Recommended Reads Day Twenty: Dealers of Lightning

Adrian Rowe 2 mins

Today, find out why Chairman Adrian Rowe is recommending Dealers of Lightning, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Hiltzik. You could win a copy simply be re-sharing this post.

Dealers of Lightning

Author: Michael Hiltzik

Published: 2000

If you work in digital or technology, you should already have read this book! Because this is the inside story of the team of brilliant, eccentric engineering geniuses who invented most of the technologies you are using today. Yet they get little of the public credit.

This is not the story of Apple, or Microsoft, or Facebook. This is the story of Xerox Corporation’s legendary PARC campus in Palo Alto, and the astounding technological breakthroughs that Xerox rejected, because that company’s key focus was on office photocopiers.

World Firsts invented here

The world’s first laser printer was invented at PARC in 1971. The following year, design began on the world’s first personal computer, launched in 1973 as the Alto. The company also patents the principles of the Ethernet in a scientific paper. The world’s first image storage system, known as Superpaint, is developed, alongside the innovative algorithm that enables overlapping screen windows and pop-up menus. In 1975, PARC engineers demonstrated the world’s first graphical user interface (GUI). And it goes on…the world’s first mouse, the world’s first WYSIWYG word processing programme.

The main beneficiaries of this astonishing track record of innovation?

IBM, Apple, Microsoft and Cisco all unashamedly ‘borrowed’ these innovations and made commercial successes of the products that the PARC team had pioneered. Or they poached the key engineers. Hiltzik devotes an entire chapter to the visit of Steve Jobs and his team to Xerox PARC in December 1979 – less than a year before Apple launched the Lisa. This legendary visit, and its impact on Apple, has entered the annals of Silicon Valley mythology!

My favourite quote?

The Steve Jobs chapter makes astounding reading:

“Suddenly, the hyperactive Jobs blew his top. “Let’s stop this bullshit!” he cried, leaping from his chair. “There’s no point trying to keep all these secrets. We’ll never accomplish anything if we don’t talk to each other.”

This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the evolution of the technology world, full of remarkable stories of genius…and incompetence. I recommend you read it and quietly weep for the unsung heroes of Xerox PARC!

The twentieth of twenty-five of the best business books we’ve ever read. Our recommended reading for your Christmas break. And to celebrate our 25th Anniversary, we’re giving you the chance to win these coveted, sought-after reads, just by sharing and re-posting one of our daily recommendations.


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