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Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft Hardcover – June 1, 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (June 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029356717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029356715
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Showstopper! is a vivid account of the creation of Microsoft Windows NT, perhaps the most complex software project ever undertaken. It is also a portrait of David Cutler, NT's brilliant and, at times, brutally aggressive chief architect.

Cutler surely ranks as one of the most impressive software engineers the field has ever produced. After leading the team that created the VMS operating system for Digital's VAX computer line--an accomplishment that most would regard as a lifetime achievement--he went on to conceive and lead the grueling multi-year project that ultimately produced Windows NT. Both admired and feared by his team, Cutler would let nothing stand in the way of realizing his design and often clashed with his programmers, senior Microsoft management, and even Gates himself. Yet no matter how involved he became in managing his 100-programmer team, he continued to immerse himself in every technical detail of the project and write critical portions of the code himself.

Showstopper! is also a fascinating look at programmer and managerial culture behind the Microsoft facade. The portraits of the men and women who created NT not only reveal the brilliance of their work but the crushing stress and the dislocating effects that new wealth had on their lives. For some team members, the NT project ultimately destroyed their marriages, friendships, and virtually every human relationship outside of work. Showstopper! also reveals the uncertainties, false starts, and blind alleys that dogged the project as Microsoft repositioned NT from an improved OS/2 to something that would ultimately challenge both OS/2 and Unix for the title of the world's most powerful operating system.

From Publishers Weekly

Released in mid-1993, Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT software is arguably the best attempt yet at a universal operating system for personal computers, allowing PC users to open a file, move text or graphics, calculate a row of numbers and run several word processors, spreadsheets and other applications at once. With Windows NT (which stands for New Technology), Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates hopes to extend his dominion, with NT serving as the foundation for everything from desktop systems to corporate information networks. Critics, however, observe that the hardware required for NT is expensive and note that a forthcoming Microsoft operating system, Chicago, may eclipse NT. Wall Street Journal reporter Zachary tells how Microsoft wizard David Cutler and his team of programmers, working intensely for five years, overcame technical snafus, thousands of bugs, workplace skirmishes and collapsing personal lives to create Windows NT. This is both an enlightening primer on the management of complexity and a rare behind-the-scenes look at the cutthroat software wars.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

A fascinating insight into the personality of Microsoft.
Raindog
I kept hearing about this book on my podcasts and finally checked it out.
Timothy Gibson
Highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys computers or works on them.
Michael P Ivan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kevin B. Cohen on November 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found this an absolutely riveting read. The book provides a view into a type of company and an approach to software development that is different from anyplace *I've* ever worked. Many things about it have stuck with me--the perspective on testing an operating system that will have to work with every popular software product; the staffing philosophy at Microsoft; the "eating your own dog food" concept (developers and testers had to actually use NT as they were developing it, thus constantly exposing themselves to its flaws). The author does a good job of telling the stories both of the big players and the worker drones. It's a very personal book about what strikes me as a very impersonal company. It's one of those rare non-technical books that I recommend to people who are new to software engineering. I read it for the first time when I'd just gotten my first software development job, and again several years later, and I didn't enjoy it any less the second time around.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book presents an entertaining account of how the first version of Windows NT was developed. It tells the "story of NT," how it was created and the personalities of the people behind it. It isn't a technical book and it doesn't try to be one -- its purpose is to entertain, not to inform. Even so, anyone who works with NT on a regular basis ought to read this book -- it will lead you to appreciate NT as a human achievement as well as a technical one.
When Windows 2000 is released, NT will become Microsoft's flagship operating system. This fact makes Zachary's book all the more worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be:
1. A good read. This is oftentimes not a quality on books dealing with computers. Pascal held my attention by focusing on the personalities behind the development of NT, not the technical info. There are many books out there that do that. What he offered was interesting insight into the people behind the product.
2 Well balanced. The technical aspects were simply explained without being condescending or disinteresting. Again, this is a very difficult balancing trick.

As a network administrator and an MCT, I found the background information provided by Pascal both entertaining and useful.

I would recommend this book to any individual seeking to learn more about Windows NT, for whatever reason. I've put it on my recommended reading list for my students
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ar@vt.edu on January 31, 1998
Format: Hardcover
If you go into this book with the right expectations, you will find it a real page turner, despite what some people say.
It is not about software development, or about the technicalities of the NT design, but about the people, the tensions, and in short, the environment surrounding the development of WindowsNT. It is not just for the programmer, or just the average computer user, or even the person who has never used a computer at all. It should appeal to all of the above, but that said, you must understand that it cannot satisfy all the questions that people of any one of those groups might have.
Knowing that, and expecting it, I think you will enjoy this book quite a lot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 4, 1996
Format: Hardcover
Just about everybody uses Microsoft software, but how does it
get written? This book tells all. The entire process of creating
Windows NT is reviewed in this work. Good for the curious. The technical
language is minimal and well explained, although it's not dumbed down--
techie types like me should get along just fine. It's not a
business-centric book, if you're looking for that (or looking to avoid it).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rodrigo Strauss on May 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It's really a wonderful book! If you are a software developer trying to figure out how the big projects are done, or if you are just someone who is trying to figure out what is inside a software developer mind, go and read it.
For software developer:
Don't forget, it's a book written by a non-technical person. Sometimes, the writer tries with no success to explain the difference between C and C++, the function of the memory manager and other ones. The first chapter of the book is just terrible. He starts telling the NT's manager history, since he was a child. But don't give up. The book will get really interesting after the second chapter.
For software developer relatives:
Want to understand why your husband stays working until late hours? Want to figure out why most programmers think they are the best human beings alive? Read this book. I hope you can understand us reading this. I'm still trying to make my wife read this. :-)
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 13, 1998
Format: Hardcover
It's a briliant read. The Author portrays a very vivid picture of the programmer and his life through a software project, the peer pressure, the deadlines, the compromises and everything else a programmer can go through.
Thankfully, this is one book that does not talk about Microsoft or its Creaters,(Mr. Gates).
If your day begins and ends with 'NT. Then this book is a must for you.
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By Dennis A. Porter on February 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I read this book several years ago following a question to my technical account manager from Compaq (now HP). Specifically, "How could a guy like Dave Cutler turn out something like VMS, one of the best operating systems ever, and then produce garbage like NT?". One could argue that NT was the best OS Microsoft ever produced; but compared to other server operating systems in the market place, it was junk.

Zachary's book provides one of the closest things you're likely to get to an insider's account of the development of WindowsNT. One reviewer called it "Riveting". I wouldn't go that far - it doesn't read like a Grisham novel, but then again, it's not supposed to. Another reviewer panned it because it didn't have certain specific information such as cost of development. This book is likely interesting only to those who have an interest in the fields of OS development or IT. It certainly answered my question as to why Cutler could lead the development of VMS, a robust and reliable OS one could argue was ahead of its time. Then lead the development of what arguably was Microsoft's most ambitious undertaking up to that point, but turn out something that, while newer, was in no way near the quality or reliability of the operating systems already in existence, such as the various flavors of UNIX, VMS, and yes, Novell.

Zachary's narrative details what I felt was an undisciplined process of development; one might even say chaotic. Cutler was trying to institute various controls, etc. However, much like the effect of Murphy's law, Bill Gates would start meddling in the process. And meddling is an accurate term. Cutler would try to convince Gates that they needed to stop adding new features, and get the current OS as bug-free as possible so they could meet deadlines, etc.
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