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Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft
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Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  957 ratings  ·  60 reviews
The phenomenal success of Bill Gates and his Microsoft Corporation hinges, above all, on an ability to look to the future. Not content with holding a bulging share of the market for software applications, nor with dominating the crucial operating systems business by virtue of its DOS and Windows programs, Microsoft is always looking to the future. And the future for Micros ...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by Free Press
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Stu West
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was terrific. As project leader Dave Cutler says at one point, the creation of Windows NT may be the last time anyone ever assembles a team to build a completely new computer operating system, and this book gives a good account of the personalities, the stresses, and the working environment involved in making it happen.

I was particularly interested to read about the experiences of the women on the NT team, working for a bawling, testosterone-fuelled boss in offices full of computers with sc
John Fultz
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this after seeing it recommended on the dadhacker blog. Overall, I found the book much more intriguing than I thought I would, and yet I was simultaneously frustrated by it.

The book starts off as a dual biography of David Cutler and Windows NT. The first chapters are pretty focused, and really delve into Cutler the man, and the genesis of Windows NT. I was especially intrigued because Cutler at the time that NT was being developed was in his mid-forties; definitely not a "cool" age for pe
Chris Marra
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a fun rundown of how the NT project came to be and the crazy cultural process that birthed it, but I felt like it was light on contextual details of Microsoft the company at the time and what it meant for this particular piece of software to exist for the company, both in terms of where they came from and where they were going. Despite that omission, it actually held up really well 23 years later.
Bhashit Parikh
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: programmer, managers of programmers
Stunning, absolutely stunning insight into how large scale, extremely complex technical projects are carried out. If you are a programmer, or in any field that requires managing mind-numbing complexity, I think this book is a great read, or should I say, a must-read - regardless of what you feel about Microsoft.

And it isn't a dry technical read either. It's an extremely entertaining book. I was able to finish it in half a day. It reads like a novel by some gifted writer. The characters are some
Jun 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
After I read this, I wanted to become a hardass and kick holes in walls whenever people checked in buggy code.

However, I'm not Dave Cutler so I couldn't get away with it. This book is interesting on many levels, from Cutler to the people who worked with/put up with him to accomplish some pretty amazing things. Definitely worth reading if you're into the whole "software team does death march to ship product" genre.
Marty Nash
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting read if you are in the IT infrastructure sphere.

I can very much relate to the breakneck pace and pressure with deadlines and having to learn on the job.

Really interesting insight into the core technology that runs the core OS from Microsoft.
David Kopec
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy books about tech history and business. I also enjoy biographies. So, Showstopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft by G. Pascal Zachary was a perfect fit for me. It has a compelling software business narrative, backed up by significant author access to the major players, and features non-stop action throughout most of the book.

Showstopper, written in 1994, is a book about the building of Windows NT, one of the last still-in-use desktop operati
Abhishek Adhikari
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the better books from the Computer industry; showcasing not only the grandeur of a corporation, product or personality; but actual goings in the trenches -- the thoughts, decisions, influences in/from daily lives, depicting what is takes, openly telling on pragmatic stands taken; rather than presenting them in a manner to appeal to theatrics thus ending up with some real and raw storytelling.

One of my quickest reads in a while; the writing is quite gripping; one gets attached to the title
Josh Hamacher
I started this with high hopes, but was disappointed within a few pages. It wasn't nearly as technical as I had expected; what little bit of detail that was given was often simplified to the point of being misleading if not outright wrong. The writing style was sensationalized and breathless, which I found annoying.

Beyond that, there wasn't a single person described in this book that I would want to work with. NT is apparently what you get if you give a bunch of undisciplined, immature code monk
Metin Ozsavran
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book about how Bill Gates and his crypto-jew cronies could not write a serious OS, and had to steal someone from DEC to do something (the Windows XP) for them. Even that was a real kludge to run old 16-bit windows programs. They had to put special precautions for each popular program like PhotoShop to run on it. Its a good resource to compare how shitty windows is compared to development of Unix by truly smart engineers in AT&T.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly excellent read

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be software engineer, to built, maintain and test software, the good and the ugly — this is the book for you.

