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on 3 February 2000
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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on 16 June 2000
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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on 11 July 2001
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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on 4 May 2000
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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on 4 November 2002
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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This book provides a detailed yet light hearted approach toward computing history. The authors style of writing is compelling and I found it at times very to put the book down.
As well as being a good read to learn about computing history, this book is also amusing in the way it ridicules most of the major people in computing. For once the sole object of hatred is not just directed at a certain software company chairman, although he does not get away scot free.
Out of all the chapters in the book the seventh, about big blue has to be the most amusing. While the last chapter somewhat strays into obscurity it must be remembered that this book was updated 4 years ago in which time a lot has happened in computing.
I recommend this as a must read to anyone interested in the computing industry.
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on 6 May 2000
This was a superb book. I only bought it for the Open University course (T171) and thought it would be a real slog to get through - but it really is fantastic. The writing style is well above that to found anywhere else in the industry. There is an excellent mix of between serious commentary and humour, that makes you want to keep reading (at the risk of being a nerd!) The only downside it that it was last updated in 1996 and it shows how fast the industry changes - four years is a lifetime.
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on 23 June 2015
A huge fan of the old TV mini-series 'Triumph of the Nerds', I decided to finally pick this book up on the cheap. I'm fascinated by the history of the personal computer, and if you share the same interest, I suggest you pick this book up also. It's a great further insight into what happened throughout the ages with the hardware and software of our beloved PCs. Well worth a read!
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on 29 September 2013
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. Things move so quickly in the computing world (thanks to Moore's Law) that by the time a book goes to print, it's often already obsolete.

Not so with Accidental Empires. The first edition of the book was released way back in 1992, and even though it was revised in 1996, that was still almost twenty years ago. Despite this, the book still makes for a fantastic read - it's effectively a collection of reminisces anyway, and so it hardly matters whether the story you're reading happened five years ago or thirty years ago.

In fact, Cringely's writing is lucid and prophetic, and he mentions things that he couldn't possibly have known at the time - despite wrongfully predicting that Bill Gates would never marry, a prediction that he revised in the later version, he gets everything else spot on. For example, he predicted the development of the smartwatch and the tablet computer, and he also predicted that the computer would be fully assimilated in to our lives by 2005 in the same way that the television became a staple for evening entertainment. Not bad, considering he made these predictions at the start of the 1990s.

It's also interesting to see how the same characters keep on cropping up in the computing world - in the same way that Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki pop up everywhere in the world of social media, people like Andy Hertzfeld, John Warnock and Steve Ballmer seem to be everywhere, everywhen. In fact, even Guy Kawasaki, who is now best-known as a technology enthusiast and an authority on social media, is name-dropped somewhere in Accidental Empires.

If you're geeky (like me) and fascinated by computer hardware and software and the companies and developers behind one of the most fundamental changes in our lifestyle since the written word was first invented, get this book. Otherwise, go ahead and miss out - your loss.
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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. There are a few uneducated or misguided points for example' Europe hasn't quite figured out what PCs are even used for' is a little off putting!
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