Dealers Of Lightning

Dealers of Lightning by MichaelHiltzik?

ISBN 0887309895 , ISBN 978-0887309892 Summary: Beyond being a history of PARC's glory years in computing, the book sets out to revisit the conventional wisdom that XeroxBlewIt. Hiltzik comes to the plausible, if rather predictable, conclusion that it wasn't so simple. Xerox made some truly bad mistakes, but also some errors that are obvious only with the benefit of hindsight. Overall, getting the company's full efforts behind the personal computer would have taken the kind of wrenching change that few large, established firms manage. As it was, the returns from the laser printer alone nicely justified the investment in PARC. By Hiltzik's account, Xerox's biggest mistake may have been to reject spinoff arrangements, which would have helped it to make money from the PARC innovations as they escaped into the outside world.

The PARC innovations didn't "escape" into the outside world, especially to Apple. Xerox was an investor in Apple, PARC technology was intentionally demonstrated to Steve Jobs with the explicit goal (on the part of Xerox) of stimulating his interest, and the result was consistent with the mission of PARC.

The PARC innovations didn't "escape" into the outside world - Indeed they did. In general Xerox tried to hold on tightly to the PARC goodies with the intention of commercialising them in-house. Mostly it failed, with the upshot that many of the innovations were finally commercialised by third parties and Xerox got nothing. This happened with, for example, InterPress? (AdobeSystemsInc) and AlvyRaySmith? and DickShoup?'s work on video (PixarCompany and AuroraSystems?). In some cases (for example EtherNet?), Xerox did eventually make a deliberate decision to release things on generous terms, but there too they failed to make much of their initial leadership position. The deal with Apple might indeed have been different - if Xerox hadn't sold its interest in Apple shortly after acquiring it!

PARC technology was intentionally demonstrated to Steve Jobs with the explicit goal (on the part of Xerox) of stimulating his interest - PARC's GraphicalUserInterface technology already had Apple's interest by then. Apple let Xerox make its investment (in Apple's coveted pre-IPO stock) in exchange for the demonstrations. -- Source: DealersOfLightning

Anybody else read it yet? This book has been keeping me up late at night. This has got to be one of the greatest stories in computer science, and one of the greatest stories ever told. Fascinating history, extremely well written - chronicling the invention of personal computing in the timesharing era. The hardware and the software, the people and the politics. Heady stuff. Hiltzik deserves a medal for this. -- RandyStafford

It's in my next Amazon shipment; my ReadingDeficit is low enough that I should be able to schedule it for the next slot on my reading list; I'll report with my impressions. -- LaurentBossavit

ChrisGarrod checked it out and read it at UCSD as part of his normal workday. Fascinating. We inherited so much from PARC!

CategoryBook CategoryHistory

View edit of June 12, 2008 or FindPage with title or text search