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Troublemakers: Silicon Valley's Coming of Age

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  587 ratings  ·  74 reviews
The narrative of the Silicon Valley generation that launched five major high-tech industries in seven years, laying the foundation for today’s technology-driven world.

At a time when the five most valuable companies on the planet are high-tech firms and nearly half of Americans say they cannot live without their cell phones, Troublemakers reveals the untold story of how we
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by Simon Schuster (first published November 2017)
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Radhika i think so, if you like to see the historical perspective on silicon valley

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Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book when I attended a talk by the author at the Commonwealth Club. She presented a lot of interesting photos and luckily they all made it into the book in two color plate sections. Lots of funny 70s fashions and oversized beige computers.

This book covers a lot of ground for its length and the wise structure of devoting a chapter to each individual during the same era kept the pace fast. Berlin chose a very interesting cross-section of individuals to profiles. In particular, Sandra
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to read an ARC of this book and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the history of the Silicon Valley. It's not the same old story of Jobs and the usual subjects but goes back a bit further including a cast of characters in software, hardware, biotech, venture, etc., when the Valley was just taking off. Ms Berlin, head of the technology archive at Stanford, is an airtight researcher and it shows through in her prose--engaging but not sloppy--footnoted and ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Leslie Berlin strikes again with Troublemakers! I had read a few years ago the great The Man Behind the Microchip by Leslie Berlin. After the biography of Robert Noyce, one of Intel’s cofounders, Berlin comes now with Troublemakers, a description of “How Generation of Silicon Valley Upstarts Invented the Future”. The title is a reference to a famous Apple advertisement: The crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. One of the great merits of the book is to focus on 7 individuals (2 ...more
Frank Stein
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a detailed and intricate look at some of the lesser known lights of Silicon Valley, who, from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, transformed a region based on building industrial hardware into one focused on designing home computers and software. As the author shows, a few people's personalities were important in this transformation.

Bob Taylor started off inside the Pentagon as a profound believer in the possibilities of "The Computer as a Communication Device," as his hero and predeces
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
A punchy collection of profiles of some of the lesser-known personalities who fostered the genesis and early growth of various sectors of the high-tech economy, including bio-tech, personal computing, and the internet itself. Berlin's interview-based material goes well beyond the "2 guys in a garage" stories of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship, with female founders and university administrators highlighted along with better-known archetypes.

Insightful and highly relevant. The reason I didn't rate
Ann Bridges
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For those of us who came along behind this generation of entrepreneurs, Leslie Berlin fills in the gaps between the lore and the facts. Names I'd heard about (and a few people I briefly met) come alive in this tale of how Silicon Valley's biggest names got their start. ...more
Mal Warwick
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Any casual reader whose knowledge about Silicon Valley comes from the headlines or the news online might get the impression that Steve Jobs and the Google and Facebook guys invented the place. Obviously, this is far from true. But even more serious coverage tends to focus on a handful of high-profile individuals who have played outsize roles in the development of the high-tech industry. Stanford historian Leslie Berlin sets the record straight with her engrossing new book, Troublemakers: Silicon ...more
Mohammad Al-ubaydli
If, like me, you are love with the technology industry, you will love this book and you will find many surprising stories. The author does a wonderful job of going beyond the obvious cheerleading.

I will focus this review on some surprises.

