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Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age (Anglais) Broché – 5 avril 2000

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Présentation de l'éditeur

In the bestselling tradition of The Soul of a New Machine, Dealers of Lightning is a fascinating journey of intellectual creation. In the 1970s and '80s, Xerox Corporation brought together a brain-trust of engineering geniuses, a group of computer eccentrics dubbed PARC. This brilliant group created several monumental innovations that triggered a technological revolution, including the first personal computer, the laser printer, and the graphical interface (one of the main precursors of the Internet), only to see these breakthroughs rejected by the corporation. Yet, instead of giving up, these determined inventors turned their ideas into empires that radically altered contemporary life and changed the world.

Based on extensive interviews with the scientists, engineers, administrators, and executives who lived the story, this riveting chronicle details PARC's humble beginnings through its triumph as a hothouse for ideas, and shows why Xerox was never able to grasp, and ultimately exploit, the cutting-edge innovations PARC delivered. Dealers of Lightning offers an unprecedented look at the ideas, the inventions, and the individuals that propelled Xerox PARC to the frontier of technohistoiy--and the corporate machinations that almost prevented it from achieving greatness.

Biographie de l'auteur

Michael A. Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Los Angeles Times. In 2004 he won a Gerald Loeb Award, the highest honor in American financial journalism. Hiltzik is the author of Dealers of Lightning: Xerox Parc and the Dawn of the Computer Age and A Death in Kenya. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two sons.

