What the dormouse said

how the sixties counterculture shaped the personal computer industry

No cover

What the dormouse said (2006, Penguin Books)

310 pages

English language

Published Nov. 8, 2006 by Penguin Books.


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4 stars (4 reviews)

Most histories of the personal computer industry focus on technology or business. John Markoff's landmark book is about the culture and consciousness behind the first PCs—the culture being counter– and the consciousness expanded, sometimes chemically. It's a brilliant evocation of Stanford, California, in the 1960s and '70s, where a group of visionaries set out to turn computers into a means for freeing minds and information. In these pages one encounters Ken Kesey and the phone hacker Cap'n Crunch, est and LSD, The Whole Earth Catalog and the Homebrew Computer Lab. What the Dormouse Said is a poignant, funny, and inspiring book by one of the smartest technology writers around.

3 editions

Review of 'What the dormouse said' on Goodreads

2 stars

I enjoy stories of Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, and Stewart Brand as much as the next guy, but this does not deliver on connecting its interwoven LSD, Communes, and Antiwar aspects of some overlapping engineers to these stories. A decent history of People's Computer Company activist Fred Moore is in here.

Review of 'What the dormouse said' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

Fascinating look at the often unheard birth of the personal computer. The book does a great job of painting a realistic picture of what the Bay Area tech scene looked like during the social revolution of the 1960s. My only gripe was that it was a bit long winded and referenced too many people that may or may not have been important to the overall story. If you are interested in computers and social movements then this book is perfect for you!

Review of 'What the dormouse said' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This was just a fun break from serious reading, but I quite enjoyed it. Before Steve Jobs, before Bill Gates, there were the real pioneers who gave us personal computers, people like Doug Engelbart, who probably did more than either of the above. This is the story of those unsung folks. And of course all of this took place in the Bay area around San Francisco just as the anti-war and hippie movements were active. It was not an accident that these things happened in the same place at the same time.


  • Microcomputers -- History
  • Computers and civilization
  • Computer industry -- History
  • Nineteen sixties