Computer Lib/Dream Machines Paperback – 1 Jun 1974
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Self-published cult computer culture classic. Early attempt to 'explain simply and concisely why computers are marvelous and wonderful'.
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In an era when IBM dominated the industry, and the best most social critics could come up with vis-a-vis computers was an incoherent babble about punch cards and Big Brother, it revealed a side of computing few had seen, and dared to dream about knowledge-sharing networks and graphic interfaces.
In 1989, I bought two dozen copies of this book (Microsoft Press edition). I gave some copies to friends, but most went to my co-workers at a small home-PC company. It was a coolness test. People who talked about it, who GOT it, I had hope for. Those who didn't get it, or scoffed, I marked as duffers. Alas, this included many of the company's higher ups.
Why only four stars for what was once an utterly invaluable tome, a source of inspiration, a shining literary beacon of hope? Mostly because much of what Computer Lib / Dream Machines advocated has come to pass (albeit in ways that Nelson would probably not prefer). Partially because the battle to complete the job has moved into other spheres: Legal, commercial, and the nitty-gritty work of actual product creation.
If you see a copy, or either edition, BUY IT.
The word "visionary" gets thrown around quite a bit when one talks about computers and the Internet: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos ... all visionaries. And then you read this book, which originally appeared in the 1970s, based on ideas Nelson developed in the 1960s, and you discover what visionary really means.
Dream Machines is a bona fide computer culture classic; it is shocking that such an influential and important book is out of print.