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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Amazon.com: 78 commentaires
24 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Being There at the Dawn of the Computer Age 29 décembre 1999
Par Robert Morris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
What I really appreciate about Dealers of Lightning is that, for the first time in a single volume, there is a comprehensive analysis of the legendary Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). Its brilliant young inventors produced a number of breakthroughs in office technology. Hiltzik examines each of the key scientists, led by Bob Taylor, as well as Steve Jobs and others who visited to observe and to learn... and departed with information without which they probably could not have succeeded. This is a riveting account of collaborative genius. It has the colorful characters and multiple of plots (and sub-plots) one encounters in a novel written by Dickens or Balzac. Bennis and Biederman devote one chapter in Organizing Genius to the PARC operations. For those who desire a complete account of those memorable years, here it is...well-told.
18 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The history of PARC without the myth and bias 22 mars 2003
Par Charles Ashbacher - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Although the history of the ubiquitous computer is a short one, it has a mythology so extensive, it could have been developed over centuries. Some of the most unusual, imaginative, intelligent and powerful personalities in the history of the human race have been a part of its' development. One of the most pervasive myths is that Xerox could have become the most dominant company in the history of the world as a consequence of the leadership it could have had in computing. There is no doubt that the ideas that were developed in the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) were some of the most original and now most widely used. There will probably never again be such a concentration of the leading talent of a particular field in one place. Without question, they were also a strong-willed group, that led to natural personality conflicts, which no doubt would have led to dissolution of the group after a few years no matter what. Hiltzik is very pragmatic about this, understanding and explaining that this is typical of leading people in the computing field.
While it is true that Xerox could have dominated the computer field had they been able to exploit all the ideas, the reality is that it was most likely impossible for any company to absorb all that was produced there. It is ironic that the problem was that the researchers were too productive for their parent company to handle. Once again, the author understands this very well, unlike others whose focus seems to be trying to make Xerox a laughingstock. Furthermore, these were the early days of computing and there were few that could truly see where the computing field was going. Nevertheless, the management of Xerox was hardly blameless, their level of cluelessness has to rank among the highest.
What I liked best about the book were the last sections about the supposed conversion that Steve Jobs underwent when he was shown the technology being developed at PARC. The myth is that the basic ideas of the Macintosh were "stolen" from PARC when they were shown to Jobs and his engineering team during a tour. While it is true that Jobs was convinced, saying that the technology was taken from PARC does an enormous disservice to the engineering staff at Apple, who did their own research and development. The most that can be said is that what they saw at PARC convinced them that it could be done, but did little to show them how to do it.
This is a fascinating book about a set of incredible people. If you were to make a list of all of the major ideas of computing, you would have to take some time before you could separate out those that did not undergo a large amount of their development at PARC. Bereft of the myth and biases, from this book you can learn what actually happened in that incredible place and at that unique time.
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A good read about software history 29 avril 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is a gripping history about key software innovations that underlie much current US economic success. These software technologies are now deeply embedded in everyday business practices and they formed a launching pad for today's computer-based communications and the Internet. As traditional US manufacturing declines in competitiveness, it is hard to imagine that the US would be enjoying its current prosperity if basic innovations like those developed by PARC and by early ARPA research had not occurred when they did.
As a technical participant in the Xerox Star commercialization effort, I worked with many of the PARC researchers described here. Hiltzik tells a very balanced and nuanced story that certainly captures the concepts, dynamics, and conflicts of that time. One can quibble with whether the participants' recollections are always fair, but Hiltzik's story about these exciting times is basically accurate with respect to the personalities and events that I knew, and he fills in a wealth of background and details that I didn't know.
This book corrects a lot of misinformation about PARC research and Xerox commercialization efforts. It is a good read for anybody interested in the history of technology. It should be required reading for everybody in research management--for many examples of what to do and what not to do. This history should also be read by anyone who believes another big leap in software technology can be achieved while research funding is cut back, universities are drained of their talent, and almost everyone competitively focuses on six month commercialization goals.
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A gripping tale about historic computing research. 26 mars 1999
Par James J. Horning - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
If you read only one book about research management, researchers, or computing research this year, this is the one to read.
Dealers of Lightning is the story of the seminal first 13 years of Xerox's famed Palo Alto Research Center, a period in which PARC developed laser printers, the ethernet, internets, networked personal computers, the client-server model, bitmap displays, icons and graphical user interfaces, the desktop metaphor and overlapping windows, and various other foundations of the computing world as we know it today. But this is not primarily a book about technology -- it is about the people who generated it: How they were brought together, how they interacted, and finally, how they dispersed.
Michael Hiltzik is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and he has clearly done his homework. He seems to have talked to all the major (and many of the minor) figures involved, read everything that has been written on the subject, and understood most of it. There are ample footnotes, source citations, glossary, and acknowledgements. Some of his accounts are as close to definitive as we are ever likely to see. For example, his story of the famous demos for Steve Jobs that had such an influence on the Lisa and the Macintosh (while recognizing that participants recollections conflict) has more information about them than I was able to gather while at PARC.
As an "unindicted co-conspirator," neither interviewed by Hiltzik, nor mentioned by name (although I was close to the epicenter for the last half of the book's time span), I have both inside information and personal biases. I spotted a few small factual errors, and in some cases my interpretation of events is different than Hiltzik's. Nevertheless, he has done an amazingly good job of capturing the gist. This book is more complete, more accurate, and more nuanced than Smith and Alexander's Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, then Ignored, the First Personal Computer.
Hiltzik is an excellent writer, and the book is a page-turner (even when you know how it ends). The plot is gripping; the cast of characters large and interesting. Parts of the book are too incredible to be published as fiction. I stayed up well past my bedtime three different nights, repeatedly promising myself I'd read "just one more chapter."
My main complaint is that the book is so crowded with people and events that almost all the characters come out one-dimensional, often associated with a single recurring tag phrase. Bob Taylor at least gets a two-dimensional treatment, but it is too often through the eyes of his (numerous) enemies; the admiration and loyalty he inspired in many others is frequently remarked on, but never explained.
The book is littered with insights about research and technology transfer -- both from the characters in the book and from Hiltzik. There are stimulating comments on what worked, and what did not, and why. Of course, I don't agree with all of them, but formulating convincing counter-arguments can be quite challenging and instructive.
I particularly recommend the Epilogue, "Did Xerox Blow It?" Unfortunately, it really needs to be read in the context of the entire book. I first tried reading it out of order, and it didn't have the same force.
Hiltzik discusses fairly even-handedly Steve Jobs's claim that "Xerox could have owned the entire computer industry today. Could have been, you know, a company ten times its size. Could have been IBM--could have been the IBM of the nineties. Could have been the Microsoft of the nineties." After weighing the pros and cons, Hiltzik concludes that it's not clear that Xerox could have ridden the tiger to that kind of success -- even if it had avoided all its known blunders.
Hiltzik also points out that laser printing alone repaid the cost of PARC many times over, and that no company can expect to exploit every worthwhile thing that comes out of a research laboratory.
11 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Fascinating story 23 avril 2000
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I read this book because it was mentioned in The New New Thing - a book about Jim Clark. What I found was a very well written story of PARC (Xerox's research centre in Palo Alto).
The story is really set in the 1970s and 1980s when Xerox set up PARC really to support a newly acquired computer company SDS. What happened instead was that PARC itself outshone the acquired company and for a corporation that built up its name in the photocopier business, it caused many problems.
Hiltzik is a master at capturing the mood and feel. He brings a multitude of characters to life in bite sized chapers. (The book has almost 450 pages but the chapters are about 8-12 pages long making it easy to pick up and immerse yourself in a piece of history.)
What I found astounding was the level of technology reached in PARC. This is well documented in this book. You have Douglas Englebart who used research and ideas raised in the 1940s as a blueprint for interactive hardware and software aimed at manipulating text and video images (he was the "inventor" of the mouse). You have explanations of the floating point function (which caused Intel so many problemns with its Pentium chip). You have descriptions of culture shaping events such as Bob Taylor's "Beat the Dealer" where his people would spend an hour or so explaining their research and then were let loose to the erudite audience "like a rank steak to a pack of hungry wolves." You even have the origins of Ethernet and TCP/IP documented here.
This is a very detailed book but unlike say "competing on Internet Time" it is much more like a story with real characters and real-life issues. It reads as well as a Southwick book but with much more to say.
It is amazing what PARC produced using a bunch of the best people around, and it is the characterisation of these very talented people which made me enjoy the book so much. Hiltizk masterfully adds an epilogue that goes some way to trash the view that Xerox must have been just plain stupid to let all this technology go. A very thoughtful and broadminded ending to a superb book.
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