Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age

Reviewed on , book by Michael A. Hiltzik

Entertaining account of the heyday of Xerox PARC in the 1970s when Alan Kay, Bob Taylor, and Thacker were all there spewing out inventions such as the ALTO; arguably the most complete, first personal computer. Although it was never successfully brought to market, it heavily influenced personal computing. Xerox is where the foundation of human-computer interaction was developed: mouse, GUI, WYSIWYG, and so on. Ethernet was built at XEROX too, where the appeal of an “ARPANET for Everyone” (ARPAnet was a small University ‘internet’) was a vision I imagine was often discussed at lunch.. In addition, Smalltalk was invented here and it allowed the engineers to work faster than anyone else. In particular, the speed of re-compilation was one of the things that really wow’ed Jobs when he made his historical visit.

Why not 5 stars? I was reading this book to really hope to get under the skin of the culture of XEROX. What made this such a creative environment? It’s more of a historical account, which is still thoroughly enjoyable—but it didn’t go as deep as I would’ve liked.

I listened to the audiobook, which I probably wouldn’t recommend. Audio sounds like something recorded on cassette in the 90s, which upon further inspection seems to be fairly close to the truth..