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Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Computing (Writing Science) 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0804738712
ISBN-10: 0804738718
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

Review

"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

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Product Details

  • Series: Writing Science
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (December 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804738718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804738712
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #870,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
These days only the big guys get the credit for the technology we use every day. In Bootstrapping, Bardini looks at the life and contributions of Douglas Engelbart to the personal computing revolution. More than the story of technology, Bootstrapping is the story of a personal crusade to make interfacing with computers easier. Bardini focuses too much on the person and not enough on the context of Engelbart's innovations, hence the 4 stars.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Marcin Wichary on May 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
While possibly everyone even mildly interested in the history of GUIs will have heard of Doug Engelbart's groundbreaking "mother of all demos" of oNLine System from 1968, there's usually much less emphasis on its history, relevance and context. "Bootstrapping" provides this knowledge, giving a detailed history of Doug Engelbart's "crusade" -- starting with his studies and ending with the closure of Augmentation Research Center. It also positions NLS in a broader context of Engelbart's vision of the symbiosis of the user and the system, which went much further and deeper than just the mouse and proto-hypertext (that's not to say that these inventions do not get their fair share of attention in the book). Superbly researched, the book suffers from sometimes overly dry and scholarly tone, going into unnecessary details, and perhaps exhibiting too much sympathy for Engelbart. However, it's worth its cover price, even if for accurate portrayal of the future that hasn't been.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David C. Hay on December 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I only learned of Douglas Englebart recently, and was impressed. I could have gone to Stanford in the late 60s, and who knows how my life might have been changed if I had met him? His vision that the computer should not be a partner but an intellectual prosthesis was fascinating to me, since I had sort of figured that out in the 1970s myself, but I never articulated it. I appreciated this book's description of his campaign to promulgate this idea. It was also interesting to discover that over time, his group was subject to the same sorts of political and personal problems that Information Technology groups have been suffering from ever since.

The problem is that the author made it very difficult to see the story. The writing style was very difficult to follow, with way too many details not really packaged in a meaningful way. There was a really interesting story hiding in there, but you had to work much too hard to find it.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By ...Bill on August 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
Audience: Academics, detail-oriented historians of computer interaction

I bought this book looking for a detailed history of Douglas Engelbart's work and Bardini certainly delivers that. Actually too much detail. The result is a very thorough and detailed history, but one that's not engaging to read and meanders into minutia. As written, it's for only those deeply interested with the NLS system history and patient enough to wade through sub-topics better left to appendices. To be of interest to a wider audience it needs serious editing and rewriting to provide a story arc to the history.

Details:

It's clear that Bardini had unprecedented access to many of the key people from Engelbart's group as well as the archives. This means he had a unique opportunity to write a definitive history. The problem is one of editing; it often feels like having that having all this information at hand he decided to incorporate more of it than appropriate for a story narrative. The result is copiously annotated doctoral thesis and not an engaging (hi-)story.

For example, impact of '60s era movements like est as archived in the SRI logs is extensively tracked including several pages of re-presenting another book's story on the event. The author goes into great details of the group dynamics need to be covered and are worthy of following -as if this was new, unique or special because of the time and place where the group worked. Certainly it had its particular nuances, but it could have been summarized in a just a few pages (or paragraphs) to keep the story moving along.

In contrast to the sidebar topics, the famous 1968 "Mother of All Demos" is presented almost as an afterthought.
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