First it is surprising how recent some laws were.
1. Women could not work overtime before 1984 in California. So they could not earn higher overtime hourly rate, unlike their male coworkers.
2. People could not buy Apple IPO shares in Massachusetts because the st
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-book-shelf
What a good book. History is people's stories and Berlin chose her people well. These fantastic stories start when there were zero personal computers in the world, when there were no software companies, no video games, and no bio-technology. Even the words that would define these industries had not been invented. Every computer user, businessman, manager, and entrepreneur will enjoy the book. It reads quickly. Almost like a serial. You can hardly wait to hear what happens next. You'll love it.
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating tale of several lesser-known Silicon Valley luminaries who helped turn it into, for better or for worse, the place it is today. Well-written, engaging, and easy to read. Does a _really_ good job of recapping who the various people are as the author returns to them over time, so that you can keep track. I loved reading about the early days of Atari and Apple, but I also found the stories of ASK, Xerox's PARC, and other businesses fascinating. ...more
Dan Watts
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is mistitled: it should have the less catchy name "People Who Deserve to be Better Known". Aside from Robert Taylor, none of them made much trouble, and some of them make for dull reading. The book makes a noble effort to feature some women in the early history of Silicon Valley, but frankly there weren't many women weren't given major roles in the industry back then so there isn't much to write about. ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic discussion of early Silicon Valley through the perspectives of key (but generally not-well-known) players. It was really engaging and I wanted to know more. Will read anything Leslie Berlin writes!
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading this book and learning about tech legends like Xerox PARC, Atari and Apple. I learnt about other legends, whixh I had no clue about. The book is surprisingly catchy, didn't expect that. Totally recommended! ...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Until I picked up this book, I didn't realize how much context I was missing in the previous book! While Valley of Genius was an amazing resource, it focused on a few key people for each company or notable event it covered. This book told the story of the origins of silicon valley as a more cohesive narrative. The author included more of the people involved in each story and did a better job situating these stories relative to what was happening in the rest of the world. I think she was able to ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This history highlights the unsung heroes of Silicon Valley, and rightly so. while the book mentions the likes of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and even some modern-day tech start-up whizzes like Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google), along with Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, they get mere passing references in this treatise on the roots of the Silicon Valley boom.

Here, among the true plough horses pulling their own weight, and then some, are the likes of Mike Markkula, initial capital investor
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
In 1968, a little-read article in a soon-to-fail magazine prophesied an age of networked machines that could be more than passive, oversized calculators to become digital partners in solving problems alongside humans.

“In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face,” wrote JCR “Lick” Licklider and Bob Taylor, in a Science and Technology article called “The Computer is a Communication Device.” The men worked together at the Pentagon during the
Tech Historian
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Leslie Berlin is a wonderful historian – her first book, The Man Behind the Microchip – was a biography of Robert Noyce the co-founder of Fairchild and Intel. She managed to weave a narrative describing the technology, history, context and personal life of Noyce.
To me that book was the gold standard of biography of a technologist.

In Troublemakers Berlin attempts to do something much more ambitious – tell the story of seven technologists while simultaneously attempting to describe the seven years
Dave Schumaker
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Troublemakers is an enjoyable read that takes a look at the early days of Silicon Valley, from the late 1960's to the early 1980's. It dives into the history of the area and how a region filled with fruit orchards and assembly lines became a hotbed of tech innovation.

There are some stories that are undoubtably familiar to you and I -- the founding of Apple in a garage, the computer systems research at Xerox PARC, the early years of Atari and it's laid back work culture.

There are also a number of
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Mostly good, but odd not to report correctly the history of the Mac GUI. See for example (snippet below, also see discussion with Raskin) and also

For more than a decade now, I've listened to the debate about where the Macintosh user interface came from. Most people assume it came directly from Xerox, after Steve Jobs went to visit Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). This "fact" is reported over and over, by people wh
Michael Martz
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
'Troublemakers' is an interesting look at the history of how the technology that's so commonplace now developed. I've maybe over-rated it by one star since it's a topic of great interest to me. The writing is pedestrian and pretty boring, but Leslie Berlin has done her research and succeeds in painting a picture of how genius, money, and talent interacted to change our world.

