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Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made

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There was a time, not too long ago, when the typewriter and notebook ruled, and the computer as an everyday tool was simply a vision. Revolution in the Valley traces this vision back to its earliest roots: the hallways and backrooms of Apple, where the groundbreaking Macintosh computer was born. The book traces the development of the Macintosh, from its inception as an underground skunkworks project in 1979 to its triumphant introduction in 1984 and beyond.


The stories in Revolution in the Valley come on extremely good authority. That's because author Andy Hertzfeld was a core member of the team that built the Macintosh system software, and a key creator of the Mac's radically new user interface software. One of the chosen few who worked with the mercurial Steve Jobs, you might call him the ultimate insider.


When Revolution in the Valley begins, Hertzfeld is working on Apple's first attempt at a low-cost, consumer-oriented computer: the Apple II. He sees that Steve Jobs is luring some of the company's most brilliant innovators to work on a tiny research effort the Macintosh. Hertzfeld manages to make his way onto the Macintosh research team, and the rest is history.


Through lavish illustrations, period photos, and Hertzfeld's vivid first-hand accounts, Revolution in the Valley reveals what it was like to be there at the birth of the personal computer revolution. The story comes to life through the book's portrait of the talented and often eccentric characters who made up the Macintosh team. Now, over 20 years later, millions of people are benefiting from the technical achievements of this determined and brilliant group of people.

328 pages, Paperback

First published December 6, 2004

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Andy Hertzfeld

2 books10 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 70 reviews
Profile Image for Bjoern Rochel.
359 reviews66 followers
August 27, 2017
I've read Isaccsons 'Jobs' biography and 'Fire in the valley' before. This book adds quite a bit more insight into the whole story of how the original Macintosh came into being between 1979 and 1985.

Best of all, this book is not Steve Jobs-centric, like so many others are. While he plays a prominent role in the book, most of the essays in the book are about the people that did the dirty work to make the Macintosh happen, their struggles, their sacrifices and their camaraderie. This is a book about a very small group of people who under special conditions were able to achieve something extraordinary and move the industry forward as a whole.

It also contains a lot of interesting insights about how Apple as a company changed over the years when it became a multi-million dollar business and how culture changed when hierarchies were added to the Apple organization.

A little warning: Some of the stories are probably tough to read for a non-technical person, especially when software and hardware problems are depicted.

Here are some fun facts I took away from the book:

* the original mac team was only ~15 people
* most of the engineers on the team were single and between 20 and 30 years old
* some of them started working at Apple the age of 14 and reached expert level knowledge when the project started at 22 years
* all of them were problem solver type of personalities
* most of them worked fully on their own and only got help when they were stuck with something
* they built most of the hardware and software for the Macintosh along the way (think about that, 15 frickin people)
* they more or less lived in the office (90 hour weeks) and in the final phase didn't sleep for days
* their team got bigger at the end of the project (100 people, 300 when they merged with the Lisa team), which ultimately destroyed their team culture
* wrong manager types added to the project (Bellville) accelerated the culture change and where ultimately the reason why core contributors left the company (Herzfeld, Smith)
* the personal toll for this tour de force creation was pretty high, a lot of the core team left Apple over the years or even completely retired from the industry
Profile Image for Phil.
26 reviews
April 3, 2009
You look at the cover of this and read the title and it's obvious that this book is aimed at people who want to read about how Apple is just super awesome. Normally I don't think books like this are worth reading because it's, well, boring.

I learned that this book would be worth reading because most of the stories in this book are available on folklore.org and this book is basically a printed and expanded version of those stories.

Fortunately, it doesn't tell the story as "the clouds parted and beams of sunshine hit Steve Jobs' face and then great things happened." It's by and about the people who actually helped make something and what they went through to do it.


Profile Image for Tim Telcik.
19 reviews
December 25, 2014
Loved this book. It was a most unusual and amazing memoir presented as a group of anecdotes during the development and rollout of the Apple Macintosh computer ... from the inside out.

Given the recent bio on Steve Jobs and related bio on Steve Wozniak and many other related biopics, it was fascinating to read about the project work by the Mac team, how it came into existence and the many minds behind making this computer a real thing which went on to become a legend and foundation for Apple's early success.

Like so many stories with an interesting beginning, the Mac's story begins with Xerox PARC and the minds which migrated from Xerox to Apple and their work on the Lisa and Mac platforms ... and a cast of clever misfits.

