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Accidental Empires

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,891 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Computer manufacturing is—after cars, energy production and illegal drugs--the largest industry in the world, and it's one of the last great success stories in American business. Accidental Empires is the trenchant, vastly readable history of that industry, focusing as much on the astoundingly odd personalities at its core—Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mitch Kapor, etc. and the ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 13th 1996 by Harper Business (first published January 1st 1992)
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Some of the reservations people have about Cringley's style are forgivable: if you haven't read around the subject of the PC revolution and researched the subjects for yourself, you'll think his attitude is to say the least disrespectful. When you appreciate just how weird some of these guys were/are and how arcane technology met classic American entrepreneurial spirit, you'll realize Cringley is actually being honest if not always generous.

As a fun companion to the historical record, it excels.
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
A friend gave me Bob Cringely’s Accidental Empires years ago. Finally got around to it.

Cringely is a gossip columnist for the tech industry, and even he realizes how ridiculous that sounds. It’s important context for Accidental Empires, a smart and interesting read. It’s a history of the microcomputer industry, roughly 1978-1996. It’s fascinating. It’s also more about the personalities than technology. He’s unafraid to call Steve Jobs “a sociopath” and Bill Gates a “megalomaniac”. And it’s not j
Ed Limonov
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is full of valuable insights and good, elaborate explanations. Well WORTH the read.
Toby Whaymand
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have had this book years, the pages are yellow and I've read it so many times, every time read this book I still find myself laughing out load. It because of Cringely's humour, the comedy factor that makes this book such an excellent education tool. This is my one of my favorite books ...more
Dane Cobain
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When you read a book about computing, you can generally predict how good it's going to be based upon how recently the first edition was released. Things move so quickly in the computing world (thanks to Moore's Law) that by the time a book goes to print, it's often already obsolete.

Not so with Accidental Empires. The first edition of the book was released way back in 1992, and even though it was revised in 1996, that was still almost twenty years ago. Despite this, the book still makes for a fan
Murray Fife
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I just re-purchased it to re-read after I couldn’t find my original. Although Accidental Empires was written in 1996, and has to be read old-school style since it’s not available on the Kindle, this is a great history of how all of the major tech companies that are still around got their start.

It talks about Microsoft, Apple, and IBM and the birth of Windows, the Mac, and the modern PC during the wild west of the computer industry. Did you know that:
• Microsoft started off by buying DOS, and the
Sep 29, 2020 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Got hardbound copy for a bargain in mid-2010. Given this an attempt twice but kept going back to the shelf. Realized this tech-centered book was published in 1992 which products being spoken were now tossed in the e-dump and replaced with entirely new catalogue as modern tech goes. Could find value in the stories here but I just lost the appetite.
Nov 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's a truly pleasant experience to read this book, actually I should confess that I laughed A LOT in the reading. The book is hilarious.

Besides the fun part, I was inspired by this book too. This book went through the early history of Personal Computer industry, gave the vivid silhouettes of the people, the companies and Silicon Valley in this industry. Mr.Cringely examined why today's Information Technology industry is what it is now, and how it became like this.

The book provided the facts and
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone in the IT or comp sci industry
This book is mind-blowing! The history of the first several decades of the microcomputer revolution, told as history should be told: as a series of stories.

So many of the things mentioned in this book - inventions, founding of companies, rise and fall of people and fortunes - particularly in retrospect, are just amazing, particularly because of the personalities involved. We all recognize the names of the people (e.g., Gates, Jobs, Woz), and their products have becoming literally household names
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was born in 1987 in Ukraine. The first PC I have seen was IBM clone at mother's work around 1993. My first computer I got around 1998 and it was already Pentium with Windows 95 on board.

Now I work as software engineer.

During my teenage I was always wondered where are all other OS except Windows? Why only PCs are around? Why Apple Macintosh claims as professional and so expensive tool? Why IBM is not that big anymore? Why "Windows sucks"? How did it all start?

Had similar questions? Welcome to r
Jo Oehrlein
I've enjoyed the chapter by chapter re-read on cringely.com.

The book is obviously dated in that it makes comments on history leading to a "present" that was 20 years ago. Still, Cringely's got good insights into many of the companies that are still important in our world (Apple, Microsoft) and some that aren't so important anymore (IBM).

