cover image The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

Margaret O’Mara. Penguin, $30 (512p) ISBN 978-0-399-56218-1

This “only-in-America story” from O’Mara, a University of Washington history professor, puts a gloriously human face on the history of computing in the U.S. Her weighty but gripping account tracks Silicon Valley through four stages: 1949’s Palo Alto, a soporific town distinguished only by the presence of Stanford University; the 1960s transition from an industry focused on electronics to one dominated by information; the anti-establishment upstart entrepreneurs of the ’70s; and the breathless present, when the Valley is filled with people of unprecedented influence and wealth. Introducing pioneering players such as early venture capitalist David Morgenthaler, programmer Ann Hardy (who resisted pressure at IBM to accept the customary female role of “systems service girl”), and, inevitably, Steve Jobs, alongside such lesser-known figures as developer Trish Millines, O’Mara paints a picture of a world into which tech exploded unexpectedly, with far-reaching political and cultural results. Particularly fascinating sections include discussions of how and why the U.S. government invested in tech, the intersection of software and the military, the rise and impact of hackers, and Silicon Valley’s financial impact on a vastly transformed—and increasingly impossible to afford—Bay Area. O’Mara’s extraordinarily comprehensive history is a must-read for anyone interested in how a one-horse town birthed a revolution that has shifted the course of modern civilization. Agent: Geri Thoma, Writer’s House. (July)