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Fire in the Valley: Making of the Personal Computer

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  525 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
In the early 1970s the personal computer was just a wild dream shared by a small group of computer enthusiats in an area south of San Francisco now called Silicon Valley.

Working after-hours in basements and warehouses, computer pioneers Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Appel Computer, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Gary Kildall of Digital Research, and many others ignited a techn
Paperback, 478 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by McGraw-Hill (first published 1984)
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25th out of 181 books — 357 voters
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12th out of 18 books — 33 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,749)
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Jul 01, 2012 Brian rated it liked it
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."
Apr 29, 2010 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biz-tech-books
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
May 26, 2011 Cori rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 01, 2015 Kian rated it it was amazing
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
May 31, 2014 Tero Kuittinen rated it it was amazing
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
Alexander Case
The book significantly underestimates gaming's role in promoting the adoption of computing technologies. I'm to get more into this in depth with my video review.
John Desmarais
Aug 31, 2015 John Desmarais rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nicely researched history of the industry. I grew up as a hobbyist during the birth of the personal computer, and so experienced (from mostly the outside) a lot of what is covered in this book, but the authors do a nice job of both covering the history and - through a liberal use of anecdotes - make it interesting and personal. They also manage to refute a few of the goofier myths and legends that cropped up during the early years of the industry, and revealed a few that I had not known about. A ...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
Feb 14, 2015 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 20, 2013 Senthil Kumaran rated it it was amazing
Shelves: computer-science
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
Neville Ridley-smith
Aug 27, 2015 Neville Ridley-smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, technical
Incredibly detailed account of the various people and companies that started the PC revolution. It's almost too detailed. A lot of it I've already forgotten. Fortunately it's organised in a way that I could easily find out those details if I wanted to.

The organisation of the book has it's upsides and downsides. It constantly goes back and forth in time with each chapter. Each chapter takes it's appropriate topic and traces it through the appropriate time, so one chapter may cover 1975-1980, then
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
Mar 03, 2014 Clickclk rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 04, 2014 Marcin rated it really liked it
Good, but without fire.
Tom Nolan
paperback 7x9
James Ippoliti
Aug 18, 2015 James Ippoliti rated it it was amazing
Computer Power to the People. Awesome read.
Hemanta Gupta
Sep 16, 2015 Hemanta Gupta rated it really liked it
Fine work, especially the first half about MITS and the Homebrew Computer Club. Required reading for anyone in the current crop who thinks the tech industry is only about chasing funding and billion dollar valuations. -1 though for the less spirited second half and the rather unfocused, tacked-on epilogue about the post-PC era.

P.S. also required reading for fans of Pirates of Silicon Valley; this is the book the movie was adapted from.
Mar 10, 2009 Jonathan rated it really liked it
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.
Elijah Oyekunle
May 08, 2016 Elijah Oyekunle rated it it was amazing
Really detailed book about the arrival and decline of Personal Computers.
Matt Mcglothlin
Mar 20, 2011 Matt Mcglothlin rated it liked it
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
Feb 24, 2015 Aaron Giddings rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 21, 2011 Amy Gourley rated it really liked it
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
May 05, 2015 Jan Van Ryswyck rated it it was amazing
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 it was amazing
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.
Dec 17, 2012 Cathy rated it liked it
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
Apr 27, 2012 Brandon McGraw rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 09, 2008 Amy Lamare rated it really liked it
Really good book about the personal computer revolution. Text book sized and a slow read but I am learning a lot from it.

Dave Steinbrunn
Jul 11, 2012 Dave Steinbrunn rated it it was amazing
Great early history of personal computers, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Was turned into a movie
Jan 05, 2015 Nate rated it really liked it
Loved this book, read it multiple times, and I'm looking forward to the third edition.
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Goodreads Librari...: Changing book's description 2 21 May 25, 2016 02:43PM  
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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,
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