Review of Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age

Michael A. Hiltzik
Rating: 4/5

I've read "Where Wizards Stay Up Late", and "Steve Jobs" --- this book is a nice piece of history linking the events of those two things. It's a fun read about a bunch of visionaries and their cool engineering. Though the book hit a little too close to home; the toxic politics inside PARC reminded me of a lot of the otherwise-great jobs I've had! Xerox's bureaucracy's complete incapacity to do anything with their amazing research is a great warning against growing too big.

The PARC guys are inspiring; they aren't allowed to buy a computer so they say "fuck it, we'll just make one." They don't have the cash to buy fancy speakers, so they reverse engineer someone's set, learn what they need to, and then build their own for 1/10th of the cost. They need to send files back and forth, but they are in two separate offices a few miles apart. So they hook up some lasers on the roof and beam the information to a truck parked half way, which beams it the rest of the way. Pretty good solution compared to waiting for months to run the cables!