cover image Bitwise: A Life in Code

Bitwise: A Life in Code

David Auerbach. Pantheon, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-101-87129-4

With wit and technical insight, former Microsoft and Google engineer Auerbach explains how his knowledge of coding helped form him as a person, at the same time showing how coding has influenced aspects of culture such as personality tests and child-rearing. Auerbach is a natural teacher, translating complex computing concepts into understandable layman’s terms. The anecdotes from the engineering front lines are some of the most entertaining sections, especially when he recounts the rivalry between MSN Messenger Service (which he worked on) and AOL Instant Messenger, and considers Google’s evolution (“Everything was bigger at Google than it had been at Microsoft”). Connections to specific literary and philosophical works stretch a reader’s patience, and lengthy asides into coding parallels in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and early text-based video games will entertain gamers but require too much explanation for the uninitiated. That said, his observations on child-raising are written with such charm that they’ll resonate with readers (he would play “Flight of the Valkyries” when his daughter tried walking because “her struggle and determination reminded me of the triumph I felt on getting a particularly thorny piece of code to work correctly”). The coding details aside, this book is an enjoyable look inside the point where computers and human life join. (Aug.)