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Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin [Kindle Edition]

Francis Spufford
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A brilliant, beautiful account of how British boffins triumphed across the decades in creating everything from computer games to Martian landers.

The book contains chapters on the Beagle II, Elite - the 80s computer game, the Blue Streak missile, Concorde, mobile phone technology and the Human Genome Project, among others.

Britain is the only country in the world to have cancelled its space programme just as it put its first rocket into orbit. Starting with this forgotten episode, 'Backroom Boys' tells the bittersweet story of how one country lost its industrial tradition and got back something else. Sad, inspiring, funny and ultimately triumphant, it follows the technologists whose work kept Concorde flying, created the computer game, conquered the mobile-phone business, saved the human genome for the human race - and who now are sending the Beagle 2 probe to burrow in the cinnamon sands of Mars.

'Backroom Boys' is a vivid love-letter to quiet men in pullovers, to those whose imaginings take shape not in words but in mild steel and carbon fibre and lines of code. Above all, it is a celebration of big dreams achieved with slender means.



Editorial Reviews

Review

Described in the blurb as 'a vivid love-letter to quiet men in pullovers', this is a fascinating account of those ingenious engineers who invented the technologies of the future, often on a shoestring budget. It opens with the arrival of the first V2 noted by the British Interplanetary Society in a London pub, and we soon read of a surreal meeting between Arthur C Clark, the famous science-fiction writer, and C S Lewis. We learn how Britain cancelled its space program and how Ernest Benn was a good friend to Concorde. The story covers other technologies such as computer games, mobile telephones and mind-boggling efforts with the human genome. It makes for compulsive reading and is the sort of book only British endeavours could produce. It deserves to sell and sell.

About the Author

Francis Spufford, a former Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year (1997), has edited two acclaimed literary anthologies and a collection of essays about the history of technology. His first book, I May Be Some Time, won the Writers' Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction Book of 1996, the Banff Mountain Book Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award. His second, The Child That Books Built, gave Neil Gaiman 'the peculiar feeling that there was now a book I didn't need to write'. His third, Backroom Boys, was called 'as nearly perfect as makes no difference' by the Daily Telegraph and was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize. In 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He teaches writing at Goldsmiths College and lives near Cambridge., Francis Spufford, a former Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year (1997), has edited two acclaimed literary anthologies and a collection of essays about the history of technology. His first book, I May Be Some Time, won the Writers' Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction Book of 1996, the Banff Mountain Book Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award. His second, The Child That Books Built, gave Neil Gaiman 'the peculiar feeling that there was now a book I didn't need to write'. His third, Backroom Boys, was called 'as nearly perfect as makes no difference' by the Daily Telegraph and was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize. His fourth, Red Plenty was called 'odd, brilliant and crazily brave' in the Evening Standard, longlisted for the Orwell Prize and translated into eight languages. His latest book, Unapologetic, was described by Nick Hornby as 'an incredibly smart, challenging, and beautiful book'. In 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He teaches writing at Goldsmiths College and lives near Cambridge.

Product Details

  • File Size: 880 KB
  • Print Length: 276 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0571214975
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Non Fiction; New Ed edition (November 25, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004FN1K48
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #491,418 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars None November 13, 2012
By hoofie
Format:Kindle Edition
A very absorbing book. The author has really done his research and the first-person interviews are enthralling. It avoids well known stories but delves into other lesser known feats where Britain really did lead the world.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars August 30, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
More technical details than I expected. Found myself skimming several sections to find the personalities of the participants.
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More About the Author

I'm a writer of non-fiction who is creeping up gradually on writing novels. I write slowly and I always move to new subject-matter with each book, because I want to be learning something fresh every time, both in terms of encountering history and people and thinking which are new to me, and also in the sense of trying out a new way of writing. My idea of a good project is one that I can only just manage. I've written a memoir of my childhood as a compulsive reader, an analysis of the British obsession with polar exploration, a book about engineers which is also a stealth history of Britain since 1945, and a fusion of history with novel called "Red Plenty", about the USSR in the early 1960s. My next book will complete my slow crabwise crawl into fiction by being an honest-to-goodness entirely made-up story, without a footnote in sight. But before that, I have out a short polemic about religion called "Unapologetic". Despite the impression given by some of the reactions to it, it isn't, in fact, an attack on atheism, a position I have no trouble at all respecting. I am a little rude and a little mocking to the likes of Richard Dawkins - but it seems to me that when it comes to the lived experience of faith, Dawkins and co. are, as they say, not even wrong. So, though the book begins at the familiar address where the bust-up over religion has been going on for a decade now, it then goes entirely elsewhere, to try to convey to readers of all persuasions what Christianity feels like from the inside: actual Christianity, rather than the conjectural caricature currently in circulation. The book isn't an argument than Christianity is true, because how could anyone know that? It's only an attempt to show that it is recognisable, in ordinary human terms - made up of the shared emotions of ordinary adult life, rather than taking place in some special and simple-minded zoo. There is a tumblr for the book at unapologetic-book.tumblr.com.

(Oh, biography. I was born in 1964, I'm married with a seven-year-old daughter, and I teach on the MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, London.)

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