48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2004
It's easy to get discouraged as a developer. Time, features, quality, these all turn the thrill of inspiration into the cool slog of a job. But sometimes the fire gets through. That's what happened at Apple with the birth of the Macintosh. And that's what Andy Hertzfeld, one of the primary team members on the first Macintosh, chronicles in this book.
The summation of the folklore.org site, this book is a set of about 100 stories. Each running about 3-4 pages on average. Starting with Andy's first day at Apple and ending around the time when Jobs' was ousted in a palace coup. The stories run the gamut from the deep technical to the interpersonal. They are well written and engaging.
A must read for those inspired by the original Apple Mac engineers.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2004
How wonderful is this book? That will depend on several factors. I've read a lot of books that claim to dish out the real dirt about Apple, and this book impressed me because Andy Hertzfeld didn't write all the anecdotes himself. Instead, he created a web site at [...] and encouraged any and all persons involved with the creation of the Macintosh to document their own recollections of how it all went down. Those essays, along with dozens written by Hertzfeld himself, are now the basis of this new book, mixed in with pencil sketches, historcal photos, and old ads. This book is not about grinding axes or settling grudges. It merely documents in an objective fashion how the whole team came together, and the many many ups and downs encountered in bringing this wonderful computer to life.
What I like about this book can be summed up in two phrases. First, none of the essays exceeds five pages (roughly the length of my attention span), so I easily breezed through ninety pages of historical material without losing interest. I found myself laughing outloud at times. Second, because of the way Hertzfeld collected these stories, I truly believe that this book is not an attempt to re-write history so as to exalt himself as the God of Macintosh. While I have seen reviews of this book describe it as a coffee table book, I don't view it as a coffee table book. The essays cover technical details about how the Macintosh was prototyped and debugged, and these technical details will be above 95 percent of the people who pick up this book. Not to mention there is a lot of text.
The anecdotes in this book read quite true to me. We follow Hertzfeld from his initial hire at Apple through to his maneuvers to get himself onto the Macintosh development team. Because the anecdotes come from a variety of sources, the book really seems to fairly depict each person's role in the development of the Macintosh. For example, we've all heard Jef Raskin claim that he was the creator of the Macintosh, but this book reveals that the form factor of the computer envisioned by Raskin was nothing like the 128k Mac that ultimately arrived at retail stores, and that Raskin was put on a forced leave of absence from Apple before the machine even shipped.
Having said all these great things about the book, who is the target market for this book? I happen to have been a Mac owner since the 128k Mac was released (I passed on the 128, and waited for the 512), so this book brought back many fond memories of how the Mac changed my life and of the adventures I have had with it since its introduction. But as the foreward of this book acknowledges, most people today are computing with Windows machines and in a sense "everyone is basically using a Mac," because all the concepts implemented by the Mac team are now available in one form or another on the Windows operating system. But I don't think a Windows user would find this book of interest, as they typically don't care how the computer works or what mountains had to be moved to make the graphical operating system happen.
The book concludes with Steve Jobs removal from the Macintosh team in 1985. It provides no insight on whether the "new Apple" after Jobs' return is anything like the "old Apple" chronicled in this book. This is, of course, due to the fact that Hertzfeld was only at Apple from 1979 to 1984, so here we are, twenty years later, still reminiscing about what it was like to invent the original Mac. Hertzfeld's departure from Apple came after a six-month leave of absence, and the magic he had felt before his leave had gone away (or "grown up") by the time he was scheduled to return. So he left amicably, and went on to found three separate companies in the years that followed. Revolution In The Valley is a wonderful book to read, but I'm thinking the only people who will want to read it are those who were Apple devotees in the early 1980's, or MBA students studying where Apple went wrong with its multiple reorganizations and management shakeups. I find the anecdotes in this book fascinating, and I can't put it down. Programming geeks or budding electrical engineers will find this book fascinating. These stories are the words of real ex-employees, many speaking out for the first time, and detail the day to day travails of the people who made it all happen. But I honestly don't think my wife or my sister would spend much time with this book at all. It's just too much of an insider's look at a company that is struggling to remain relevant in a world that is very different than the world in 1984. But if you are one of the people who bought into the whole Macintosh culture in the 1980's, I would definitely recommend this book.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2004
Written as a series of short blog-like entries, this book takes you on a unique behind-the-scenes look at what it was like building the original Mac. I found it a genuine and fascinating peek into both the "birth of the Mac" and the emerging personal computer industry as a whole. It's tough to fathom what it must have been like to write an entire operating system and applications with only 128K to work with.
