas and Alto in particular. They tried to put it in a market, but in their specific way. And the main reason is that many of PARC ideas were insanely innovative and really hard to implement at that time. Classic story of custom crafts vs mass production with an influence of th [...]

    23. I'm an IT aficionado and I had great expectations for this book about the origins of modern computers, however the style of the author was very boring to me: I had to struggle to rein my mind into the narrative. Could not finish, read about 25% only.

    24. Dealers of Lightning (2000) by Michael Hiltzik is an outstanding look at Xerox PARC. In terms of books on the history of technology it is up there with the excellent Triumph of the Nerds by Robert X Cringely about the history of the early PC industry. PARC the Palo Alto Research Laboratory was started by Xerox in the early 1970s. The best known PARC development, the Alto was the first machine produced in numbers that featured a GUI. It took the research of Douglas Englebart who developed the mou [...]

    25. Half business history, half computer history: It reduces to a story of a company that lost out on owning most of the "parts" that come in todays standard computer. Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) was the place to be if you wanted to make something cool in the 1970's. It seems bizarre, the idea of letting researchers invent whatever they wanted with a virtually unlimited budget. But their inventions were almost never patented or incorporated into Xerox products; because Xerox sold copiers [...]

    26. This book details the history of Xerox PARC, which set up a research lab that invented many aspects of modern computing and then failed to capitalize on it (at least to the extent that many people thought they should have). I was happy to see the author resist the obvious and often-retold narrative of a corporation that was simply too dumb to realize what their visionary research division had. The book instead paints a more realistic picture, mentions some of the tensions present between a corpo [...]

    27. I am constantly amazed at how well authors can reconstruct an event like this, making the book read as if they had tape recorders going through the entire time. The amount of work it must take through interviews is staggering.This book is well researched and written, and made me feel like I was there as it all transpired. But I mainly came to it because I wanted to know more about the famous Apple demo, and that was relegated to one small chapter, where it felt like the author said, "Everyone kn [...]

    28. A fascinating book telling the story of Xerox PARC, the place where modern personal computing was born. Hiltzik painstakingly documented major twist and turns in life of that unique lab. There are at least three layers in this book. First, this is simply great story, full of real characters, ups and downs, unexpected turns. Second, is uneasy path from great ideas to their practical implementation. PARC researchers imagined back in early 1970s things, which completely changed our life. However, t [...]

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