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This review is from: What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (Paperback)
Markoff describes the early history of the personal computer, concentrating mainly on the pioneering work of Doug Engelbart at Stanford Research Institute on the On-Line System (NLS). This culminated in his famous NLS demo at the San Francisco Fall Joint Computer Conference in 1968, which featured interactive text editing, video conferencing, hypertext and the first public appearance of a computer mouse. Markoff links the demise of Engelbart's group to the rise of the work of Alan Kay and his associates at Xerox PARC. The fact that these two institutes are within a few miles of each other, and just down the road from San Francisco, which was the countercultural capital of the US at that time, leads Markoff to his main thesis: the connection between the liberation of the computer from the world of the mainframe server and the expanded consciousness (only partially induced by chemicals) of its developers.
It's an interesting story which is well-written, although the number and variety of characters involved can be a little bewildering as Markoff brings in academics, activists, government funding agencies, engineers, writers and hackers to tell his story. But he manages to tease out his observation of the tension between the idealism that created tools which facilitated the sharing of information and the entrepreneur spirit that enabled, in the words of venture capitalist John Doerr, "the largest legal accumulation of money in history", and the way that is still manifest today in the division between open source and proprietary software.