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Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology Paperback – April 18, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 2 Rev Sub edition (April 18, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262681153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262681155
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #748,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Where will our new machines take us? Back in 1985, forward-thinking Howard Rheingold asked research pioneers to describe the nascent personal-computer revolution and its trajectory, then examined their predecessors' work, in Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology.

Republished 15 years later with a new afterword by the author, the book is an excellent slice of "retrospective futurism"--showing how we got to our largely wired world and where we might find ourselves in the future, as well as exploring some might-have-been scenarios that still seemed likely in the '80s. Starting with engaging portraits of such important thinkers as Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, and Jon von Neumann, Rheingold swiftly and seamlessly moves into more current affairs, checking out the men and women behind Xerox PARC, ARPANET, Apple, Microsoft, and other cornerstones of today's environment.

Some of the interviewees are less well known than they should be--the immensely popular World Wide Web often overshadows Doug Englebart's ideas, for example--but all have made important contributions to personal computing and networking. Some of the ideas in the book, like expert systems, have floundered somewhat from their creators' original intentions, but the creativity and determination to follow through regardless is inspiring.

Rheingold is adept at showing us how technology can help us shape a better human destiny. Tools for Thought reminds us that today's wild ideas are what bring tomorrow's radical change. --Rob Lightner

Review

"... a special book, one of the best histories yet." Personal Computing"A solid read." Washington Post

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Unwittingly maybe, Rheingold provides a really good account and even reference of the history of computing. He writes well and unlike some CS writers marries his subject with the real world. If you are studying the history of computing I really recommend this over Ceruzzi's book.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mr. V. J. O'Sullivan on June 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Entering the 21st century it's still amazing to find that so many of the pioneers of computing are still alive. Rheingold has interviewed many of them over the years and this book is an interesting and valuble contribution to the genre.
The novel feature of the book is the way in which past interviews are brought up to date and the interviewees give their opinions on the differences between what they predicted and what happened.
The writing is excellent and very accessible. The interviewees come across as very normal people (which indeed they are) but it is very easy to forget they were still amongst the movers and shakers of computing in the late 20th century.
I think this book is a valuble work for those who see technology are more than just a vehicle for making money.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Howard Rheingold, former Editor of the Whole Earth Review and one of the pure-gold original thinkers in the Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly circle, lays down a serious challange to both decisionmakers and software producers that has yet to be fully understood. Originally published in 1985, this book was a "must read" at the highest levels of advanced information processing circles then, but sadly its brilliant and coherent message has yet to take hold--largely because bureaucratic budgets and office politics are major obstacles to implementing new models where the focus is on empowering the employee rather than crunching financial numbers.
This book is a foundation reading for understanding why the software Bill Gates produces (and the Application Program Interfaces he persists in concealing) will never achieve the objectives that Howard and others believe are within our grasp--a desktop toolkit that not only produces multi-media documents without crashing ten times a day, but one that includes modeling & simulation, structured argument analysis, interactive search and retrieval of the deep web as well as commercial online systems, and geospatially-based heterogeneous data set visualization--and more--the desktop toolkit that emerges logically from Howard's vision must include easy clustering and linking of related data across sets, statistical analysis to reveal anomalies and identify trends in data across time, space, and topic, and a range of data conversion, machine language translation, analog video management, and automated data extraction from text and images. How hard can this be? VERY HARD. Why? Because no one is willing to create a railway guage standard in cyberspace that legally mandates the transparency and stability of Application Program Interfaces (API). Rheingold gets it, Gates does not. What a waste!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bas Vodde on March 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tools for Thought dives into the history of computing and specifically the history of technology that augments human thinking from the perspective of a few influential people. The book is ordered chronologically starting with Babbage and Boole and ending with people the author guessed would become very influential like Ted Nelson and Avron Barr. Each chapter covers one person and their contribution to the history of computing.

The book consists of "three generations". The first generation are the people influential and building the first computers. This starts with Charles Babbage who build the analytical engine--the first computer (though he never got it working). George Bool who's boolean algebra and Alan Turing who's mathematics formed the basis of the first digital computers. John von Neumann then actually build the first digital computer. Then Norbert Wiener who invented cybernetics and Claude Shannon who created the information.

The second generation are the people who were influential to creating the ARPANet and the first personal computer. Starting with Licklider who was the first ARPA director and funded many of the important projects that lead to technological breakthroughs. He was later followed up by Bob Taylor who lead the development of ARPANet. The first hosts were at MIT were the MIT hackers were creating timesharing machines (strongly influenced by McCarthy who invented AI and list), Another host was Dough Engelbert's lab at Stanford where he research augmentation and developed the mouse. Another host was University of Utah where most of the important research related to computer graphics was happening.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Shaw on July 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Afterword alone is worth the price of the book. Rarely does a thinker with the acumen of Rheingold also exhibit a willingness to re-examine, refine, and, on occasion, reverse positions taken a decade or more ago. Rheingold does in a way that is informative and mind-opening. Aside from the mound of solid information and provocative observations about the Internet in human life, Rheingold's prose is as comfortable and welcoming as those toes tucked into the grass as he composes on his laptop. A must read.
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More About the Author

Howard Rheingold is the author of:

Tools for Thought
The Virtual Community
Smart Mobs
Net Smart
Excursions to the Far Side of the Mind
Mind Amplifier

Was:

editor of Whole Earth Review

editor of The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog

founding executive editor of Hotwired

founder of Electric Minds

Has taught:

Participatory Media and Collective Action (UC Berkeley, SIMS, Fall
2005, 2006, 2007 )

Virtual Community/Social Media (Stanford, Fall 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010; UC Berkeley,
Spring 2008, 2009)
Toward a Literacy of Cooperation (Stanford, Winter, 2005)

Digital Journalism (Stanford University Winter, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 )








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