Some revolutions are thoroughly televised. When Douglas Engelbart first demonstrated small-w windows and a funny wooden device called a mouse back in 1968, interest jumped quickly and he became the progenitor of the PC. Now, less widely known than the successful entrepreneurs who made billions from his innovations, his story deserves deeper attention as an outstanding example of practical creative research. Communications professor Thierry Bardini examines the scope of his work before and during his tenure at the Stanford Research Institute in Bootstrapping
, a thoughtful history of an underreported story.
Bardini cleverly sidesteps the postmodern superanalysis of his colleagues to present a clear, straightforward glimpse into Engelbart's environment of inspiration. As an engineer familiar with the earliest computers, he quickly came to understand that their complexity could rapidly outpace human ability to cope--and thus was born the concept of the "user." His team used their computing power to determine how best to use their computing power--a reflexive assignment of profound brilliance--and churned out novel concepts and designs faster than their contemporaries could absorb them.
How and why this occurred as it did is the focus of Bardini's research, and students of creativity and the history of computing will have fits of ecstasy that he has compiled his work so accessibly. Better still, Bootstrapping shows research done right and is essential reading for R&D types everywhere. --Rob Lightner
"Bootstrapping fills an important gap in the story of personal computing."Technology and Culture
"Thierry Bardini particularly explores the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of Engelbart's book. . . . Indeed, the breadth of Engelbart's contributions and influence, documented in meticulous detail, are astonishing. . . ."Enterprise & Society
"Anyone who has worked in computer-human interface or in and around Silicon Valley institutions such as SRI, Xerox PARC, IBM Almaden Research Center or Apple Computer will certainly relish this book. Moreover, those in a private, government or non-profit office filled with the fruits of contemporary productivity technology will appreciate Bardini's tales of politics, committees, funding and grants, demos to funders and skeptical management, and all those fascinating projects at PARC and SRI."Leonardo Reviews