GO TO: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists and Iconoclasts—The Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution

Steve Lohr, Joint Author . Basic $27.50 (320p) ISBN 978-0-465-04225-8

About a year too late to take advantage of public hunger for behind-the-scenes computer biz accounts, New York Times technology correspondent Lohr's learned narrative never quite engages the reader. A series of portraits describes the unique band of outsiders who commanded the lumbering, room-sized computers of the postwar era. These men played a headache-inducing game called "blind chess," built their own stereos and could detect a computer malfunction by sound. The book kicks off in the 1950s at IBM, where several of these visionaries were trying to make the company's computers more efficient. Men like John Backus (one is tempted to call him the Henry Ford of programming) created the Fortran assembly language to automate and make the programming process more efficient. With increased business interest in computers in the late 1950s, John McCarthy, who cofounded MIT's artificial intelligence lab in 1959, initiated Cobol, or Common Business Oriented Language, to allow people to program using English. After the 1960s, software started getting more headlines from an industry and a press that previously only cared about new and faster hardware. By the 1980s, companies like Microsoft were creating business empires out of programming. For a book that claims to tell the story of the software revolution's instigators, it's frustratingly short on characterization. There's the occasional flourish, like the description of Charles Simonyi—who did groundbreaking work at Xerox's PARC research facility and essentially created Microsoft Word—showing up for debugging sessions in a special "debugging outfit": a black net shirt and translucent skin-tight black pants. But this account of reputed fringe visionaries lacks flash and loopiness. National author tour.(Nov. 15)

Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-465-04226-5
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-7867-3076-6
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