If you have an interest in Apple tech and good design philosophy, this is well worth reading.
Profile Image for Emilio.
31 reviews86 followers
April 16, 2013
Es curioso constatar la gran habilidad con la que se ha convertido en libro lo que en realidad es una página web. En cualquier caso, las 90 historias cortas que componen este libro te introducen de manera magistral en lo que fue la génesis del Macintosh y por tanto de la informática actual. Sobrecoge ver el paralelismo entre este proceso y lo que vamos conociendo de cómo se gestó el iPhone.
11 reviews3 followers
June 3, 2012
Very nearly a five star review for this one, and I'd say that if you haven't read any of the stories on the brilliant folklore.org, you should add a star. I was depressed to discover while reading this book that I'd made my way through more of folklore.org than I'd thought while casually browsing - a visit over there is as bad as a night-long Wikipedia or TVTropes trawl for me - and as a result I'd read perhaps 90% of the material in the book. The fact that I enjoyed the book as much as I did is a testament to the quality and subject matter of the stories.

Revolution can be a frustrating read due to its anecdotal nature - these are snippets of recollections bundled together into roughly grouped time frames, and as a result the book can feel disjointed. There are times during which the superior notion of hypertext is readily apparent - nearly every story contains a reference to other stories and images on the site, which is part of what makes folklore.org so addictive - and yet that weakness is also the book's strength, feeling less like an edited and cohesive story and more like sitting with a group of friends who are recalling the most interesting stories from a singular time in their lives. Without the pressure to fill in details about less interesting but historically important points in the Macintosh's development, every anecdote is relevant, interesting, and almost without exception humorous.

If you've read Kidder's Soul of a New Machine (and if you haven't, go away and read that first) and have been looking for another book that invokes the same spirit, you've found it.
Profile Image for Scott Holstad.
Author 22 books58 followers
October 9, 2021
I loved this book! It was a great history of how the Mac came to be, and since I'm a Mac fan, I'm interested. Everyone knows the Mac was Steve Jobs' baby, and true technical people had to develop it and Andy Hertzfeld was one of the critical developers to put it together. This book is a mostly linear anecdotal history of the Mac, starting at the beginning and ending with the ejection of Jobs from Apple and the leaving of numerous key developers due to managerial incompetence. Pretty sad. Still, the book is cool. It's got pictures of hex-based pages of notes detailing programming sequences, great photographs, and some stills of the new Mac GUI as it was being developed. Certainly recommended for any Mac fan as well as anyone simply interested in personal computers.
Profile Image for Kevin.
333 reviews4 followers
October 8, 2018
Oh boy, this book is the most fun i've had reading and reminiscing in quite a while. Based on the web site Folklore.org (https://www.folklore.org/), Revolution in The Valley is a collection of "anecdotes about the development of Apple's original Macintosh, and the people who made it". Most of the Mac developers are contemporaries of mine, and reading their stories, and especially their technical tales of hardware and software in the late 1970s and early 1980s so resonated with the time and way i learned computers and programming back in the early 80s. The hardware, the software, the chips, the hacks, the clever solutions to challenges all took me back to an earlier day when computers were hands on, both in the hardware and the code.

I was given one of the first Macs (128k RAM) by a friend back around 1990 that had died - would not power on or boot up. After some research and ordering some parts, i was able to refurbish the analog board (that had died) resulting in a working Mac to play with. After some more research, i was able to add a decoder chip and replace the memory chips to yield a 512k Mac (an optional upgrade left in the digital board by the sneaky and clever design team, which is actually mentioned in this collection of stories). I could go on and on, but this book was really a trip back in time to the time i first discovered personal computing, both hardware and software, and was able to dabble in the rosin smoky world of hardware hacks and hand coded software. What a great, wonderful trip down memory lane! Loved this book!
Profile Image for Ru.
62 reviews
Read
January 30, 2022
how the frick did we come up with coding actually

Read this with my Dad! <3
189 reviews
March 25, 2018
Un libro entretenido que te explica la historia del nacimiento del primer Mac de forma muy amena. Es fácil y rápido de leer porque no es una historia contada de principio a final, sino una serie de anécdotas explicadas por diversas personas. Las fotos que incluye además no tienen desperdicio xD

No esperes encontrar en él una biografía de Steve Jobs. Es la historia de todo el equipo de trabajo que consiguió sacar adelante este ordenador en una época fascinante para el desarrollo de los ordenadores personales. Jobs sale, por supuesto, pero no es más que otro protagonista más del libro.

En la parte negativa, a veces abusa de tecnicismos (si no estás un poco puesto en informática, no te enteras de nada), y las continuas referencias a otros capítulos se pueden hacer un poco pesadas. Esto último es una herencia directa del origen del libro, que es una adaptación de las anécdotas recopiladas por su autor en una página web (y claro, allí enlazaba a otros sitios).

