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The Soul of A New Machine Paperback – June 1, 2000
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These days, we are used to the "total commitment" philosophy of managing technical creation, but Kidder was surprised and even a little alarmed at the obsessions and compulsions he found. From in-house political struggles to workers being permitted to tease management to marathon 24-hour work sessions, The Soul of a New Machine explores concepts that already seem familiar, even old-hat, less than 20 years later. Kidder plainly admires his subjects; while he admits to hopeless confusion about their work, he finds their dedication heroic. The reader wonders, though, what will become of it all, now and in the future. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
When it was first published, the book was a narrative of what was then `modern' technology, where the central processing units (CPU) or `brains' of commercial minicomputers and mainframe computers were built up on large circuit boards from individual, specialized integrated circuit chips, with each chip integrating dozens or hundreds of discrete components. This compares to today's microcomputers where the entire CPU is placed on a single chip incorporating tens of thousands of discrete functions, all taking up no more room than the average credit card. Now, the book is more a history of how this technology was developed, and yet its picture of how people work in teams developing technological projects will probably never go out of date.
The irony of this book is that the computer being developed by the team described in this book, a 32 bit Eclipse computer developed by the Data General corporation, a competitor to the larger and very successful Digital Computer Corporation (Digital), did not really achieve any major breakthrough in technology. While it was intended to compete with a new generation of Digital VAX machines, it ended up being just barely faster than VAX's in a few special tasks.Read more ›
When you're young and you get interested in something, you get _passionate_ about it. Maybe it's because you don't know the importance of money and responsibility yet, but you really get into a sport, or hobby, or any other interest, and you do that hobby or play that sport, you write stories or fix cars, making whatever sacrifices you need to just so you can do this thing you love, not because you want to make money at it, or gain respect or admiration, but because it gives you priceless rewards and satisfaction. And it's a purest love you can have. When you grow up, you get disillusioned, from paying bills and other responsibilities. You lose the spark. You start doubting your interest in what you used to love, be it the mechanic who used to love cars but has grown jaded, or the teacher on a low income who has to deal with unruly students and demanding parents.
The Soul of a New Machine is a throwback to that youthful perhaps almost a bit naive passion. It's about the antithesis of the 9-5, where if the pay is horrible, you couldn't care less, you still work overtime. This pure struggle, the essence of a profession, is what makes the book so great. It's the most archetypal element of a career or profession, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that only something you put your soul and your sweat and blood into, can give you. In that basement in Data General, this beautiful dream became real in the form of the Eagle minicomputer. If you've felt the kind of spark that drove those young men before, this book will remind you. And if you haven't, maybe this book will kindle a new passion in what you do.
Tracy Kidder captures a technical world and gives a clear picture at the tremendous challenges of building a state of the art computer system, that must be backwards compatible with legacy architecture, all while doing it in an easy to read manner (and a brilliant original perspective).
It is a heroic, true life story. It was (and still is) one of my all-time favorite books.
Being in a small software organization for the last 4 years and having experience a tripling in size and about the same in revenue, it was very easy for me to find parallels to my company's growth, the people and the experiences that were at Data General when the computer was built. Here are some of the (summed up briefly) that I found:
1. Speech Period (pep ralley) 2. Leader becoming more and more distant 3. Need to be doing something interesting 4. Mushroom Theory of Management (put them in the dark, feed them s*$# and watch them grow). 5. Everyone burns out 6. All of the sudden, its just a job 7. The gunslinger 8. Management has changed and its no longer the same place ... and many others
I think that anyone reading the book curious of parallels in businesses (regardless of what they do), would find this book a good source of info.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating insight into the dynamics of high tech development -- as fresh today as when it was written.Published 2 days ago by Stephen Kratz
I re-read this book on the anniversary of it's publication I believe that was 30 years ago. It Stood up very well and helps us understand how our modern digital world came about. Read morePublished 3 days ago by William G.
I spent 15 years in the software industry in QA, a time period a little later than the time period Kidder investigated. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Steve Lauermann
This book covers the creation of the Data General MV/8000 computer. I worked on one of these when I was first starting out as a programmer so the book resonates with me on a... Read morePublished 20 days ago by Alan J. Mattia
Unfortunately the book focused more on manipulative motivation and less on MBO (Management By Objectives) when it described the methods used to get 60+ hours of work for 40 hours... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Lee
I read this book when it first came out. It is one of the most memorable books ever - and I have over 2,000 books in my Kindle library. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Maralyn Woods
I read this book when it was first published. You might think that a book about developing a new computer would be dull, dull and even more dull. But it's not. Read morePublished 1 month ago by FrankieBaby
One of the best books written. This must be at least my fourth copy. I keep telling people how good it is and loaning it out and it doesn't come back. Read morePublished 2 months ago by j l osborne