Fire in the Valley: The Birth and Death of the Personal Computer


Posted on by Ben Rothke

In Fire in the Valley: The Birth and Death of the Personal Computer, authors Michael Swaine and Paul Freiberger provide a thoroughly enjoyable read of the history and development of the PC.

As timing would have it, Michael Swain was editor of Dr. Dobb's Journal, which this week announced it would be ceasing publication in 2015 after nearly 40 years in print.  The valley in the title is Silicon Valley, where both authors worked at InfoWorld during the 1980s, and their knowledge of the events comes from being there with the key players.  Their vantage point provides a unique perspective to the story.

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This is the third edition of the book; with the first two editions coming out in 1984 and 2000. While the historical facts are pretty much the same from the first edition; the third edition adds to the story by putting the facts into a historical perspective from a 2014 perspective.

The book details the many individuals who were responsible for the development of the PC. Names you have likely not heard of such as Ted Hoff of Intel, Lee Felsenstein of Processor Technology, Ed Roberts from MITS, to the more prominent names like Douglas Engelbart, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

The book details the major people players involved in the early and middle yeas of the PC revolution, and also provides a historical background to historically important computer firms such as Altair, Commodore, Compaq, Digital and many more.

Some books have downplayed the role Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates of Microsoft played in the overall development of the PC. The book notes that their role was not just being in the right place at the right time, but having the skills to make it work.

For those looking for the history of the birth, development and revolution of the PC, Fire in the Valley: The Birth and Death of the Personal Computer is an easy and enjoyable read, and a fascinating one at that.


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Ben Rothke

Senior Information Security Manager, Tapad

hackers & threats security awareness professional development & workforce

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