The Soul of A New Machine

The Soul of A New Machine

by Tracy Kidder


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Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder memorably records the drama, comedy, and excitement of one company's efforts to bring a new microcomputer to market.
Computers have changed since 1981, when The Soul of a New Machine first examined the culture of the computer revolution. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316491976
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/01/2000
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 131,964
Product dimensions: 5.55(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Tracy Kidder graduated rom Harvard and studied at the University of Iowa. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and many other literary prizes. The author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, My Detachment, Home Town, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, and The Soul of a New Machine, Kidder lives in Massachusettes and Maine.

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Soul of a New Machine 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Borg-mx5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book about the now lost minicomputer industry and the people who make computers. Almost an ethnographic study, Kidder spends a great deal of time with people, observing and reporting. I actually found this book to be exciting and from it comes one of my favorite quotes: "Some things worth doing are worth not doing well."
jorgearanda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A technically and socially satisfying account of the development of a new computer in the late 1970's. Its glorification of the exploitative and ruthless management style of Data General is off-putting, but this might be a minor quibble on an otherwise fine book.
MrJack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was drawn to this book in 2008 because of my two decades of experience with Data General (DG) computers, both the 16-bit Nova class and the 32-bit MV class of minicomputers. My experience included system administration, script writing, programming in timeshare BASIC, setting up smart PCs as workstations, and running a help desk. I was too busy working with DG systems in the 1980s to realize that our MV was the product of a history-making process.In the mid 1970s, when Digital Equipment Corporation announced the VAX series, their first 32-bit minicomputers, DG responded with a crash course called the "Eagle Project." This project is the subject of Tracy Kidder's Pulitzer prize-winning book, The Soul of a New Machine (1981). Kidder's book single-handedly made Data General's MV line of minicomputers the best documented computer project in history.Kidder's book reads more like a fast-paced novel -- with somewhat less sex and violence -- than like a pedantic history book.My Favorite Chapter: My curiosity was piqued when I came to Chapter 6, "Midnight Programmer." Being one myself, programmers were people I could identify with. But as I turned the pages, the story line gradually began to lose its appeal as I read about "Microkids" who worked on "Microteams" at their crowded desks in "Micropits" at DG. After all, my work as a programmer was done as a loner, not as a team member. To be productive, I needed quiet and solitude. Then I read this sentence that instantly drew me back into the narrative: "Much of the engineering of computers takes place in silence, while engineers pace in hallways or sit alone and gaze at blank pages." "Yes," I said to myself, "that's the way I write new software -- like an engineer at DG designs new hardware."My Favorite Quote: I almost came unhinged when I read, "Not Everything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Well." This was a favorite saying of Tom West, the chief designer in charge of the Eagle Project, the principal character in Kidder's narrative. In saying this, West meant, if you can do a quick-and-dirty job, and it works, do it. As a manager, West was pushing to get things done on time and on cost. As a programmer for whom errors are intolerable, this is a piece of managerial advice that I could never, ever internalize or respect. This saying may have worked for The Microkids at DG, but not for programmers like me.We stayed with our DG MV at my institution for about a decade. Our operating system was AOS/VS, the most commonly used DG software product. It included CLI (Command Line Interpreter) allowing for complex scripting, DUMP/LOAD, and other custom components. Our MV ran our tailor-made software on demand with very little down time.Although we were happy with the reliability of our Data General systems at my institution, the time came when a major change in software vendors necessitated a corresponding change in hardware. We replaced our 32-bit Data General hardware with 64-bit Alpha hardware from Digital Equipment Corporation.Looking back on the experience two decades later, I must say in retrospect that the DG MV series was too little too late. While Data General was investing its last dollar into a dying minicomputer market, the personal computer was rapidly on the rise. For example, the 32-bit MV/8000 went out of DG's door in 1980. Barely a year later, in 1981, the 16-bit PC/XT went out of IBM's door. It was just a matter of time until PCs overtook the minicomputer market with the arrival of 32-bit, then 64-bit, then dual-core, then quad-core PCs.This book is still a good read more than twenty-five years after it was written.Trivia: Tom West, the protagonist in our story, was Tracy Kidder's college roommate.
wb_tech on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Talk about local flare - this book highlights the start of the computer industry from the perspective of Data General, right here in Westborough near 495. I'm also biased towards this book because my Dad worked for DG for over 15 years before moving to Mack Technologies. I was so excited to be assigned this book as a required reading for a college course entitled "History of Technology in Society"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read it when it was published and just finished reading it again. The technical details are dated, of course, but the story is still entertaining.
agis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tracy Kidder's ¿Soul of a New Machine¿ is over 20 years old now, and for a book about the creation of a new microcomputer and the engineers that worked on it, that's a very long time. Not necessarily about technology ¿ a computers are by and large still Von Nuemann machines, and the principles are the same ¿ but the engineer and the computer geek have become part of the culture in a way they weren't in 1980. The book, as a result, lacks some freshness to a modern reader ¿ the bleary-eyed devotion of the engineer is an old story by now.It's rarely told as well as it is here, though; Kidder has a knack for prose and handles everything well. The passages on computer technology slow down a little, but are still fairly impressive considering the ground he has to cover. The engineers, their quirks and motivations and doubts are depicted well, and he captures the drive and obsession with the machine and the long drag of testing as well as anything I've read. So even if the driven engineer is old hat by now, Kidder's book is still a great tome of the curious creation of a new machine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read this book in the early 80's.  Everyone was reading it back then, at least everyone in engineering. 33 years later, this book is still a great read.  Sure computers have changed, none of them have microcode loaded from an 8" floppy disk  drive anymore, but the engineering process still works this way.  Trust, sign ups, management as a development impediment, that is  there today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book delves deep enough into what it really takes to engineer a product without alienating the reader. A must read for any Computer Engineer.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I came away very satisfied. A computer is separated into 6 basic levels. Mr. Kidder went through each of these levels without loosing me, as the reader. If you have any interest in how a computer is developed from and idea to something physical, you must get this book. It should be a required reading for all computer majors.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best general technology book around. Reads like a novel. If you are interested in the human aspects of computer development, this is the book for you.