The Best Books On The Origins Of The Tech Industry

Joanne McNeil Author Of Lurking: How a Person Became a User
By Joanne McNeil

The Books I Picked & Why

Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128

By AnnaLee Saxenian

Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128

Why this book?

Until the 1980s, it seemed like Route 128 in Massachusetts was set to be the dominant location for the tech industry. What could have been a dry look at comparative corporate organizational structures is instead a compelling analysis of the contrasting cultures, business climates, and other forces resulting in the ultimate victory of Silicon Valley. The book is full of fascinating details that I haven’t read anywhere else like the role that California community colleges played in ensuring companies could swiftly train new employees.


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Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the Afronet to Black Lives Matter

By Charlton D. McIlwain

Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the Afronet to Black Lives Matter

Why this book?

Black software, McIlwain writes, “refers to the programs we desire and design computers to run. It refers to who designs the program, for what purposes, and what or who becomes its object and data.” The book is a much needed examination of the role that Black entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, and users contributed in building the internet.


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The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network

By Katherine Losse

The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network

Why this book?

A memoir that covers Losse’s experience working at Facebook from 2005 when she was the company’s 51st hire. Losse weaves her own experience—at first as a low-level employee in customer support and later as Mark Zuckerberg’s ghostwriter—with sharp analysis of Silicon Valley’s changing role in politics and culture. A powerful reckoning with her own complicity working for a company that exhibited dangerous “totalitarian” ambition from its very beginning.


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A People's History of Computing in the United States

By Joy Lisi Rankin

A People's History of Computing in the United States

Why this book?

A thorough look at the origins of personal computing and connections between computer users beginning in the 1960s that highlights the BASIC programming language and The Oregon Trail game. Shines a light on the role that universities and the education system played in fostering networks between users.


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From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism

By Fred Turner

From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism

Why this book?

Beginning with Steward Brand’s influence through his projects like The Whole Earth Catalog, the WELL, and Wired magazine, this book examines the unique culture of Silicon Valley. An essential history and one that clarifies the tech industry’s seemingly contradictory values of revolution and corporate power.


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