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Fire in the Valley: Making of the Personal Computer

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  364 ratings  ·  30 reviews
"A book not to be missed, just plain good reading about the drama of the Kids next door turning their dreams into millions."--The New York Times"Swaine and Freiberger capture the communal spirit of the early computer clubs, the brilliance and blundering of some of the first start-up companies, the assortment of naivete, noble purpose and greed that characterized various pi ...more
Paperback, 478 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. (first published 1984)
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Steve Jobs by Walter IsaacsonHackers by Steven LevyGhost in the Wires by Kevin D. MitnickThe Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford StolliWoz by Steve Wozniak
Silicon Valley
61st out of 155 books — 256 voters
Steve Jobs by Walter IsaacsonThe Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine GalloThe Wit and Wisdom of Steve Jobs by Gennaro SalamoneThe Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine GalloSelling the Dream by Guy Kawasaki
Apple / Steve Jobs Books
15th out of 15 books — 25 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,136)
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Jul 01, 2012 Brian rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Brian by: goodreads
(3.0) Was expecting it to be more entertaining

Okay, decent stab at a comprehensive history of the personal computer. Definitely achieves the breadth of that ambitious goal, so I give it credit there. I've been wanting to read this for a while, so still glad that I have.

I don't know quite what it was missing. Wasn't as good as Hackers, though certainly covered a lot of the same ground (at times, felt like I was rereading sections from Hackers, and kind of wonder if one of the two books borrowed f
Jan Van Ryswyck
Amazing storytelling about the birth and rise of the personal computer. Required reading for anyone in the IT industry.Favorite quote from the book: "Let's not worry about conformity and tradition. Let's just do whatever works and let's have fun doing it."
Loved this book! I read it back when it was first published and during the time I was working at my first job after graduating from Cal...Apple. The mid-late 80's at Apple were the best of times (Mac intro, the "1984" commercial, huge profit margins, brilliant & creative colleagues, and wildly over the top parties) and the worst of times (Black Friday layoffs of '85, the rebellious black pirate flag hanging atop the Mac building (Steve's lair), the bitter and acrimonious dethroning and depar ...more
An entirely captivating look at how the technology of the personal computer evolved from garage hobby project to household essential. I read the original 1984 version first and was left thirsting for more so tracked down this updated one. The only downside is that it is in desperate need of updating again because 10 years have passed since this edition. I would love to see a new version or a new book written on the further impact of the Internet, Social Networking, and how Silicon Valley recover ...more
As a child of the 80s, and a learner of the 90s, I grew up in an exciting era in personal computing. I literally cut my teeth on a ZX Spectrum, and then after learning how that worked inside and out, as a family we eventually upgraded to an Escom IBM compatable PC. I started hacking BASIC programs when I was old enough to type and moved on to Pascal, Delphi and Visual Basic when I was in secondary up to Java, C# and more modern languages as time went on.

I've been in this industry a while. I know
Tero Kuittinen
Probably the best book about tech industry I have ever read. It's fascinating just how clueless major corporations were about the personal computer industry - and how the early computer firms cobbled together their products figuring things out as they went along. Also shocking how small the early R&D budgets and tight the development timelines for early video games were. So many classic hardware and software products were hastily slapped together with minimal time for polishing, let alone te ...more
If you have time or interest to read only one book about the history of the personal computer, this is that book. I have read and reviewed many related titles; this is one of the few to to encapsulate both the PC's technical and entrepreneurial history. The building blocks: the first microprocessors in the early 1970’s, the release of the CP/M operating system in 1974, and the the Altair BASIC programming language and Altair 8800 in 1975. Swaine and Freiberger ask and effectively answer relevant ...more
As the short timeframe on reading this book might indicate, it was engaging.

I feel I haves better understanding of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as a result.

The myth of IBM going with Microsoft for their operating system, because Gary Kildal was to busy flying, gets debunked. The notion that Bill Gates was just able to buy another operating system, cheap, from someone else and slap it onto the IBM PC is also debunked. If you're looking for the proliferation or urban legends and myths,
Senthil Kumaran
This is one of the finest book written on the history of personal computers and computer revolution tracing back from 1960 to 1984. It traces it back to the hobbyist culture which shaped the industry. It talks about the attempts made my individuals who were interested in electronics, computers and who cared about this thing even before it was widely known to the general public. The history of machines and companies like IMSAI took me by surprise as even in the very early days, there was this com ...more
Sep 19, 2009 Chris rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: only those interested in a 50,000 ft view of the history of computing
This book does a decent job of covering the history of the personal computer since the 1960s. Still, it falls flat, with pedestrian explanations dumbed down to the point where even those clueless about computers would feel their intelligence being insulted.

