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Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition and Still Can't Get a Date [Hardcover]

Robert X. Cringely
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Sep 1992
In the vein of Thomas Bass or Ed Regis, this book looks at the business of computing in the US, as computer science, as a business, and as a collection of extraordinary and eccentric characters. After automobiles, energy production and illegal drugs, personal computers are the largest manufacturing industry in the world and one of the great success stories for American business. This book argues that this success happened more-or-less by accident.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (14 Sep 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670845612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670845613
  • Product Dimensions: 31.8 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,335,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Robert X. Cringely manages to capture the contradictions and everyday insanity of computer industry empire building, while at the same time chipping away sardonically at the PR campaigns that have built up some very common business people into the household gods of geekdom. Despite some chuckles at the expense of all things nerdy, white and male in the computer industry, Cringely somehow manages to balance the humour with a genuine appreciation of both the technical and strategic accomplishments of these industry luminaries. Whether you're a hard-boiled Silicon Valley marketing exec fishing for an IPO or just a plain old reader with an interest in business history and anecdotal storytelling, there's something to enjoy here.

In his new conclusion, Cringely looks at the likely near-future of the PC industry, arguing that most of the major companies are facing a need to dramatically reformulate their mission in the light of engineering developments already in the works. He offers a new paradigm for the development of the industry as it moves from its early "start up" phase into a more mature, more competitive era. --Jake Bond --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
Years ago, when you were a kid and I was a kid, something changed in America. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is a set text for OU T171, so I had to get it. But I really enjoyed it... the style was easy to read (particularly compared to the second set text)... you can tell it is written by a journalist, but at least they are supposed to be able to write. I read this one like a novel from cover to cover in one weekend. The author is easier on Bill Gates than other books I know, but overall it seemed quite a well researched history of PCs (as compared to most books which cover the history of computers). I'd recommend it - and fellow students can breathe a sigh of relief!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Accidental Empires gives a fairly broad outline of the development of the personal computer from the days when it was first created and no-one realy knew what it was going to be used for, up to around 1996 when Bill Gates was already up to his umpteenth million. Though the author does have an in depth knowledge of all the key characters in the world of the computer such as Steve Jobs of Apple or the nerdy Mr Gates, I do feel at times that he has a personal axe to grind with some of them. Despite this, I found the book a compelling read (the fact that I have finished the book is to some degree testiment to this) and though I have only read this book in connection with Open University course T171 I feel that it has given me a taster of a subject about which I knew little and certainly leaves the me wanting to study the subject more deeply. The author has a witty and easy to read writing style, with which he pokes a sometimes cynical and often humourous stick at a world which seems to the layperson to take itself too seriously at times.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumph of the Nerds in Words 11 July 2001
By A Customer
I am currently studying with the Open University and this is one of the set books we have had to read. I found it a very good read, although some of the anecdotes were a little hard to swallow at times, in particular the one about Bill Gates in a late night store buying ice cream. Robert Cringely was a guest in one of our on-line conferences, and actually confirmed that this story is true as told to him by another customer in the same checkout line. The book outlines where computers originated and where Silicon Valley came from, from Bob Noyce, (inventor if the integrated circuit), to William H Gates, (CEO of Microsoft). Don't think we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Gates for the introduction of the PC either. This goes to Gary Kildall - read the book to find out more. An easy read, amusing at times and very informative.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
One of the easiest books to read on the computing industry. I couldn't put it down, the author has written the book in plain language for non-'nerds' to understand. If all related books were written by journalists most people would understand computers better. As this is one of the set books for the Open University course T171, I found it easier to read than set book 2. I would recomend this to anyone wishing to understand the underlaying way the computer industry came about. I still cannot date girls!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating history of the computing industry 5 Mar 2003
I read this book after I saw the author's three-part documentary on the very same subject. Robert X. Cringley witnessed much of the birth of the computing revolution, and for some reason, knows a lot of people in a lot of places. This means he knows lots of fascinating stuff of what went on.
In my opinion, he focuses less on the technology, but on the genius and personality of the key people who helped to build the industry. That is what makes it so readable. And you don't have to be a nerd to understand the book!
People take their PCs for granted nowadays. It's hard to believe that computing is still a relatively new industry. So, I would recommend to anyone to read this book, and discover about the people who managed to change our lives so much.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Opinionated, but concise 4 Nov 2002
Format:Unknown Binding
Cringeley sees no reason to allow the facts to confuse the issue. Typically he takes a page or three to make a single point in his rambling and opinionated longhand. This is the quality that makes this a very entertaining read. Sometimes like a rollercoaster ride and sometimes like a bedtime story, this book will draw you in and make you want to read more.
this is quite handy since there are many things that Cringeley does not tell you in this book, preferring to describe how things work and why they are the way they are, rather than actually describing the ins and outs of the computer industry. Everything he sees to be relevant is expounded upon and opinionated about, while everything else is left to be found out by the reader in other books.
A good starting book for anybody interested in the business of computing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Boys will be Boys! 25 Aug 2008
Accidental Empires (later made into a great TV production called: Triumph of the Nerds) is an eye opening view of the personal computer revolution and the who made it happen from an inside writer who knew the individuals.

Robert Cringley does an exceptionally thorough job of providing a bird's eye view of the personalities, motivations, business environment and savvy of the nerds who changed the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entire book. One of the parts that sticks out in my mind is about how the personal computer revolution happened so quickly. Cringley points out that the personal computer industry was totally different than any other industry. The participants shared their friendships, work, and knowledge freely. This "free sharing of knowledge" was on of the primary the lynch pin that allowed the industry to explode so quickly.

They shared this knowledge because it all started out as a hobby and many hobbyists freely share ideas. The nerds had no idea of the powder keg of an industry they were sitting on!

Cringley points out a second lynch pin was the growth of the industry was partially because of the youth and exuberance of its participants. For example, he states: "In the PC business, constant change is the only norm, and adolescent energy is the source of that change."

This is an incredible book for anyone interested in learning about the fascinating story of the start of the PC industry.

The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide To: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book
Published 3 months ago by M. Coakley
5.0 out of 5 stars Robert X. Cringely - Accidental Empires | Review
When you read a book about computing, you can generally predict how good it's going to be based upon how recently the first edition was released. Read more
Published 12 months ago by
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly good information, but badly 'packaged'
I bought this book as part of my self taught self led management course. This was supposed to fill in the back story of the industry and perhaps sow some management styles that... Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2012 by JT
4.0 out of 5 stars well written, historic and funny
A great and easy read. If you are like me and have only an outside interest in the computer industry this book is for you. Read more
Published on 15 Sep 2011 by Damo
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but flawed
As a seasoned UK IT 'Pro' with 16 years PC and Mainframe experience, I came to this book expecting anecdotes about the movers and shakers of the PC World. Read more
Published on 19 Mar 2002 by
3.0 out of 5 stars Less trumpet blowing would have made it better.
Overall this is a very well written book which gives an inside view of the American PC industry. I would recommend anyone who is in the PC industry reads this book. Read more
Published on 12 Sep 2001 by Graham Wilkinson (
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic reference
An amazing insight into the world of computing brand names and people. Very entertaining and eye opening.
Is crying out for an updated version.
Highly recommended.
Published on 20 May 2001 by Indian Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars A witty and realistic view on the evolution of the PC
Every now and then there comes along a book which I find I can't put down. Accedental Empires is such a book. Read more
Published on 8 Jan 2001 by
4.0 out of 5 stars Humourous, but substantial insight to a history of computing
I like many others read this book for the Open University Course T171 and it convinced me to take the course. Read more
Published on 20 Nov 2000
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