En resumen, una lectura muy recomendable para todos los fans de Apple.
Profile Image for Bojan Tunguz.
407 reviews141 followers
July 1, 2011
Macintosh computer is the most iconic computer of all time, and probably one of the most significant consumer electronics products ever. The successors of the original Macintosh have remained aspirational products ever since, and Mac fans are oftentimes known for their cult-like admiration for their computers. One name that immediately comes to mind when Mac is mentioned is that of Steve Jobs, Apple cofounder and a mercurial and controversial visionary that has shaped Apple products for the most of company's history. However, Jobs is a strange bird - a head of a technology company without any concrete technological skills. The bulk of the work on the original Apple computer was done by the other company cofounder (Steve Wozniak) and the team that actually built Mac was composed of largely unknown engineers and technicians who worked on the computer over many years with the utmost passion and dedication. This book is a tribute to that creative and dedicated team. It is written in a form of many anecdotes of crucial events and developments in the process of creating the first Mac. Most of the stories are told from the point of view of Andy Hertzfeld, but there are numerous contributions by other team members as well. The book is filled with images of old hand-written designing notes, pictures of the team members, various Polaroid screen-shots of the development of Mac's GUI, and many, many more moments that elicit a form of nostalgia for those early days of the computer industry. The whole book is in fact a tribute to those more innocent days when idealism was a much more potent motivator than money and stock options. It also paints a picture of Silicon Valley when it was possible for young fresh-out-of-college engineers to find meaningful work and live in places like Palo Alto. Whether you are a Mac fan or someone with a curiosity about the first-hand accounts of the early personal computer industry, you will find a lot in this book to keep you interested. It's a homage to the real nerd inside of all of us.
Profile Image for Jeff Kim.
125 reviews4 followers
June 17, 2020
A worthwhile reread, definitely right there among my all time favorites. It's the story of how the original Macintosh was designed by a small group of brilliant engineers lead by the legendary Steve jobs. Burrell smith, Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld and Steve Capps especially stood out for their engineering wizardry and creativity.

Some favorite quotes and excerpts:

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it" - Alan Kay

Steve started critiquing the layout on a purely esthetic basis. “That part’s really pretty,” he proclaimed. “But look at the memory chips. That’s ugly. The lines are too close together.”

George Crow, our recently hired analog engineer, interrupted Steve. “Who cares what the PC board looks like? The only thing that’s important is how well it works. Nobody is going to see the PC board.”

Steve responded strongly. “I’m gonna see it! I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it.”

“Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set only to find that you had already stolen it.” - Bill Gates to Steve Jobs

Highly recommended to young engineers and computer scientists at the start of their carriers.
Profile Image for Kevin.
11 reviews
September 30, 2009
Fantastic book, and you don't have to be a Mac or Apple "fanatic" to enjoy it. It is a collection of stories, nearly all by Andy Hertzfeld (but with several by other contributors), that describe the development of the Macintosh, as well as life at Apple Computer in the early '80s.

The unique glimpses of Mac development, of the atmosphere at Apple, and of the people involved are quite interesting and even inspiring. I remember when the Mac came out, and being amazed at its graphic interface. (My friend's dad had one of the first Macs. In fact, I tried to implement something like the GUI on my ...ahem...Timex/Sinclair 2068. I think I was 10.) Anyway, the book has some great photos of both the team and old notes on development, including some that show the progression of the UI in various versions towards the one that most of us are familiar with (at least in some fashion, even if only because of Windows!)

Note that the stories are also available at Andy's site, www.folklore.org (but I much prefer a book to sit down with).

November 21, 2018
Beautifully detailed essays of their historic time building the Mac

Andy Hertzfeld and Co have yo be given a massive amount of credit - not only for being the true 10x engineers that they were, but also for the excellent and detailed semi technical account in the book here.
I hope the world remembers them along with Steve Jobs for this epic moment in history. If ever Woz needed great engineers to follow his genius, then these guys have a reasonably strong claim to it: With Bill Atkinson, Hertzfeld and Burrell Smith being at the forefront.

