Below is a description of sorts about I book I am working on. It is actually a great deal of work as I have to conduct a lot of research and assure its accuracy. Now, I need some feedback. I am concerned that the companies, people and events may not be relevant to today’s readers. Any suggestions about how to make the book more appealing to readers that are under 40 would be appreciated.
This book is primarily about my experiences in the computer industry from 1979-2004. This includes my time at Digital Equipment Corporation (1979-1983), Franklin Computer (1983-1984), Intel Corp (1984-1999) and as an investor, board member and advisor (1999-2004).
While the book will have some autobiographical elements including how someone who never attended university and barely graduated from High School ended up as an Associate Professor at the age of 29 and then went on to be a corporative office at Intel at a time when it was one of the most successful companies in the world.
My book will be a combination of history, antidotes, and stories but importantly, it will also contain lessons that I believe can be helpful to those creating and/or investing in high tech businesses. I have been fortunate to have known many of the leaders of the computer industry during my times, this includes Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ken Olson and of course Andy Grove and “being in the room” when important decisions were made.
The book will explore topics like the transition from the Mini Computer/Vertical industry to the PC/horizontal industry. It will tell stories like how Intel tried to kill the microprocessor that eventually became the fuel for its success. It will cover Microsoft’s achievements and its many failures as well as covering the relationship between Intel and Microsoft which I witness closely.
Since I played a principal part in the development of high-speed residential broadband, a significant portion of the book will deal with this in depth. I think it is a really interesting story and much of it has not yet been told.
As one of the founders of Intel Capital, I will discuss its history and accomplishments and discuss the role of corporate venture investing.
The book will touch on my failures which were many as well as my successes. This will help guide some of the discussions on lessons. In doing research for the book, I have learned that I did a lot more and accomplished a lot less than I thought. It has been a humbling experience. I have also learned about the failures of others and how elusive and random success really can be. I have come to believe that not only does luck play an important role but it may be the most substantial factor in determining success.
The book in a sense will be a collection of stories and wisdom told entertainingly that should give insight and perspective not only on the past what also on the future of the computer industry.
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Those of us in a position to do so have some obligation to help create a historical record of important events or developments. I’d certainly read it, but I’m an older fellow who was active when it happened. History with personal observations and anecdotes is always more interesting than pure history. It will be an excellent source for future historians when they come to write their articles and books.
Thank you Dennis. I totally agreed with you. I often say that now my contribution to the future its to document its past.
Well, folks our age tend to spend more time looking back over our life and reviewing things. This project will certainly turn that into a full-time job 🙂
But you do get to revisit lots of people and places that were important. And you’re working on a major project for the future with a review of lessons learned: what worked and what didn’t, blunders and brilliance, maybe not just documenting but also guiding the next round of folks.
We like to think that our times are different and that lessons from 100 years ago (or even 40 years ago) don’t apply. But people with their inter-relational dynamics, creativity, and ability to take advantage of circumstances drive all change and progress; that doesn’t change that much over the centuries.
So… Get to work! 🙂
I don’t know if this will help but after reading:
The Dream Machine by M. Mitchell Waldrop
Fire In The Valley by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine
Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age by Michael A. Hiltzik
I developed a deeper and greater appreciation of the PDP series of computers released by DEC. They were cheaper, versatile and allowed a lot of companies to develop products that made them highly successful.
My first computer was a PDP-7 and it was 1967. I worked with Dec equipment from then until the time when I joined them in 1983.
I am fascinated by computer history so would look forward to your book.
I think that looking back at where we are coming from is certainly useful to see where we are going.
I think that we are still on the journey mapped out by Bill Gates’s Road Ahead book and still have a way to go.
One company that you didn’t mention that I think was (quietly, behind the scenes) changing the world and I would be interested in learning more about is SUN microsystems. Their “the network is the computer” vision was “cloud computing” long before the world was ready. Java’s “write once, run anywhere” and Jini’s “know the environment and adjust” are still to come. Not to mention the “Network Computer” which is essentially a ChromeBook years before Google was even around.
I didn’t mean to type so much about SUN but really to put your mind at ease that the old computer stories are still interesting and relevant.
Allen, thanks for your suggestion. I will make sure I cover Sun. I am mostly writing about companies and events were I have direct knowledge. My first experience with Sun was visiting them with Gordon Bell, the head of R&D at Digital in 1981. We actually discussed the possibility of buying Sun but I think Gordon felt that Digital could build the best work station themselves but I am not sure. I will ask Gordon. Java played an important role for sure.
Your intent sounds perfect. Love that Andy Grove chapter he dedicated to you. Your book should get the reader excited, motivated and intrigued. Thinking about the younger readers. Remember being the youngest and oldest person in the room!. Can’t wait to read an early draft. What can I do to help
Well I’m under 40, and I’d read it. Sounds very interesting, and I think folks like me would find your insights and advice valuable.