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Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology Hardcover – August 8, 2017
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“This book is an original. It reads like a memoir, personal and compelling. But it’s also a set of savvy reflections about the unfolding of digital culture as it became mainstream culture and we all learned to live with its aesthetic, values, and politics. Here, nothing about the inevitability or the virtue of these three are taken for granted. The question of our ‘post-humanity’ is tackled as just that, a question for human beings to discuss rather than a technical problem for programmers to dispense with. Life in Code will launch the most interesting conversations!” ―Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversation
"[Life in Code] manages to feel like both a prequel and a sequel to [Close to the Machine] . . . In addition to writing code in multiple computer languages, Ullman has an Ivy League degree in English and knows how to decode her tech-world adventures into accessible narratives for word people . . . The philosophical questions posed--like those on robotics and artificial intelligence-- . . . resonate." ―J. D. Biersdorfer, The New York Times Book Review
"The fierce intelligence of Ellen Ullman's writing has reached cult-like status . . . What elevates [Ullman] and this new book, Life in Code, is its sense of timing . . . The book is remarkable in the way it illustrates how much has changed, but maybe more stunningly, how little has changed at all." ―Kevin Nguyen, GQ.com
"Life in Code is a consummate insider's take, rich with local color and anecdotes . . . Ullman has a pure passion for computing that doesn't stop her from recognizing all the ways it can isolate and intimidate . . . Like all great writers, she finds the universal in the specific, mixing memoir with industry gossip . . . Life in Code is illuminating and unfailingly clever, but above all it's a deeply human book: urgent, eloquent, and heartfelt." ―Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
"What is most engaging about this collection is that Ullman, an expert in the field, allows readers access to sometimes highly technical material, never pandering to the most obvious topics. For example, she does talk about the struggles of women in tech, but doesn't generalize. It would be too simple, too expected to rehash that story line . . . Her narratives throughout the book both recount historical events and reflect on how much technological advances have affected the core of both our humanity and our society." ―Rebekah Miel, Bust
"Ullman is a rare breed . . . She offers a vivid, gripping window into what it is to be shaped by keyboard characters and machine . . . Ullman relishes tech's beauty while also fearing what it has created." ―Jessica Bennett, Elle
"Ullman's takes on tech's gaines (iPhones, endless information) and drawbacks (decision paralysis, loneliness) are often witty and always accessible." ―Real Simple
"Sharply written, politically charged . . . What Anthony Bourdain did for chefs, Ullman does for computer geeks." ―Kirkus (starred review)
"Ullman maintains a healthy skepticism regarding the notion that technology will cure all that ails us . . . she brilliantly questions the computer’s capacity for sentience." ―Ben Segedin, Booklist
Praise for Ellen Ullman
“Ullman is that rare member of the coding tribe: a translator who deeply understands the world we live in and the worlds we build with software . . . Her insights are finely wrought, philosophical, and lasting.” ―Anna Wiener, The New Republic
“No one writes more eloquently than Ullman . . . about the peculiar mind-set of the people who create the digital tools we use every day.” ―Laura Miller, Salon
“Ellen Ullman writes unsparingly of the vivid, compelling, emotionally driven souls who gave us our new machines.” ―Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March
“[Ullman is] a strong woman standing up to, and facing down, ‘obsolescence’ in two different, particularly unforgiving worlds: modern technology and modern society.” ―J. D. Biersdorfer, The New York Times Book Review
“Ullman comes with her tech bona fides intact (she is, after all, a seasoned software engineer). But she also comes with novel material . . . We see the seduction at the heart of programming: embedded in the hijinks and hieroglyphics are the esoteric mysteries of the human mind.” ―Constance Hale, Wired
About the Author
Ellen Ullman wrote her first computer program in 1978. She went on to have a twenty-year career as a programmer and software engineer. Her essays and books have become landmark works describing the social, emotional, and personal effects of technology. She is the author of two novels: By Blood, a New York Times Notable Book; and The Bug, a runner-up for the Pen/Hemingway Award. Her memoir, Close to the Machine, about her life as a software engineer during the internet's first rise, became a cult classic. Her new book, Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology, tells a continuing story of the technical world as she experienced it while living in its midst for more than two decades. She is based in San Francisco.
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Ellen, if you ever get to Sacramento, I'd love to buy you lunch or have you over for dinner.