Being in the software industry myself, I could identify with a lot of the programming situations and unique characters that end up in software development. It was oddly comforting to find that certain things haven't really changed that much. My favorite in this regard was a short entry about a management decision to "track progress" by entering the number of lines coded that week. One guy put down "-2000", as he had done some optimizing and was able to get rid of a lot of extra source code.
Great nuggets of information about how things came into existence. For instance, the "Command" key icon, the boot beep, and the original font names. A glimpse at what it was like to work for Steve Jobs was also captivating.
All told, a must read.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Macintosh computer is the most iconic computer of all time, and probably one of the most significant consumer electronics products ever. The successors of the original Macintosh have remained aspirational products ever since, and Mac fans are oftentimes known for their cult-like admiration for their computers. One name that immediately comes to mind when Mac is mentioned is that of Steve Jobs, Apple cofounder and a mercurial and controversial visionary that has shaped Apple products for the most of company's history. However, Jobs is a strange bird - a head of a technology company without any concrete technological skills. The bulk of the work on the original Apple computer was done by the other company cofounder (Steve Wozniak) and the team that actually built Mac was composed of largely unknown engineers and technicians who worked on the computer over many years with the utmost passion and dedication. This book is a tribute to that creative and dedicated team. It is written in a form of many anecdotes of crucial events and developments in the process of creating the first Mac. Most of the stories are told from the point of view of Andy Hertzfeld, but there are numerous contributions by other team members as well. The book is filled with images of old hand-written designing notes, pictures of the team members, various Polaroid screen-shots of the development of Mac's GUI, and many, many more moments that elicit a form of nostalgia for those early days of the computer industry. The whole book is in fact a tribute to those more innocent days when idealism was a much more potent motivator than money and stock options. It also paints a picture of Silicon Valley when it was possible for young fresh-out-of-college engineers to find meaningful work and live in places like Palo Alto. Whether you are a Mac fan or someone with a curiosity about the first-hand accounts of the early personal computer industry, you will find a lot in this book to keep you interested. It's a homage to the real nerd inside of all of us.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2006
The first thing that struck me about this book is that it's effectively written in hypertext - it's a series of vignettes about the development of the Mac from its beginnings as a tiny research project through launch and the eventual combination of the Mac and Lisa development teams. The non-linearity of the narrative can be a little distracting at times, but you get used to it.
Some of the vignettes are fairly technical - they might be more than the lay reader wants to get into, but each story is short (3-5 pages) so a non-technical reader can always skip ahead (or back, or sideways) to a less-technical narrative.
Hertzfeld doesn't gloss over conflict within the Mac team, but he also celebrates the fun times and shows why the Mac development team was a unique and very productive working environment. It's clearly one person's version of the story, but he never claims it's anything else.
All in all, I highly recommend this book for anyone who's interested in the Mac as a computer and Apple as a company.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2005
Apple is a special company and the Macintosh was a pivotal product that is still at the heart of its success today. Yet if you were to look inside the original Macintosh you would find something even more remarkable than technical innovation and creativity.
Past the intuitive graphical user interface, behind the first 3.5" floppy drive in a personal computer, and over the novel logic board was something that most users never knew was there. Inside the case of every Macintosh was a collection of signatures. Just as an artist would sign a canvas, the team that put together the first "insanely great" computer signed their masterpiece.
The Macintosh was a special product because of the amazing team that took it from conception to retail. Revolution in the Valley is the story of their achievement. It is a sturdy and attractive hardbound book with a modern and approachable layout, relevant illustrations, and highlighted summary quotes from team members and the minds that inspired them. Under the dust cover it is adorned with stills taken from the infamous 1984 commercial announcing the Macintosh.
Though the book touches on parts of the larger Apple story - such as the exile and return of Steve Jobs, the development of the Lisa, and the great initial success of the Apple II - it maintains its focus on the Macintosh throughout. It follows the project from Jeff Raskin's research project, to Steve Jobs' adoption as the future of Apple, and through the first time the world said "'hello' to Macintosh."