I could feel the thrill of being along with them in their when they were at the peak of their creative abilities. The first person nature of the account helps maintain this tight connection between the reader and the author.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
34 reviews3 followers
August 12, 2017
I love reading about the 70's/80's era of Silicon Valley and Apple, and Andy's essay format worked well. My only real critique is that most fans of the subject have already heard the majority of these anecdotes at Apple Computers. If you've read a Steve Jobs bio, or iWoz than the majority of the stories will sound like re-runs, although told from a different perspective. That said, I still enjoyed the book. Pictures of Andy's design notebooks were particularly inspiring, and make me wish I had experienced that place and time where so much innovation was possible as a computer programmer.
Profile Image for Ryan Muzzey.
12 reviews
December 28, 2017
Andy Hertzfeld's compilation of stories around the development of the Macintosh is an amazing piece of Silicon Valley history. It amazes me how much of the modern PC industry was driven by these crazy talented engineers.
Profile Image for Matteo Steccolini.
15 reviews6 followers
August 17, 2018
Great selection of stories that can still teach something today about team dynamics, and how great ideas are born. Often fun, and I really appreciated how Hertzfeld shared his ideas about other people, with honesty and respect.
Profile Image for Bemmu.
103 reviews8 followers
November 14, 2019
Insanely great collection of anecdotes about the early days at Apple that lead to the creation of Macintosh, as told by actual core team members.

One of those books that I had trouble finishing, not because it was dull, but because I didn't want it to end.
18 reviews1 follower
August 1, 2020
An interesting but somewhat boring read

This is a good book but unless you really interested in all the various details, it can be quite boring. There are lots of interesting stories but it can be laborious to get though.
Profile Image for Jeff.
352 reviews5 followers
August 6, 2020
A series of perspectives on the creation of the first Macintosh computer. Many incredibly talented people came together to bring this masterpiece to fruition, mistakes included. I really liked reminiscing with the author Andy Hertzfeld, and a few other contributors. Fascinating.
Profile Image for William Darian.
35 reviews2 followers
October 3, 2020
This book is one of a kind; it tells a compelling story of how the first Macintosh was created in the engineers point of view. Small chunks of stories is laid out in 5 chapters, depicting the journey of a rascal research project that changed the world.
Profile Image for Zafer Durmaz.
2 reviews
July 5, 2019
👏👏👏👏
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Patrick DiJusto.
Author 6 books58 followers
February 13, 2016
I have been programming computers since 1977, when my school got its first Commodore Pet. I have never owned an Apple device. I have used a Macintosh once for any extended period, back in 1989 when I took a Hypercard course at the School of Visual Arts. I have never gotten into (or frankly, even understood) the cult of Steve Jobs. I didn't think badly of him, and I didn't think well of him. I didn't think about him at all.

This book makes it clear that Steve Jobs was a fucking asshole.

This is a book of collected reminiscences from the people who worked to develop the Macintosh, published for the computer's 20th anniversary in 2004. As you might imagine for a book written by a bunch of programmers, it's all about assembly code and bit swapping, and hiding data in the vertical blanking interval of the video card, and generating precisely timed interrupts to control disk drives, and so on. Real hardcore geek stuff. (Being a hardcore geek myself, it made me appreciate just how revolutionary the Macintosh was back in 1984.)

When they do talk about people, the programmers turn into a sentimental lot, talking about the mutual affection and respect that grows among people who are doing what they know is the greatest work of their lives.

And then, when they've finished talking about the people they have affection for, they talk about Steve Jobs. I don't think it's an accident that, stylistically, every time Steve Jobs is quoted, he's yelling. Sometimes he's exhorting the programmers to greater feats of brilliance. More often he's berating them for lacking brilliance. In one memorable scene, he goes on a tirade because he can't get the proper rubber feet for the bottom of the Macintosh. The man threw a fit about little rubber feet.

That's not the artistic temperament of a perfectionist genius. This book makes it clear that Steve Jobs was a fucking asshole.

The author never explicitly comes out and says it, but I will: Apple couldn't hold onto the developers of the Macintosh, because Steve Jobs was such a fucking asshole. Months before the launch, they pretty much all had decided to quit, effective the moment the first Macs rolled out the door. Of course, in his brilliance, Jobs spun it as a bunch of people who had done the greatest work of their lives, and were now free to move into obscurity. But the book makes it clear that the majority of them were willing to stay, if only Steve Jobs were not such a total fucking asshole.

Oh, and as for the "brilliance" of Jobs' "vision" of computing, puh-leeze. it is well documented that nearly everything revolutionary about the Mac -- a graphical user interface, a mouse, memory swapping, bitmapped graphics, etc -- had been developed 10 years previously at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center. Jobs took a tour of PARC in December 1979, and essentially began the Macintosh project the next day.

Which leads to one of the greatest moments in the book. In September 1983 (just before the Macintosh's January 1984 launch), Microsoft released its graphical user interface, known as Windows 1.0. The software was such a dog (I personally remember how bad it was) that it realistically posed no threat to the Macintosh. but Steve Jobs was furious. In a move that shows the relative power of the two men at that point in time, Jobs screamed at his assistant "GET BILL GATES INTO MY OFFICE FIRST THING TOMORROW MORNING!"

