The soul of a new machine

Paperback, 293 pages

Undetermined language

Published June 1, 2000 by Little, Brown and Company.

ISBN:
978-0-316-49197-6
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OCLC Number:
44864448

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4 stars (54 reviews)

"The Soul of a New Machine" is a non-fiction book written by Tracy Kidder and published in 1981. It chronicles the experiences of a computer engineering team racing to design a next-generation computer at a blistering pace under tremendous pressure. The machine was launched in 1980 as the Data General Eclipse MV/8000. The book won the 1982 National Book Award for Non-fiction and a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

16 editions

The Soul of an (Not So) New Machine

5 stars

Tracy Kidder recounts the uber-enjoyable events of an engineering team racing to build a microcomputer, making it feel like you're the geeked intern spectating at all the engineers in wonder and delight. The personalities, the hardware, the business, the goofs and the gaffes pull you in and never really lets go. Now, forty years later, the book is old and the technology is practically archaic, however, nothing seems to have really changed.

Review of 'The soul of a new machine' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This is a classic computer history book but unique in the fact that it was written while the Data General Eclipse MV/8000 (code named Eagle) was being developed in the 1979-1980 time frame. This was DG's answer to DEC's VAX and their first 32-bit machine. Kidder was embedded with the team as a journalist with no computer background whatsoever. This comes in handy because computers were exotic things which most people had only seen in movies. It is hard to imagine, even for someone like me that was a computer obsessed kid in that era but he's describing floppy disks as "an object almost the exact shape and size as a 45-rpm record" or a hard disk module as a football helmet. He describes what computer memory in details that make it sound huge for the day but are 1000s of times smaller than today. However the level of detail …

Review of 'The soul of a new machine' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This book is beautifully written. I reads like a wistful memoir for the life of a machine. The story is of the creation of Project Eagle in the Late 70's/Early 80's at Data General. If you are interested in computers, their history, or how they were dreamed up and made, this is essential reading. I loved reading about the creation of a computer during the age when people thought that they were going to be the impetus of revolution. This is really a love letter for the wild-west age of computing.

Review of 'The soul of a new machine' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I have complicated feelings about this book, which I read when I was just starting my career in tech and re-read this week after 30ish years. On the one hand: it is a super-compelling nerd fable, and some of the best layman's descriptions of computer engineering ever written. On the other: A total blueprint for for how to sign tech workers up for abusive working conditions, and convince them that it is all about the passion. I need to sit with it for a while.

Review of 'The Soul Of A New Machine' on Goodreads

4 stars

This is a special book that captures a time not to long ago in human years, but ancient history in tech years - an era that I believe is woefully under-documented in comparison to the life and times of the personal computer.

Kidder takes a banal subject, the engineering of a minicomputer, and captures the heart behind the effort. It also manages to be an insight into management techniques and technical processes, but never gets bogged down in either one.

Kidder romances a little too much for my taste and sometimes it's difficult to keep track of the engineers and get a feel for their idiosyncrasies. However, it's probably the best book of its kind and his ability to tell a nimble story is superb.

Review of 'The Soul Of A New Machine' on Goodreads

5 stars

This was recommended to me from the Amazon workplace article a few weeks back. Here is a great tale from 1980 of a tech company embracing the startup-competition-80hr-weeks method to push out a new computer under arbitrary deadlines, to hire smart kids and work them incessantly for the joy of getting to do something cool. All interwoven with a very detailed but hopefully readable account of how computers worked and were built at this mid-point in their history. I could relate to pretty much everything in here - hope I'm more of a Carl Alsing than anyone else, but still a world I'm happy to be looking mostly backwards to now. Tracy Kidder had great access during and after, a really well told story that is still all too relevant.

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Subjects

  • Computer engineering -- Popular works
  • Data general corporation

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