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The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  348 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
A study of the evolution of the modern computer profiles the work of MIT psychologist J. C. R. Licklider, whose visionary dream of a human-computer symbiosis transformed the course of modern science and led to the development of the personal computer. Reprint.
Paperback, 512 pages
Published August 27th 2002 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
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Jayesh
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jayesh by: Alan Kay
Shelves: non-fiction
I have read quite a few books covering different parts of the history of computing but none of them were as expansive as this one. Not sure if keeping Licklider's name in the title was necessary since the book covers so many people important to the "revolution" that he mostly ends up being a framing device for an expansive tale.
Kevin O'Brien
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, technology
Having just read Katie Hafner's Where Wizard's Stay Up Late I was ready to tackle this book, which is both deeper and more ambitious. Where Hafner's book was purely about the origin of the Internet, Waldrop is taking on the whole idea of personal computing. Licklider thus provides the focus for this book, for while he played a crucial role in promoting networking, his true aim was always what he termed a symbiotic partnership between humans and computers, and for him networking was just a necess ...more
Green Onion
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
- Δεν μπορώ να πιστέψω οτι αυτό το βιβλίο είναι out of print. Παρακαλώ τυπώστε το, κάποιος.
- Περιγράφει την ιστορία των ιδεών και των ανθρώπων που οδήγησαν στο να έχουμε ο καθένας μας από έναν προσωπικό υπολογιστή (αυτόν στην τσέπη μας), και να είναι όλοι συνδεδεμένοι μεταξύ τους, ξεκινώντας από τον μεσοπόλεμο και τον Turing (με μια παράκαμψη στο 19ο αιώνα) και καταλήγοντας στη γέννηση του world wide web.
- Το κεντρικό του πρόσωπο είναι ο J.C.R. Licklider, ένας φανταστικός τύπος που από τα 60s εί
...more
Ye Lin Aung
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018, favorites
This is an incredible journey of computing of from WW2 towards the invention of WWW/The Internet. There are a lot of lessons along the way, the names we might have heard of and their relationships with the computers. This quote sticks with me most


hire the most brilliant experimenters in the country, give them the best equipment money could buy, inspire them to the highest possible standards of intellectual clarity and experimental precision—and work them fourteen hours per day.


And I guess this i
...more
Andrew Louis
Less a biography of a single person and more the story of an idealistic thread in computing history.
Palash Karia
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very well-written, surprisingly comprehensive, & exciting to read history of 'personal' computing & the internet, this book is a fitting tribute to JCR Licklider, 'the father of it all'. It's a must read if you learn about computing history.
Michal Takáč
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Incredible book! I'm so glad that it found the way to me somehow (don't remember how it happened, maybe from some tweet from Bret Victor?). It goes through the history of computing, from when the Information theory was invented, ARPA, IPTO, Xerox PARC, invention of object-oriented programming, Smalltalk, multitasking, graphical interface, until current notion of personal computer.

I HIGHLY encourage everybody who loves computers to read this book cover to cover. I'll definitely re-read it in comi
...more
Shuo Yang
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best book about early days of computer and internet. Learned a lot and got a lot of inspirations. I was so amazed that find myself end up underlining the whole page.
Ron Mitchell
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just brilliant

Best history of the computer revolution I've ever seen. Seems to be only available on Kindle. Why isn't this masterpiece back in print?
Hariharan Gopalakrishnan
Review on re-read:
At once dense and lucid, this is a spectacular story of how computers got to where they are today. This is an expansive book, and it touches upon more than a dozen researchers and engineers (spending considerable amount of time with each) whose work has brought us the modern computer system and internet.
It starts from the 1930s (Norbert Weiner, Von Neumann, Turing, Shannon , UNIVAC, ENIAC, the people at the MIT Rad Lab etc.) and goes up to the early 1990s (Tim Bernes Lee, NSFNe
...more
Elijah Oyekunle
The computing revolution, as we know it, usually dates from Paul Allen (RIP, Paul) seeing the Altair in a magazine, and Boom! PC Dead! Mainframes.
However, this book tells the story of the idea itself, that is computing. Interactivity was the spirit of the PC revolution and a few people were the enablers of an environment where creativity could foster, and one of them was J.C.R. Licklider.
Reading about the Internet, one always just heard that first there was something called Arpanet and then Tim
...more
Larry Gundy
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow! What a great book. Looking back, I experienced punch cards in 1972 on IBM 360. Then programmed in assembler language on a Honeywell 120 in 1975. 40 boot, 40 boot, run, run, run, initiated the card reader. A fellow teacher brought in his Altair in the late 70’s. I bought a Radio Shack color computer in 1980. It required a specific RS cassette tape recorder for storing and loading Basic programs. The Honeywell was replaced by a DEC 11/34 and then a DEC 11/70, then a DEC VAX 780. Our first PC ...more
James Voorhees
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
M. Mitchell Waldrop has written a history of the idea of personal computing from the ideas developed by Vannevar Bush. Norbert Wiener, Claude Shannon, and Alan Turing in the 1930s and 1940s through to Jobs, Gates, and Berners-Lee in the 1990s. He uses the career of J.C.R. Licklider--remarkable in his own right--to hold the story together.

It is a remarkable tale, and those of us who think seriously about computers would do well to learn it. many of the concepts and approaches that have made compu
...more
Daniel Frank
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book after seeing Patrick Collison's (one of the people I admire most) glowing review.

