ARRAY(0xb2233e4c)
 
Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What gives any new machine a "soul"?, 27 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Soul of a New Machine (Modern Library) (Hardcover)
At this time of the year, I select a few books about diverse subjects and re-read them with the hope that new insights will occur that I missed previously. That is certainly true of this book (the second edition published in 1997 when I first read it) and James Gleick's Isaac Newton (2003). Dozens of other reviewers have already shared their reasons for thinking so highly of Tracy Kidder's account of Data General's efforts to create a new 32-bit superminicomputer. Here are three of mine.

First, I am grateful for being able to learn so much about Joseph Thomas "Tom" West III (1939-2011) and his contributions to the development of "the new machine." He led a project team (code-named "Eagle") that competed with another team (code-named "Fountainhead") within the Data General organization. Most of the drama in Kidder's narrative is created by the in-house competition to design a next-generation computer that could not only compete with but in fact win out in direct competition with a new 32-bit minicomputer brought to market by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). At least initially, West's group was generally viewed as a back-up {"second string") project team. However, over time....

Also, Kidder brilliantly develops a tension between two quite opposite mindsets. One is expressed by West: "Not everything worth doing is worth doing well" and "If you can do a quick-and-dirty job and it works, do it." Predictably, the engineers strongly disagreed and objected strenuously to being rushed to produce what they were certain would be an inferior product. They refused to cut corners, accept compromises, etc. West understood their concerns and in a perfect world would have accommodated them. However, he remained determined to not only beat DEC to market but also to retain dominance of that market thereafter.

Finally, Kidder provides his readers with still another opportunity to examine the dynamics of teamwork that is sustained under severe pressure from all manner of sources both within and beyond the given enterprise. As I proceeded through the book, I was again reminded of Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman's classic study of several great teams, Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration. Those groups include the Disney animators who created Dumbo, Snow White, and Pinocchio as well as those involved with the Manhattan Project and Lockheed's "Skunk Works." These and other teams were led by determined, at times driven leaders and were comprised of members who were quite different in terms of their talent, experience, and temperament. Those who led them were not "herding cats," a term widely attributed; indeed, they were leading an entire menagerie.

No brief commentary such as mine could possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of coverage that Tracy Kidder gives to one of several pivotal chapters in the history of computer technology. I am grateful for what I learned this time around that I had missed previously. I intend to re-read it again and meanwhile highly recommend the book to those who share my keen interest in the humanity on which the "soul" of any breakthrough technology depends. That was certainly true 35 years ago and it is even more true today.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

4.8 out of 5 stars (24 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (22)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
17.99
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Reviewer

Robert Morris
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Dallas, Texas

Top Reviewer Ranking: 113