As well, while Freiberger and Swaine cover some of the people and businesses involved in the history of personal computing, they forgot to cover quite a few others, passing them by at best. And to make matters worse, events in the book aren't
Bjoern Rochel
The majority of the book (80 %) is spend pre 1984. That was a bit unexpected to me, since I've seen 'Pirates of Silicon Valley' before which as far as I know is based on this book. The movie mostly focusses on Apple and Microsoft throughout the 80s, but those two companies are just a minor part of the book. Not a bummer though, I hadn't head the story of IMSAI, MITS, the Altair and all the other interesting developments of that time before. The last 15% then rush through the development of the l ...more
Very informative book about the beginning of personal computer revolution. Was very interesting to read (well, I'm really interested in computer history), got to know many facts that I wasn't even aware of.
Good, but without fire.
A fascinating look into the early (and not so early) days of the microcomputer. Very interesting stories of the very beginnings of microcomputers, leading up to the usual Apple / Jobs soap opera stories. This 2nd edition goes up to about 1999, and includes the beginning and end of Netscape. Not enough on where the IBM PC came from, and not enough about the formative value of computer games, but still a worthwhile read.
Matt Mcglothlin
Very thorough history of the pc revolution and its origins which ironically did not come from the big mincomputer companies of the time like IBM. The organization of the narrative could be improved significantly. It's difficult to follow as the author jumps back and forth in time through various stage of pc innovation. It's a good education on early pc and mac products.
Aaron Giddings
Inspiring. An in-depth exploration of the PC revolution, with a new final chapter covering the rise of mobile devices as the PC has moved from the desk and into our hands.

It's a great read to understand how the revolution started, and an inspirational one to remember that the next revolution in devices could be just around the corner.
Amy Gourley
A fascinating look at the history of the personal computer. It was intersting to read how fast everything developed, computer companies coming out of nowhere, interesting read. The chronology jumps a bit which was a bit annoying. I love looking at picture sections in a book like this but the pictures were a bit out of order.
Jan Van Ryswyck
Amazing storytelling about the birth and rise of the personal computer. Required reading for anyone in the IT industry.Favorite quote from the book: "Let's not worry about conformity and tradition. Let's just do whatever works and let's have fun doing it."
Doug Ronne
Aug 04, 2008 Doug Ronne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all nerds
I absolutely loved this book! It helps that I grew up at the same time computers grew up. The book was extremely well written too which was a great boon! It was also interesting from a business perspective, seeing what worked and what didn't.
Everything your inner nerd wanted to know about the earliest personal computers...and more information than most care about. However, I'm glad this is all documented because this is history too important to be forgotten.
Brandon McGraw
Fascinating in it's depth, this is a book that isn't to be missing if you're a technology lover. Helped me realize how far we've come, and how far we still need to go!
Amy Lamare
Really good book about the personal computer revolution. Text book sized and a slow read but I am learning a lot from it.

Jan 10, 2013 Rich rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This is a great book. As a Computer Professional I found this book very informative and motivating. It was hard to put down.
Dave Steinbrunn
Great early history of personal computers, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Was turned into a movie
Loved this book, read it multiple times, and I'm looking forward to the third edition.
Seminal report on the driving forces of the personal computer revolution.
Too bad it did not cover the other silicon valley activities...
Nice history of the rise and fall of pc's
Teddy Budiwan
Dropped it. Wasn't what I thought it was.
dry. informative. dry.
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Paul Freiberger, author of "When Can You Start?" is an award-winning writer. His work has been widely praised for its effectiveness and compassion. As President of Shimmering Resumes, Paul helps individuals throughout the world improve their careers with job interview preparation, resumes and job search.

Paul won The Los Angeles Times Book Award as co-author of "Fuzzy Logic" (Simon & Schuster,
More about Paul Freiberger...
When Can You Start? Ace the Job Interview and Get Hired When Can You Start? 2014 ACE the Job Interview and GET HIRED When Can you Start? 2014: ACE the Job Interview and GET HIRED When Can You Start? Ace The Job Interview and Get Hired The Apple I Ic: Your First Computer

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