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Bricklin on Technology [Paperback]

by Dan Bricklin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)


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Book Description

May 4, 2009 0470402377 978-0470402375 1
In a world that divides us, technology creates connection. Cell phones, e-mail, digital cameras, personal Web sites—they all join us, however tenuously, to what we value. Is connectivity what we’re willing to pay for? Should technology be our servant or a tool that helps us do other things? What can we really learn from Napster? What would intelligent standards for touch-screen user interface look like? How does technology evolve, and what drives that evolution?

For Dan Bricklin, technology cannot exist independently of the lives and needs of those who use it. For more than a decade he has shared his thoughts on this essential interdependence in blogs, podcasts, and essays. This volume compiles those observations, putting together case histories and new reflections for a fascinating study of how people and technology affect one another. Whether you’re a software developer or a student of human nature, you’ll find yourself drawn into this most intriguing discourse—because you are its subject.



Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"As co-creator of VisiCalc, the first computerized spreadsheet, Dan Bricklin literally created the PC industry. To a student of software, VisiCalc is the embodiment of so many novel and important ideas in software, lessons which are still relevant today."
—Joel Spolsky, Joel on Software

"Nobody knows more than Dan about what technology is, where it's been and where it's going. If I only had one book of technology in my library, this would be it."
—Doc Searls, coauthor, The Cluetrain Manifesto

"Dan Bricklin was one of the first programmers to focus more on what's in the user's head than on what's in the programmer's head. VisiCalc foreshadowed the single most important idea: Don't 'tell' the computer what you want; show it! Dan Bricklin . . . is still showing rather than telling, and in this anecdotal yet insightful book, he does another excellent job of it. . . ."
—Esther Dyson, EDventure Holdings

"Fascinating history, fascinating insights, fascinating perspective — all solidly grounded in what makes technology work for normal human beings. Bricklin gives you a good foundation for thinking about your own tech."
—Jakob Nielsen, Principal, Nielsen Norman Group Author, Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity

"Dan Bricklin was at the heart of the personal computer revolution, and he kept learning and participating in technology's ongoing evolution. Now, with his new book, he helps us understand the most important part of this change: Humanity is creating a collaborative sphere of vast power and scale."
—Dan Gillmor, Director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University

About the Author

Inventor, entrepreneur, and longtime blogger Dan Bricklin explores a diverse collection of subjects in this book. From the personal conversations of commuters heading home to those of warriors guiding missiles . . . from music to gesture recognition on the Apple iPhone . . . from the American Revolution to today's political conventions . . . from nuclear power plants to simple tools used by millions . . . this is technology at the human level.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (May 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470402377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470402375
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #600,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure trove for techies! May 25, 2009
Format:Paperback
This is a fantastic book because you really get a two-for-one with it:

1. If you are a product person, you'll get some really raw writing on the thinking behind a person who I consider to be one of the greatest product managers of all time (he invented the spreadsheet after all!). Dan writes in a succinct and lucid style about his thinking process for designing products and experiences, and also for critiquing them. I will never hire another PM without buying them this book and saying: hey you, think like this.

2. If you like the history of early PCs, there is a gem chapter at the end on the development of Visicalc that provides a very detailed account of the PC's first killer app. That chapter alone is worth the price of the book, but you also get a whole bunch of insight from that period on Dan's life sprinkled throughout the book-- whether he is talking about gestural interfaces or open source software.

Finally, the two interviews with Dan Ariely and Ward Cunningham are also gems worth reading.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Romp Through Technology Via Dan Bricklin May 18, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read a few books this weekend - the most enjoyable was Bricklin on Technology . I've somehow managed to end up with three of them - I know that Dan Bricklin sent me one and Amazon sent me one, but I don't know where the third came from. Dan told me about this book a few months ago when I saw him in Boston at the TechStars for a Day event. He's done an outstanding job of combining his essays on computing with updated thinking along with a bunch of great history. There are a dozen chapters - each are a "mini-book" within the book. My favorite was Chapter 12: VisiCalc (which is - not surprisingly - the history of VisiCalc) but the other chapters are all great and include things like:

* What Will People Pay For?
* The Recording Industry and Copying
* Leveraging the Crowd
* Blogging and Podcasting: Observations through Their Development
* Tools: My Philosophy about What We Should Be Developing

I first heard of Dan Bricklin in 1979. I had bought an Apple II with my bar mitzvah money (and some help from my dad). When VisiCalc came out, we bought one of the first copies; we still have the original 5.25" disk in the brown vinyl VisiCalc binder (our copy was the one featured in the Triumph of the Nerds video series - that's another long story.) Not surprisingly, Dan and his partner Bob Frankston were early heroes of mine. I even bought a copy of TK Solver when it came out.

I finally met Dan in 1995 when he was starting to think about the company that became Trellix. I think we were introduced by Aaron Kleiner, but I can't remember. Yes - I was really excited the first time we met! I ended up helping out in the very early days of Trellix through the point that Dan raised a $200k seed financing from CRV.

I've always loved the way Dan's brain works and Bricklin on Technology is a bunch of it in one portable package.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Bricklin has assembled a really valuable collection of visionary blog posts, interviews with people on the front lines of technological innovation, and PC industry history (he was the co-creator of VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet -- which is credited as being the original "killer app"). I especially enjoyed chapters two and three, which focus on what people will pay for in the digital world, and the way the media industries have tried to deal with easy copying (Napster, Grokster, BitTorrent, etc.) Entrepreneurs will probably appreciate chapter seven, which focuses on tools that Bricklin thinks ought to be created (or improved). "Bricklin on Technology" is like downloading a few gigs of Dan's brilliance directly to your cerebral cortex.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I knew of Dan Bricklin first and foremost as the creator of Visicalc. This book introduced me to the thoughtful and wise Dan Bricklin who applies his careful observations of human nature to the history and development of a range of personal technology tools.

These insights are shared through stories, such as one in which he experiences the impulse to use his cell phone to reach out to share an emotional moment with his sister during a visit to his father's nursing home. The stories not only make this an interesting read, but hammer home his observations in a very clear way (I especially liked the chapter "What Will People Pay For?" among others).

Bricklin takes great care in organizing contemporaneous information on the developments he talks about, including his own blog posts, and weaves in comments from today's perspective. He uses typeface and margin changes to further organize this information.

While this book has obvious appeal for entrepreneurs, engineers and investors, Bricklin's use of stories to explain his thinking make this an interesting read for anyone interested in personal technology. (I just sent a copy to my brother, who is as a Presbyterian Minister, but who has always been interested in both computers and personal technology.)

Bricklin's insightful observations "set my brain 'a whirring," and left me with a strong sense of how he lives his own definition of the engineer (the cooperative problem solver, wanting to share all he has learned to make our newest technology tools all the better).

Highly recommended.
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