Nerds 2.0.1

Stephen Segaller, Author
Stephen Segaller, Author TV Books $27.5 (400p) ISBN 978-1-57500-106-7
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-1-57500-088-6
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From the early days of ARPA, the federal department that enabled the Internet, to the Microsoft-Netscape wars of the present, computer networking has become a powerful, if not always recognized, force on our culture. In this dry and arcane, if comprehensive, history, Segaller (Invisible Armies) documents the evolution that has generated this revolution. Arranged like a TV documentary, with lead-in paragraphs followed by extended reminiscences (the author has produced an eponymous PBS documentary), Segaller's book covers such developments as packet-switching in the 1960s, which allowed data to be broken down and reassembled; Ethernet in the '70s and Netware in the '80s, both breakthrough networking technologies; and, of course, the creation of the World Wide Web in the 1990s. He leaves no circuit unexposed, paying attention not only to the tech-minded ""nerds"" but also to financiers. Segaller strews small diamonds throughout his history: his description of a pubescent Harvard student named Bill Gates breaking off a poker game to develop a Basic interpreter is priceless. But more illuminating than any fact are the book's two implicit themes: that without more than a few fortuitous turns, the Internet as we know it may not have come to be; and that most major discoveries were made years, if not decades, before the public came to appreciate them. Whether you call the pioneers it portrays ""nerds"" or any other name, Segaller's book makes an impressive argument for their significance. (Jan.)
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