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Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  100 ratings  ·  8 reviews
In a highly engaging style, Rheingold tells the story of what he calls the patriarchs, pioneers, and infonauts of the computer, focusing in particular on such pioneers as J. C. R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Bob Taylor, and Alan Kay.The digital revolution did not begin with the teenage millionaires of Silicon Valley, claims Howard Rheingold, but with such early intellectual ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published April 13th 2000 by MIT Press (first published January 1985)
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Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work
This is a solid history of computing from its beginnings to 1985. The last few chapters are "where things are going from here" which leads to sections where you whip from "Hey, that's about what we have now (30 years later)" to "Hey, that's at least 30 years in the future" to "Hey, no one really pursued THAT."

It is actually pretty amazing how few huge misses the author had.

This is a pretty good follow up read to Turing's Cathedral because the first few chapters cover the same material and the
Jun 14, 2014 rated it liked it
A fun collection of stories about some of the visionaries of computing, but it's ultimately frustrating to read yet another giddy account of how revolutionary NLS and Doug Englebart's work was (to pick one of many examples from those heady days of the sixties and seventies) without actual concrete descriptions of the system and its actual effects on how people work. ...more
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a software engineer and user, for a couple of years I’ve been trying to understand what’s so wrong with our industry and how it would be possible to make it better. It’s a really hard thing to accomplish, as many factors from many disciplines has to be addressed, like psychology, physiology, biology, philosophy, cognitive science, design, knowledge engineering, math, cs, symbology, writing, indexing, and a way-way more. And then I’ve found this book — a magnificent excursion into a history of ...more
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Howard Rheingold is a little bit of a nut. But that makes him a very interesting writer. If you're looking for a dry, staid, boring book about computers, you will be VERY disappointed by this book, or by another of his books, Virtual Reality.

Most people view computers as number-crunchers or database systems. Indeed, in Scandinavian languages, the usual term for computer translates as "data machine." It's all about numbers and data.


Uhh, no. Not so much.

As is amply demonstrated in this book,
John Ohno
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
A well-researched and well-written popular history of the human-augmentation wing of computing. Early chapters will be familiar, since they tell the conventional histories of conventionally covered figures like Babbage, Lovelace, Turing, and Von Neumann in a conventional way (albeit with more detail). Coverage of Engelbart and Kay are very good. While Ted gets his own chapter, he barely appears in it (with the chapter mostly being about BBS surfing), and in Rheingold's afterword he doesn't catch ...more
Anton Iokov
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physical-books

We didn't start talking about the hardware and the software until we talked about what we wanted to do personally with such a system.

Bob Taylor

The overview is decent, starting from the chapter on Licklider and friends. However, those folks in the 50s and 60s were so fascinating, that there is surely the potential for a better book.

Things that could have been better:
* Cut everything before Memex in half: history of computing ≠ history of tools for thought.
* Dedicate more time to ideas, concepts,
Bing Gordon
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Well organized and written overview of the giants who wrestled personal computing into shape. Best book I have read about the " founding fathers" of the PC. ...more
Very very good. History and forecast of personal computer industry from perspective of 1985. Quite right about most of it. Outline of chapters in Simplenote
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