It's interesting to read about the development of hardware and software and the various alliances that are made, strengthened, weakened, and eventually broken.

Jayesh Mahapatra
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book on the evolution of PC industry from an IT industry gossip column writer ! Yup, I didn't know such a job existed as well. Although, the writing may come as somewhat disrespectuful, in reality it's just Robert's way of referring to his fellow IT people many of whom he knows personally. The book is filled with anecdotes and interesting personal stories of people responsible for developing much of the technologies we use today. ...more
Neal Alexander
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
"Develop for it? I'll piss on it!" Bill Gates on Steve Jobs' NeXT computers. ...more
Dimitrios Mistriotis
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book and huge influence.
Eugene Miya
Jun 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
So I purchased the hardbound when it came out. This book is a story of the sort of arbitrariness of business and industry. It's another underrated book.

2 Oregon PBS documentaries were made of this story of largely Apple and the Silicon Valley. I have not met Cringley but know and work with people who have.

In addition to reading this book the 3 hour Triumph of the Nerds and 3 hour Nerds 2.0.1 should be viewed. I know quite a few of the people interviewed (I'm in a different part of the computer i
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lovely book on the birth of Silicon Valley and its life until 1991. On the updated chapters there are even some mentions of Windows95. Bill Gates in this book is still in his greedy phase keeping all the money for himself and Steve Jobs is in and out creating more trouble than profit.

The insiders look in the industry is refreshing because it doesn't have all that nowadays glory. It tells stories how Apple, Microsoft, IBM and other giants were built in a quite entertaining way. Not like the se
Deborah J Miles
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Deborah by: Open University
Shelves: non-fiction
My version was printed in 1996. It was a set book for an Open University course which I was taking, and is Cringely's own account of how the personal computing industry started up. I was concerned that it would be stuffed with jargon and concepts beyond my understanding, but it wasn't. I found it informative, entertaining, and most importantly, it was easy to read. At times, I found myself laughing out loud- my favourite tale was about dust contaminating silicon wafers used by Intel to make thei ...more
Oliwia Bieniek
Jul 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
The author warns at the beginning this book is nothing but a collection of gossips from early Silicon Valley days - and you should take his word for it. Book offers little to no value, doesn't hold water years later and the few "bold" predictions Cringely attempted to make about future of IT industry are laughable. I don't recommend wasting time on this book. ...more
Paul Thompson
Fun read. I enjoyed Cringely's writing style. It was written in the 90s and yet still feels very fresh, and uninhibited.

Really appreciate Cringely's pure hatred for Bill Gates and Steve Jobs too. The guys are sociopaths!
Martin Lyness
I read this book about twenty years ago.It is very informative and witty. I loved it. I would recommend this to anyone. Although the title has changed slightly. It used to be "Accidental Empires: Or how geeks get laid." But what an eye opener! Amazing book. ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business-finance
Good, the basis for his show about nerds.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
Seriously outdated, rampantly racist in too many parts.
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you want to know how we all wound up with a computer on every desktop, here you go!
Ivan Kules
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great read if you really wanna know your personal computer history. Nice addition to Triumph of the Nerds documentary.
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
More like a historical account of events at this time, but never the less worth a read. Also identifies with so called "nerds" as the root of all success in IT. ...more
Mario Alemi
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Even more interesting because it was written in the 1990s!
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An entertaining read, good historical perspective (business is always a mess), and many insightful predictions and analyses.
Franklin Seal
Jun 11, 2022 rated it liked it
Entertaining, but quite dated. Still interesting, especially as a window into how fast views have changed since 1990 when this was written.
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: software, tech, business
Accidental Empires by Robert Cringely, released in 1992, tells the story of an insider’s view of the rise of the personal computing era. The Rebooted edition was released online for free earlier this year. Find it here: http://www.cringely.com/2013/02/04/ac... (use the Next & Previous links at the top to change chapters). The individual stories are fascinating. Bill Gates always trying desperately to prove he could do anything (and in desperate need of a shower most of the time). Steve Jobs torp ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's very informative, and in my view, should be read along with The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business. From a historical standpoint, it was right-on, and reflects the current state of the industry in the early and mid-1990s. However, some of the predictions were way off, such as predicting Steve Jobs as a failure. It also did not reflect IBM's transformation under Gerstner, though Robert X. Cringely addresses that in his new book, The Decline a ...more
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