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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Out of date but still surprisingly relevant, 3 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
Silicon Sake Oil is a book that should be so out of date that it is almost useless, and yet it is not. Seventeen years is such a long time in IT that any book of that age should be, if not completely wrong by now, so obsolete in its detail that it has no relevance to current IT.

So why is this book different? Well it's easier to consider how Clifford Stoll has been shown to be wrong. There are lots of technical details here that are obsolete or completely wrong. Criticising school use of computer networks because modem dial up charges are prohibitive is so out of date as to be not just wrong but meaningless and his suggestion that the internet would not be able to handle financial transactions is probably one of his more famously wrong predictions. Predictions like that are all to prone to rapidly become embarrassing though it is interesting that while he was totally wrong about the money side of the internet we still have exactly the same bandwidth and access problems that we had when we were all using 14k modems, it' just that the files have got bigger.

But to focus on the technology the book discusses is to miss what is probably a far more important point and that is the social effects of computers and while the technology problems may change or even be resolved the social effects haven't changed that much. Who cares you can send email to the other side of the planet when people don't talk to someone on the other side of the fence? Does it really matter that google can answer our questions if your library can't afford books? I want my library to buy books and magazines not a new router! What has more educational value Wikipedia going on about the rainforest or a school trip to the woods at the end of the road?

If you can generalise past the technical details of mid nineties technology to the effect that technology has in general then this is book which still has a lot to say. It may have historic interest value but it still has contemporary value.
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