Troublemakers goes back to the 60's to a time when computers were room-sized, arcade games were mechanical, and gene-based
Todd Benschneider
Apr 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
I really try not to leave a book a bad review and rarely do ….but this will be an exception: Narration on the audiobook sounds like a female voice of a robot, the audiobook claims that the narrator is an actual person, but I doubt that she actually read the book for the recording... the lack of animation and enthusiasm for the scenes described in the book diminished any good qualities that the author meant to convey. I skipped through most of the book since the first few chapters start off reall ...more
Pat Rolston
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author also wrote a compelling profile of Intel co-founder, Robert Noyce and Texas Instrument's, Jack Kilby and she eclipses that book with, "Troublemakers," by a significant margin. This is a definitive history of Silicon Valley influencers who have not been given appropriate recognition for their part in creating the digital revolution. It is a history that has such profound implications for society and the world and yet is seldom documented by the traditional academics given the close pro ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As someone in the computer field, currently living in Silicon Valley, I really enjoyed this book. It covers what was happening in the Valley in the 1970s and early 1980s that led to Xerox PARC, Apple, Atari, Rolm, ASK, and Genentech. As it says on the cover, in the space of 7 years and 35 miles, 5 major industries (personal computing, video games, biotechnology, venture capital, and advanced semiconductor logic) were born. That is truly amazing. At the end of the book it lists many "this begat t ...more
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology
Troublemakers is a great reminder of how far we have come in the last 30 years. It's about the original techies of Silicon Valley before Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. The founders of the semiconductors and processors that needed to be created and developed prior to the inception of the personal computer. It's about the thought process and the discovery of brilliant talent that was needed in order to envision the future.

It is safe to say, Atari was the introduction to all things possible as far
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I came to this book not knowing much at all about the history of Silicon Valley. I would say if you are interested in SV’a history, this is required reading. Essential.

The book follows Bob Taylor, Al Alcorn, Fawn Alvarez, Mike Markkula, Niels Reimers, and Sandra Kurtzig through the decade and a half of 1969-1984 when the video game, personal computing, biotechnology, venture capital, and advanced semiconductor logic industries were created.

I really liked that instead of following people everyone
Nathan Davis
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a great book (For those like me that love computing history books).

I had been given this by a librarian who thought I might like it, and I would easily put it in my top five for the year. It strikes a lovely balance between the individuals involved and the details of the technology they created. It traces Silicon valley from the early days of the 70s when it was largely still a remote area, to the 80s when it was filled with factories pumping out machines.

My only complaint about this
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book did an especially good job of covering some stories I'd never heard before. The story of ASK Computer Systems, its MANMAN software, and Sandra Kurtzig, for example, should be better known, and I deeply appreciate the author's research into this chapter of Silicon Valley history. It also tells the story of Mike Markkula's influence on Apple better than other books on the topic of Apple's history. On the other hand, the book provides lots of extraneous detail that bogs down some of the st ...more
Christina (‪‬ ‪a_politicallyreadgirl‬)
Leslie Berlin's narrative provided a contemporary view of what I grew up calling "the social network". I appreciated the vast amount of information and providing a view into the fast-paced technological world that we live in. I found it to be very informative and an interesting read. The history behind and story behind the usual apple and Facebook people that I grew up listening about was beyond expanded in this book and I appreciated that. The real deal, engaging, factual, and very intelligent. ...more
Barrie Seppings
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Troublemakers is the perfect title for this book. Berlin tales us back, before the polished legends of Jobs, Gates, Grove et al and uncovers the startlingly raw, chaotic and ultimately world-changing pioneers of technology. These left-of-centre characters become very real in the hands of Berlin, who makes some fairly dense technology and historical detail immediately accessible. Entertaining, even. As much a study of generational change in corporate America as of the technology that changed ever ...more
Per Sjofors
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great story! Since high tech penetrate every corner of our lives, understanding the beginnings is really fascinating. Some of it I known from before, much is new. Makes it even more interesting for me as I happened to have met some of the key figures in the book. A couple of surprises:

- How relatively small some of these companies where when they where the leaders.
- How long time it took for companies to develop the products that "changed the world."
- The pure stupidity of some executives.
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