Dealers of Lightning

By Michael A. Hiltzik,

Book cover of Dealers of Lightning: Xerox Parc and the Dawn of the Computer Age

Book description

During the 1970s and 1980s, a number of brilliant computer eccentrics were thrown together by Xerox at the Xerox PARC centre in Palo Alto, California. These people created inventions such as the first personal computer, the graphic user interface, the mouse and one of the precursors of the Internet. However,…

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2 authors picked Dealers of Lightning as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The software interface for Apple’s innovative Macintosh was largely (and legally) modeled on system software designed at the Palo Alto < California research center of Xerox, an East Coast photocopy company whose stodgy executives failed to realize the value of the coding breakthroughs they had funded and nurtured in the heart of northern California’s computer cauldron. Before anyone at the top of Xerox realized the enormity of their errors, the company had licensed to Steve Jobs and Apple key software technologies that animated the Macintosh revolution in the 1980s. Hiltzik’s richly detailed and readable history, based on scores of interviews,…

Turing taught us that a simple model suffices to describe computation and Shannon and von Neumann taught us how to realize that model. But what is the relationship to the world in which we live? Sure, the first computers were useful in wartime to do the calculations needed to launch ballistic missiles and crack codes, but could they do anything useful for the rest of us?

In the 1970s, computing as we now know it was conceived and implemented by a small group of researchers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). This book tells the story of that…

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