I bought this in 1996 from the Computer Literacy bookstore in Sunnyvale, and enjoyed reading its account of the development of the Mac: the inspiration, the mistakes, the personalities, the politics, the technical breakthroughs and the way in which it "changed everything". Recently, I pulled it off the shelf and read it again: this time around, it appears as more of a historical document, with some fascinating suggestions and guesses for future developments.
It's interesting to see how some of these have come (almost) true - for example, on p285, there's a description of a plan for a hand-held device whose "display might turn into a metaphoric music store. By touching the pictures of various shelves, one could browse through a stack of compact disks. Touching one CD icon might fill the screen with the label image. Touching again might trigger a wireless call to the record company - and the response would be a brief snippet of one of the songs on the CD." It all sounds like a pretty accurate prediction of iTunes and other on-line music stores, but it's worth noting that this plan wasn't (at the time) Apple's - instead, it came from General Magic, a company partially formed by disaffected Apple engineers to "help create the spiritual successor to Macintosh". The other way this plan deviates from the on-line music stores that we've become familiar with is the way it ends: with the CD of your choice being physically shipped to your house. The use of the internet as a carrier for music seems to have been just beyond the radar at the time. Although this isn't perhaps surprising, it's remarkable how (even for a book written in 1994, at the dawn of the World Wide Web) there's no mention of the internet at all. Ironically enough, it was their reliance on a proprietary network (and the neglect of the Web) that was to be amongst the reasons for General Magic's demise not long after this book appeared.
This is still an interesting read. Levy's a good writer (I enjoyed his Hackers
and Artificial Life
a long while ago), and rereading this book has made me interested in his book on the iPod
, which I hope to get around to any day now.