This book details the sensational history of the personal computer from the beginning of the information age to the dawn of the world wide web. The excitement from reading about Von Neumann, ARPA, PARC, etc. is palpable. I have no background in computer science so much of this book went over my head, but the story is still gripping.

The development of the computing industry, as told in The Dream Mach
...more
Stephanie Wang
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: computers, history
This is the most comprehensive account of computer history I've read so far. It begins in the 1930-40s, winding through the seminal ideas of Vannevar Bush, von Neumann, Shannon, and Turing. I was happily surprised that it touched on the development of cognitive science and emphasized how interdisciplinary computer science really is. It then extends to the 1960-70s when personal computing began to be realized by Engelbart and Xerox PARC, and also ties in the development of networking with ARPANET ...more
Ding Ong
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
History of the modern computer centering around a man who dedicated himself to a role that enables the engineering marvels we see today.

The trade-off between academic research and business value was a recurring theme in this book, a very good reminder that while the business world is focused on getting small wins, it is the big discoveries which truly changes the world. Still, if nobody translates these discoveries into business cases, these discoveries will be deemed irrelevant and forgotten a
...more
Peter Aronson
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Four-and-three-quarters stars. A real good piece of history of technology. While the focus is on J.C.R. Licklider, the books covers the history of, well, the Internet and personal computing, which in many ways he was at the center of which. I kept running into things in this book that I've run into in other books on the history of computing, and I've known people who were at MIT, Xerox and BBN at, or bit after some of these events, which always added interest, but a lot of what's in this book is ...more
Arjun Chandra
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding book. It is something that should be read by anyone interested in building teams that impact the world. It covers the history of the tech world we live in -- in essence, the visionaries, who are in fact the role models I always wanted, and the many forces at play which started a movement leading to the invention of personal computing and networking (indeed, the Internet) over four decades between the late 1940s - early 1980s. The tech companies, and more generally companies relyin ...more
Philip
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Part post-mortem about how the personal computer evolved from the mainframe computing era, part biography of Licklider, this book is chalk full of interesting stories and characters. It's fascinating to see how the software industry continues to iterate on the same set of problems today that it did in the mid 20th century.

I would have rated this higher had the story been a bit more focused. At times, it felt like I was introduced to too many people to keep track of.
Jay
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time to find the time to get through this and it was a bit of a slog occasionally but overall the best book about the early history of computing I've read to date.

I suspect it'll prove particularly handy to fill in the gaps with all the younguns these days who think think everything started with Steve Jobs. :)
Thijs Niks
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating to read how computer technology took decades to develop, needed billions in defense funding, and was driven by a small group of visionaries. Nothing about the supercomputer in your hands was inevitable. The book itself could do with half the words though.
Nelson Elhage
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really good, absorbing, history of the early days of computing (~50s to ~80s). Really ties together and digs into all the different pieces that brought us from ENIAC to the internet and the PC, in a very absorbing way.
Dominik
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, kindle, g-history
Tremendous. An incredible book. A tour de force history of the early days of interactive computing.
David
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An epic, moving, and detailed account of the history of personal computing. Essential reading.
Josh
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book about the history of computers with it centering around licklider
Chris Casey
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't go throwing 5 star ratings around easily. Four stars is typical for a book I really enjoyed, but five stars has to be something epic. And this book rates as such. This wasn't a fast read for me either. Published in 2001, I own a signed first edition, though I only vaguely remember attending the book store signing event where I got it. And then for 15 years it sat in my book case, waiting to be tackled. And then, around the time I started reading it, a new library opened near our home, an ...more
Nick Black
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not so much a biography of Licklider as an accessible history of computing -- especially the one-off (ENIAC, EDVAC, Illiac, ad nauseam) era -- tied together by Licklider's story (Waldrop leaves him for dozens of pages at a time, especially to cover the von Neumann/Eckley/Mauch early days, and later again regarding Xerox PARC). Less dense than From Whirlwind to MITRE and less slapdash than Where Wizards Stay Up Late, it's probably the best single pop history of computing I've come across. With th ...more
Scott Hotes
Mar 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lent to me by chance by a coworker, I am having a hard time putting this down. I've made it through the first quarter of this (fairly dense) book and already we've covered the contributions of N. Weiner, C. Shannon, J. von Neumann, A. Turning and at least a hundred others.

Waldrop clearly has a very broad understanding of this early history of computers, and brings to life the range of characters, personalities and driving circumstances of how it all happened. It's just about 1960 now, the Cold W
...more
Masa Nishimura
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, biography
It describes the history of computers from the people's minds. You can touch the great people who made the new industry to revolve. A lot of people assume technology just evolves itself. That's how it's portrayed in popular movies. But that's not true. There's no magic. There are always people working day and night to make that happen, and we just take it for granted. That's the primary message I got from this book. We need more of this type of books.
John
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: compsci
As a professional computer scientist, I have to say this is the single best book on the history of information processing I've ever read. Highly, highly recommended. If you like this one, you'd probably also like Tracy Kidder's "The Soul of a New Machine" (a Pulitzer winner in the general non-fiction category).
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“Unlike Davies, he didn't have to work through the British Postal Service. And unlike Baran, he didn't have to work through the Defense Communications Agency. Roberts was backed by ARPA, whose whole reason for existing was to cut through the bureaucracy. His bosses were giving him a free hand. And he meant to exercise that freedom. He meant to get this network ready to” 0 likes
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