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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2007
This is a great little book. Part historical overview, part travel guide, it's written in the breezy, easy-going style of Vance's columns in The Register, the best of the online IT rags (except that the book has been carefully proofread, unlike a typical Register story). In less than 250 pages Vance has covered almost all of the important historic events and personalities behind Silicon Valley, and provided a great set of tips of places for visiting, dining and drinking. There's even a good list of books and web sites for further reading.

I've lived in the Valley for nearly 15 years, and yet learned a fair amount from this book, including several places to visit that were new to me. There were only a few curious omissions: e.g., Halted gets a mention, but Fry's does not; neither does Buck's in Woodside; and surely Frank Drake should be mentioned in the section on the SETI Institute? - but otherwise the text is remarkably accurate, despite having condensed many complex histories, each worthy of a book in its own right, into paragraphs or pages. Vance clearly did his homework. My only historical quibble is with his description of the demise of SGI. I thought it was mainly done in by cheap graphics chips from Nvidia and the like; Itanic was just the icing on the cake.

The book mentions his web site and claims additional information can be found there, but so far there isn't anything new. Hopefully that will change over time. Another concern is that quite a bit of the information in the book will date fast; I hope Vance and his publisher refreshes the text (or the website, or both) regularly.

If you live in the Valley, visit the Valley, or you just want to know what the heck the place is about, this book is for you. And if you're a geek too, it's a must-read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2007
I'm a long-time reader of Vance's articles in the Reg and eslewhere. His articles are always well researched (except when intentionally not!), but it's his biting wit that always brings out the deeply burried tech geek in me. I was hoping for more of the same from this book, and was pleasantly surprised at how much more it offered than I'd hoped. The book is part biography- focusing on the heroes of the tech revolution, part history, and part guide-book. It may just inspire a trip to Silicon Valley. I even enjoyed it enough to recommend it to my 100% non-tech geek mom (who happens to like Silicon Valley).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2008
This book delivers as advertised. A great summary of Silicon Valley. If you've just arrived in the valley it is indispensable. Pick up this book and spend your time learning, visiting and eating through the locales mentioned. (They should hand this out to incoming students at Stanford, and at the immigration line at SFO.)

Minor quibble, the book suffers from "young journalist syndrome," where its history, anecdotes and insights are a synthesis of the bibliography in the back. However, kudos to the author for reading more valley history than 99% of other writers. He is headed for greatness when he finds his own voice.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2007
I've lived in Palo ALto for years and still learned a ton from this book. It's the perfect blend of history, context, entertaining anecdotes and insight. Vance manages to describe many "geek" innovations in layman terms, so that the book was especially helpful for a non-geek like me--someone who knew it was past time to learn about his hometown as well as the most important revolution of the 20th century. Who would have thought something so good for me would have caused me to laugh out loud at several points? Just wait until you read about Google's party plane.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2007
I've been involved with the tech business for 15 years and know my way around the places and companies in the valley. I found this book hugely entertaining and informative. At first look, it seems more like a travel book or specialized city guide than anything else - which is fine and a worthy accomplishment. However, there's a whole lot more....Ashlee lays out the history of the valley and the reasons why it has developed into the technical center of the world. Along the way, he provides easy to understand explanations of the technology and how each invention and advance launched new ventures or opened new markets. Finally, he delves into the personalities of both the key individuals and companies, which, for me at least, ties everything together and makes it a much more interesting and enjoyable read. Highly recommended....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2015
Dated, but still informative book about Silicon Valley. The author admits that it will be dated, due to the rapid change that has always been the nature of the Valley. The book would have held up better if it had been more of a history book with some key locations such as companies, museums, and universities, and less restaurants. But to be fair, the restaurants are often included due to proximity near a major tech company or when it is frequented by tech luminaries.

Overall this is solid book that will be of interest mainly to real geeks and those interested in silicon valley history. My favorite parts of the book by far are the ones that tell the history of the various tech companies and personalities.

The formatting is terrible on the Kindle version of this book due to the sidebars. It makes it disjointed and hard to follow at times. I constantly felt like I was re-reading what I had read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2007
Like technology? Like history? Like good writing? OK. This is your book. A little bit travel guide, a little bit history and a lot of fun, Ashlee Vance brings his truly unique and refreshing writing style in a book that is required reading for anyone involved in the technology industry.

I suspect they will be using this as a text book for some course or another at Stanford, and then Ashlee will become a full professor and his head will get really big and, well, that will be that. But read it anyway.
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on February 23, 2014
Who would have thought that a group of dull-looking buildings scattered throughout an industrial research park in California would become one of the most fascinating places to examine in the world? And who would have thought that those buildings have been replicated by hopeful local governments a hundred times over around the world (usually without success). It could only be Silicon Valley of course. Situated near the visually stunning Stanford University, Silicon Valley around Palo Alto has become the second largest generator of new American companies after the New York Stock Exchange. And the fact that it is the home to some of the nerdiest people on the planet only adds to the appeal of the place.

Forget Yosemite, O Traveller. If you want to see how America works in the 21st century, go to Silicon Valley... aka Geek heaven. See the connections.
And what connections they are!

Ashlee Vance is an online journo who has written a lively account of the early history of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View and San Jose and noting the overriding impact of nearby San Francisco. He provides an easy to follow guide to these places together with a lively discussion of the early pioneers like Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.

This book is designed for the curious traveler, indeed the geek traveler, rather than the academic scholar, and, it gives a very good overview of the various small cities that make up "the valley". There is a listing of other Silicon Valley books at the end of the publication, a list of other nerdy sites to look at but no list of restaurants (Don't nerds eat at all?) plus an index. Sadly, the book is spoilt,however,by the poor quality paper used in this edition.
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on December 31, 2011
This proved to be an excellent companion for a few days driving around Silicon Valley -- well-written, with lots of back stories on the personalities and events that shaped the tech industry in the area. Best of all, it describes what's worth seeing (which corporate campuses are impressive and which aren't, for instance), and the itineraries at the back give you an idea how to group the sights together -- complete with the all-important exact street addresses for loading into your GPS.

The contents are a bit repetitive, with some of the same people and events described in multiple places. Even so, it's a good buy, and as far as I can tell, the only book of its kind on the market.
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This is an off-key tour guide that focuses on the history of the technological industry in the Bay Area, which a central focus on San Jose and the southernmost cities of the Peninsula (PA, MP, etc). Not only is this a unique idea wholly appropriate for the area, but it is also aided by Vance's excellent written prose, which is illuminated, quirky and comical. I highly recommend this, even as a broad-stroke introduction to the area. If you're relocating to the Bay, why not spend a few evenings reading up on its recent Renaissance?
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