Reading this in 2018. The tools are way better, the machines faster, building good and ambitious software is still as exhausting and exhilarating.
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very Interesting. Transports you back to those days. Also a great reminder of how much better the work/life balnce has gotten since the 90s when they were literally burning people out on 80 -90 hour weeks
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic description of the creation of Windows NT and the people and personalities involved.
Very much invokes the Soul of a New Machine vibe.
Similar to "Soul of a New Machine" - I'd read these back to back, and recommend them to someone outside of the technology industry as a great primer for the insanity that is modern tech work.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech
Great read about the history of developing Windows NT. Clearly written, and entertaining stories, that bring back many memories.
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
TODO when I have time ...
Caolan McMahon
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few strained metaphors for the technical stuff but still an interesting read. I'm just glad I didn't work at Microsoft in the early 90's. Some of the macho culture there sounded awful.
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
Interesting story. Terrible writing.
Michael Cooper
Pretty interesting book with a lot of great history about the goings on at Microsoft during the late 80s and early 90s.

Though the content of the book is really solid, I found it a bit difficult to get through, new characters are constantly introduced and it was a bit hard to keep track of some of the names which made it difficult as I read the book over a couple of weeks rather than in one slog. The same approach applied to the actual structure, it felt like it jumped around a fair bit and lacke
Dushyant Jamwal
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb book if you are in the field of software or even interested in what it takes to make software. Very well written
Joe White
Oct 19, 2010 rated it liked it
This might rate 4 stars for some, or maybe in 1994 it would have rated higher. The author did drink the MS kool-aid. His perspective on characters was somewhat from the point of view of worship. There were several spots in the book which had reproduced repetitive text which lent his intent to impress the reader with some aspect of character or difficulty, though those characteristics or circumstance may be normal to software practitioners.
The viewpoint of the book was to regard the release of a
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting look into the life of early Microsoft. Great to hear the stories of all who were involved in NT and all the drama around it.
Michael Burnam-Fink
What does it take to make great software? A focus on quality boarding on obsession, brilliance, long hours, personal sacrifice, and a leaving of that intangible called leadership. Showstopper stands besides The Mythical Man Month and The Soul of a New Machine in it's depiction of programming and technology around the creation of The Last Great OS.

Lead Engineer David Cutler and his team had a ambitious job, to make the first 'platform-independent operating system', a piece of software which would
As a folkloristic book, it does a poor job of telling the aspects of the story that would actually be interesting. It digresses into irrelevant biographies all over the place, which convey little more than rap sheet facts. It doesn't have a conception of what is interesting about technology. The writer is clearly very thin on the subject, presenting analogies about the functions of software in strangely distant and awkward terms. He thinks he's throwing in a little secret sauce by posting occasi ...more
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Turns out NT started as a different operating system from windows — that's the most interesting fact that I've learned from the book. Yes, it describes the major development people, the progress of the OS, constant lack of time, deadlines, tighter deadlines, and completely crazy deadlines by the end, but all this is somehow not very exciting. This is definitely not a technical book. Of course, the authors wanted to create the best and most advanced OS at the time, and it was better than DOS, but ...more
Bruno Roberto Búrigo
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
A glimpse of the monumental work that is the creation of an OS.
It's also full of valuable insights, like how microsoft could stay ahead of its competition for so long, or how good software managers are usually also good developers, and how you shouldn't neglect your life because of work, not matter how much it pays.
Worth the read.
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent story on how a revolutionary operating system was developed and delivered. This tells all the hurdles and sacrifice that the team that developed Windows NT went through. David Cutler was the leader of the team that brought about the revolutionary changes that resulted from the innovation of NT. As a side note, the story includes a look back into the early 90's PC industry. It was fun to note that it was considered extraordinary that NT required 16 Megabytes of RAM. In today's terms thi ...more
Kim Bach
Nov 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone, but it's of course of most interest to people interested in technology
Show Stopper! Is a book about the development of Windows NT. It's based on interviews with the people that were involved in the project.

It gives great insights into the different cultures witin Microsoft, especially the charismatic David Cutler, who led the project.

A Show Stopper is a bug, ie. error in a software program, that will stop the project, the list of show stoppers in Windows NT was amazing, and the human cost in the wake of the project was enomous, due to the impossible deadlines.

Dec 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: engineering
The story of the creation of Microsoft Windows NT with few technical details, but much about the key people's personalities and personal lives. Steve Ballmer had to force David Cutler to make NT compatible with DOS and Windows applications; Cutler once shouted that he didn't want to "pollute [NT] with crap". NT was originally developed for the Intel i860, which was an early Itanium-like processor; only later was it ported to the 80386. By version 4-5 NT ended up much like Unix and OS/2: a monoli ...more
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I picked up the book Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race To Create Windows NT And The Next Generation At Microsoft in the library after listening to it being mentioned by Joel Spolsky on the StackOverflow podcast #48. I wasn't really intending to read it, but after racing through the exciting opening of the book there was no way I was going to let it go. Written by Pascal Zachary, this is a book that tells the story of the creation of Windows NT. More than the software, it's the story of the peopl ...more
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