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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 5 March 2003
I read this book after I saw the author's three-part documentary on the very same subject. Robert X. Cringley witnessed much of the birth of the computing revolution, and for some reason, knows a lot of people in a lot of places. This means he knows lots of fascinating stuff of what went on.
In my opinion, he focuses less on the technology, but on the genius and personality of the key people who helped to build the industry. That is what makes it so readable. And you don't have to be a nerd to understand the book!
People take their PCs for granted nowadays. It's hard to believe that computing is still a relatively new industry. So, I would recommend to anyone to read this book, and discover about the people who managed to change our lives so much.
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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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on 25 August 2008
Accidental Empires (later made into a great TV production called: Triumph of the Nerds) is an eye opening view of the personal computer revolution and the who made it happen from an inside writer who knew the individuals.

Robert Cringley does an exceptionally thorough job of providing a bird's eye view of the personalities, motivations, business environment and savvy of the nerds who changed the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entire book. One of the parts that sticks out in my mind is about how the personal computer revolution happened so quickly. Cringley points out that the personal computer industry was totally different than any other industry. The participants shared their friendships, work, and knowledge freely. This "free sharing of knowledge" was on of the primary the lynch pin that allowed the industry to explode so quickly.

They shared this knowledge because it all started out as a hobby and many hobbyists freely share ideas. The nerds had no idea of the powder keg of an industry they were sitting on!

Cringley points out a second lynch pin was the growth of the industry was partially because of the youth and exuberance of its participants. For example, he states: "In the PC business, constant change is the only norm, and adolescent energy is the source of that change."

This is an incredible book for anyone interested in learning about the fascinating story of the start of the PC industry.

The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide To: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
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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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on 1 February 2012
I bought this book as part of my self taught self led management course. This was supposed to fill in the back story of the industry and perhaps sow some management styles that worked and some that didn't.

The history contained in the book is excellent and the layout useful as it follows 'threads' through the industry in roughly chronological order. It is filled with suggestions of further reading and granular pieces of information that can really help fill the back story.

However, a lot of the time this appears to be a history of Robert X Cringely from 1970-1996 featuring the IT industry. I've learned a huge amount about Robert's history, home life, his perception and opinions of people and his interpretations which to be frank, didn't need to be in the book. These are not always accurate. Blasting Bill Gates in the 1991 edition for being a loner with no relationship prospects and refusing to give money to charity for example backfired for the 1996 chapters which had to retract the suggestions.

In all, everyone in the industry needs to know the history involved, some of it seems a little shaky/biased and too much content about the author. If you can skip over the bad parts and have some other knowledge or texts to provide counterpoints, you should be fine.
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on 15 September 2011
A great and easy read. If you are like me and have only an outside interest in the computer industry this book is for you. It got basically the whole story on the foundation of our modern world and Cringely writes about potentially boring issues with a light hearted and entertaining manner. There is no loyalty to any one brand or product and both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs getting an equal amount of criticism and cajoling.

If you are a Windows user, the source of your frustration is explained through Cringelys' unveiling of the core philosophies and corporate structure that helped build it to what it is today. Same goes for Apple, and as it was published at a time when they were in serious financial trouble it highlights their recent turnaround even more. Cringelys' writing style is sharp and funny and has a few anecdotes that you'll probably not hear of anywhere else. He tells the tale of the industries winners and losers with honesty and credits the difference between luck and skill where appropriate.

In all, a good book that doesn't suffer too much from its timing. Interestingly he predicted devices like the iPad in latter chapters, but might have swung a bit wide on the Y2K panic
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