Rather than offering a "monolithic narrative," Revolution is presented as a compilation of short stories. Most are the work of Andy Hertzfeld, a key personality in the development of the Macintosh system software, but some are submissions from other team members.
The episodic approach makes the book accessible and easy to read, not to mention giving it a coffee-table appeal. Each is organized more or less chronologically, but overlap often - thankfully in dates much more than in narrative. In such cases there are useful references to the related story and the assortment of unique voices actually better illustrates the key personalities than a single-perspective account would.
Co-authors also contributed to the healthy collection of rare and unique photographs, original notes, and advertisements that are well placed throughout the book. Combined with the energetic layout, the illustrations give a lot of color to the lively tales of Silicon Valley's most famous pirates.
As can be expected in a book about a technical innovation, there is some jargon that may be lost on the average Apple fan, but those instances are few and sufficiently nestled in the story that their meaning is clear enough.
The market is full of books about Apple, but Revolution in the Valley offers a specific focus and an easy-going style. If you call yourself a fan, you owe it to yourself to peruse this book and get to know the people that birthed the Mac. For those who are looking to learn a little more about the roots of Apple's success, this is a great choice. It truly is The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2005
As an enthusiastic reader of books covering the history of computing, and a long-time Apple user/admirer, I cannot recommend Hertzfeld's book highly enough. Here is a well-written account full of heart from one of the key players in Apple's history. Hertzfeld does an excellent job of allowing the reader to feel the elation, dismay, and various emotions that he and his co-workers experienced. Moreover, he is able to convey the intracacies of his co-worker's characters: the reader feels as though he knows Hertzfeld, Jobs, and Burrell Smith (in particular) after reading this.
If you are wondering what the book is like, check out Hertzfeld's website [...] where these stories were first posted and read a few of them. Then go read this book, you won't be disappointed.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2004
What a great book! Much of what is written here can be found on the folklore website that Andy Hertzfield has put together, but this hardcover gem is just one of those things a Macophile has gotta have anyhow.
There's a lot of pointy-headed programming talk in here, which may challenge some, but even if you don't understand some of the references, the story they're being told against comes through every time. If you do, so much the better - these guys truly were/are brilliant, and their work deserves to be memorialized.
The portrait of Burrell Smith that emerges as such a focal point in the development of the Mac is particularly fascinating.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2005
When I worked at Eazel (a startup that Andy Hertzfeld co-founded), some of my fondest memories was when Andy would start informally sharing anecdotes about the early days at Apple. We'd overhear from our cubicles or receive an IRC ping, and we gravitated towards his cubicle to hear more closely. (The occasional office visit from folks like Steve Wozniak and Bill Atkinson only heightened the surreality!)
This book contains most of those anecotes, and many more, written in a sincere, egoless, and often courageously introspective style. I admire and appreciate Andy for making this book possible, and for providing the added context of a tapestry of commentaries beyond his own narrative voice.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2006
If you're old enough to have been using computers when the Macintosh first appeared, you remember how you *knew* at first glance that it was something special. That's because it wasn't just another machine -- it would change the very way people thought about technology, doing the impossible in making a computer charming, fun and easy. Without the Mac, computing as we know it today wouldn't exist.
"Revolution in the Valley" is the story of that spirit, told in vignettes that illustrate the day-to-day struggles in making the Mac a reality.
Despite being heavily technical at times, "Revolution" is very readable, putting human faces behind the Mac and revealing how much thought and care went into its every detail. Everything from the "OK" button to the boot-up chime received careful planning. Nothing was left to chance -- perhaps explaining why the Mac model of computer navigation is so second-nature to us today. Such devotion comes only from those who know their work will change the world.
The other remarkable thing about this book is its revelation of how Apple -- long revered as one of America's most enlightened, progressive companies -- could, as a business, be just as dysfunctional and stupid as any Dilbert-like cubicle hell. Bad business decisions, clueless management and lousy treatment of employees early on sowed the seeds of the Mac's eventual decline and near destruction in the marketplace, leaving the likes of Microsoft to inherit the earth. The book shows how even Steve Jobs, the "insanely great" visionary that he is, was often blind to problems right before his eyes.
Finally, "Revolution" is not the work of a journalist or ghostwriter. Andy Hertzfeld was one of the Mac's driving forces, writing groundbreaking software the likes of which we take for granted today. Hertzfeld knows the story of the Mac because he not only lived it, he *was* it.