The next morning, when Gates arrived, Jobs lashed into him, accusing him of stealing Apple's intellectual property by copying the "look and feel" of the Macintosh operating system. Jobs told Bill Gates he was a thief, for all he had stolen from Apple.

Gates calmly looked back and Jobs and said "It's more like we both had a rich neighbor named Xerox PARC, and I broke into their house to steal their silver and found out you had already stolen it."

Steve Jobs was such an asshole.
Profile Image for Scott.
44 reviews7 followers
May 23, 2016
In the mid-80's, the team of people that brought the Apple Macintosh to life were my heroes – guys like Steve Capps, Bill Atkinson, Susan Kare, Burrell Smith, and of course, Andy Hertzfeld. It's not just that I thought they were cool, I thought they were geniuses without peer. In a lot of ways, they were. I read all the stories about them in magazines and used and loved the Mac that was their creation. It was a great time for any kid interested in computers, the second phase of the personal computer revolution (to my way of thinking, anyway).

Andy Hertzfeld brings a collection of stories together into this wonderful look at how it happened, and what it was like being one of the people working 80+ hours per week for years to try to change the world. Always full of humor and positivity, Andy is possibly the best person of the many involved in the building of the Mac to give the narration its unique sense of fun and excitement. He comes across as one of the good guys - a person who can see multiple viewpoints and get along with the people who held them, regardless of any personal conflicts between those other people.

Best of all, Andy sets the record straight on a few things that historical retellings have rendered incorrectly. By authoritatively stating the truth in wonderfully and cheerfully told stories, he makes knowing the facts fun and engaging.

It probably doesn't hurt that these stories cover the period of time when I was a kid and was fascinated with everything Apple and everything about the explosion of personal computers. I'd say a good share of my enthusiasm for this book is indeed nostalgia, but I wouldn't have enjoyed it if it wasn't a good book. If you have any interest in this period of personal computing history, I can highly recommend this book to you.
Profile Image for Dane Cobain.
Author 19 books301 followers
September 20, 2015
You might not have heard of Andy Hertzfeld, but you’ve probably heard of the product that he co-created, the Apple Macintosh. Andy was on the team that built the system’s software, and one of the key contributors in the creation of the machine’s new user interface software, which signaled a radical change in the way that machines were designed and used.

Revolution in the Valley, then, is Hertzfeld’s inside story of that exciting time in history when Steve Jobs’ innovation was at its greatest, and what originally began as a website filled with anecdotes eventually evolved in to the book that I have in front of me. It’s a real artifact, one of several books that I own which I just get out and flick through every now and then, just to spend some time with it.

That probably sounds weird, but the fact of the matter is that it’s just so aesthetically pleasing that you won’t want to put it down, from the glossy cover and the unusual size of the pages to the high quality of the photographs that are reproduced inside. It even includes some of the original diagrams that the team made, and it’s a fascinating insight in to how the team of innovators really worked.

Some of Hertzfeld’s personality shines through in his writing too, and he seems like a genuinely nice guy – despite the pivotal role that he played in the development of the personal computer, he’s humble. It makes this a delightful read, particularly if you’re anything like me and you’re interested in computers, and like geeking out on the development of the machines we use today. I’m glad that Macs evolved, though.
50 reviews2 followers
November 4, 2011
This book is a series of vignettes about the development of the Mac, from the time that it was a wacky research project through the launch and then its eventual folding in with the Lisa team. The book is really a print version of the online archive of Mac development stories that Hertzfeld maintains. This explains the thing that first struck me about the book - it's written in hypertext, as much as a book can be written in hypertext. ;^) There are reference throughout to other vignettes that really should be hyperlinks. The book is fairly technical - some of the details are going to be way too much for the lay reader, but others are accessible to a general audience. And since no vignette is more than about 3 pages long, it'd be easy for a reader to skip over anything that's too much.

All in all, it's a very entertaining read for anybody who's interested in the Mac as a computer or in Apple as a company.
8 reviews
November 29, 2009
This book gives a great deal of insight into the creation of the original Apple Macintosh computer and into the inner workings of Apple from of the key designers. It also elucidates the best and worst characteristics of Steve Jobs, at least as he was from 1979 - 1985.

The book is somewhat repetitive. It's a collection of anecdotes, not a cohesive, coherent narrative but is still quite revealing. The author often shows himself to have been quite naive, but that makes the book more realistic and believable.

If you are interested in the history of computing, especially at Apple, this book is a must read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 70 reviews

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