My book is finished after three years of effort. I was pretty sure if it were not for being locked unable to travel for 20 months, I would not have gotten it done. So much work! It is like building a house for the first time. You have no idea what you are undertaking.
The editing process was hard and painful. A lot of the process is cutting things out that don’t fit with the book’s flow. So I decided to take those parts and put them as “outtakes” on the book website. I had three rounds of edits.
There is so much about the process of writing a book that I did not know. Thankfully, I worked with an excellent company, Girl Friday Products, with all the critical skills. For instance, we had an interior designer for the book. That person figured out how to have a consistent way of presenting things like chapter headings, subheadings, quotes, etc.
Now we have something called an advance reader copy. We are sending that out to people that will hopefully review the book in advance of its publication.
I have started the marketing work and have hired a PR firm, Smith Publicity, to help me. My main effort will be to get interviews on podcasts and youtube channels which have audiences that would be potentially interested in my book.
My marketing effort is really about getting the book to people that could potentially benefit from my experiences. I don’t care about the sales number but just the impact my book might have. That is why I did not go with a traditional publisher.
I have learned that 98% of books published sell less than 5,000 copies. I doubt that I will get above that number or even close to it. The way nonfiction writers make money is via paid speeches and consulting. I have no interest in either.
Hopefully, some of you will read my book. I have started the website for the book.
Below you will find the Forward and Preface of the book.
Though our careers in Silicon Valley overlapped by a dozen years, I didn’t meet Avram Miller until shortly after his retirement from Intel in 1999. We were neighbors in the rural Wine Country of Sonoma County, sharing the struggle of using long-distance WiFi as the only alternative to crappy telephone dial-up Internet. We literally got to know each other on garage roofs, aiming dish antennas at distant ridge tops.
Over the subsequent 20 at years I came to know Avram, his children and grandchildren, his wife and ex-wife, even Avram’s father, who died la bit more than a year ago. I know most of the people mentioned in this book and I believe I know Avram well enough to love the guy.
Avram is known for his intellect and specifically for his rare habit of asking the question, Why? Why do we do things the way we do rather than some other way? In Silicon Valley the operant question for most people is How? not Why? But why is more powerful than how. How is by nature evolutionary while why is revolutionary. The other big proponent of asking why in Silicon Valley was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, which pretty much makes the point of how important why can be.
Dave House, one of Intel’s most senior executives — a noted asker of How? who worked with Avram at Intel before moving-on to become CEO of Bay Networks, an important networking company— once told me at a Computer History Museum event that Avram was crazy (Hows tend to view Whys that way) “but also the smartest man I ever met.”
Avram Miller co-founded Intel Capital and, by doing so, brought the chip giant into businesses that Intel founders Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore would never have considered on their own. Avram used
Intel money to literally create home broadband Internet, even though Intel was not intrinsically a networking company. But the why for Intel and broadband was obvious to Avram if a mystery to those others. Home broadband drove demand for faster and more powerful processors in home computers, directly driving Intel’s growth and changing both the Internet and the world in the process. Avram Miller did that.
The best part about this book you are about to read is its modesty. It’s the story of an inquiring mind finding its way in the world from very modest beginnings and almost no expectations. Avram’s life story is one of choices. Did he want to become a rabbi or a jazz piano player? Did he want to be a neuroscientist or a computer pioneer? All paths were open for Avram because of his ability and his creativity. The world is a better place for the choices he made.
Young Avram once rented the space under a baby grand piano for a place to sleep. That’s a modest beginning and yet charming, like Avram, gaining him not only a place to live but also an instrument to play.
Imagine how far he might have gone had Avram been able to afford to live under a concert grand?
—Robert X. Cringely, host of the PBS TV series Triumph of the Nerds, and author of Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date.
One of the difficulties I faced writing this book was the long period of time covered. My story begins in 1945, the year I was born. World War II was still being fought, Hitler was alive, as was a fifteen-year-old girl named Anne Frank, and the atomic bomb had yet to be dropped. There were fewer than ten thousand television sets in homes and fewer than 40 percent of households had telephones. The first computer, the ENIAC, was not yet in operation. My parents, just children themselves, could not have imagined how technology would change the world on that foggy day in San Francisco when I took my first breath.
This is not a book just about my career. It is about my improbable journey overcoming challenges, from illness to health, from school failure to scientist and professor, from dishwasher and pizza maker to an Intel vice president and co-founder of its venture capital group. I never experience these challenges as obstacles. Rather, I was driven by curiosity, creativity, intuition, and imagination.
Along the way, I have been fortunate to know incredible people— poets and musicians, scientists and inventors, entertainers and movie makers, founders and CEOs, drug addicts and billionaires. I was comfortable with all of them because I could always make them laugh and I could learn from them. While the book considers those relationships, it also explores the evolution of the critical technologies that ultimately created a new medium that changed how we work, play, and learn, told by someone who played a significant role in its creation.
As I entered my seventies, I realized that that the stories, history, and insights I have gathered would go with me if I did not make this effort. It has taken nearly three years and a lot more work than I imagined. Much of that time was spent in research collecting thousands of documents, including articles, internal memorandums, and presentations from various companies. I interviewed more than seventy individuals. I had no idea how much I would learn, not only from the significant research I undertook but even more from the understand- ing gained by looking at my life’s story in reverse. In the process, I not only had the opportunity to appreciate my successes but, importantly, my failures.
Because the book primarily spans the period from 1967 to 2002, one of the challenges I faced was taking readers through this journey knowing that many of them would have very different memories and experiences. Some may even have difficulty imagining a time when it was not possible to access the Internet from the device in your pocket.
There are things this book will offer in addition to documenting many significant events in technology. It highlights the importance of intuition and creativity and how they can help in achieving objectives, but it doesn’t try to sideline the role that luck plays in success. For those who are successful, I hope it will make them a bit humbler. For those who have not found success, perhaps my words will be the inspiration to try again. For those who have been ill, the stories of my illness may offer strength. For those who don’t fit in, maybe they will gain an appreciation of their uniqueness. Finally, I hope to leave all my readers with a few laughs.
Avram Miller Tel Aviv, Israel 2021
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